Jefferson In Our Times: The Lewis and Clark Expedition
More than 200 works of fiction have been published about Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s cross-country journey (1804-1806). Long celebrated as a triumph of courage and ingenuity for the expedition’s leaders, more recent novels have broadened the focus to all members of the expedition, (including Seaman the dog), and taken a more critical and thoughtful look at this episode in history.
The Conquest (1902): Published in 1902, just in time for the expedition’s centennial, Eva Emery Dye’s The Conquest was typical of many 19th and early 20th century works in its celebration of the country’s westward expansion and lionization of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Dye’s book was also instrumental in promoting a more prominent characterization of Sacajawea’s role in the expedition.
Sacajawea of the Shoshones (1943): More than 70 works of fiction have been published about the life of Sacajawea, the expedition’s only female member. Published in 1943, Della Gould Emmons’s Sacajawea of the Shoshones has the titular character joining the expedition, hoping to obtain guns to help free her tribe. The novel was the basis for the 1955 film Far Horizons, starring Donna Reed as Sacajawea.
The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis (1993): Meriwether Lewis’s death in 1809 under suspicious circumstances has always been fertile ground for curious imaginations. In Ron Burns’s The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis, ornithologist Alexander Wilson arrives at the scene of Lewis’s death in Tennessee “determined to solve the crime and find the killers” and uncovers “a maze of treachery, deceit, and lawlessness.”
The Captain’s Dog (1999): Even Meriwether Lewis’s Newfoundland dog, Seaman, has seen his share of fictional treatments. The Captain’s Dog, by wolf biologist and canine expert Roland Smith, tells the tale of the Corps of Discovery entirely from Seaman’s point of view.