William Clark and the Shaping of the Westby Landon Y. Jones
Between 1803 and 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark co-captained the most famous expedition in American history. But while Lewis ended his life just three years later, Clark, as the highest-ranking Federal official in the West, spent three decades overseeing its consequences: Indian removal and the destruction of Native America. In a rare combination of
Between 1803 and 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark co-captained the most famous expedition in American history. But while Lewis ended his life just three years later, Clark, as the highest-ranking Federal official in the West, spent three decades overseeing its consequences: Indian removal and the destruction of Native America. In a rare combination of storytelling and scholarship, best-selling author Landon Y. Jones presents for the first time Clark's remarkable life and influential career in their full complexity.
Like every colonial family living on Virginia's violent frontier, the Clarks killed Indians and acquired land; acting on behalf of the United States, William would prove successful at both. Clark's life was spent fighting in America's fifty-year running war with the Indians (and their European allies) over the Western borderlands. The struggle began with his famed brother George Roger's western campaigns during the American Revolution, continued through the vicious battles of the War of 1812, and ended with the Black Hawk War in the 1830s. In vividly depicting Clark's life, Jones memorably captures not only the dark and bloody ground of America's early West, but also the qualities of character and courage that made him an unequalled leader in America's grander enterprise: the shaping of the West. No one played a larger part in that accomplishment than William Clark.
William Clark and the Shaping of the West is an unforgettable human story that encompasses in a single life the sweep of American history from colonial Virginia to the conquest of the West.
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William Clark and the Shaping of the West
CHAPTER ONEAMERICA'S FIRST WEST 1722-1772
The first people known to live in the Piedmont plateau of Virginia were the Monacans. They were a Siouan-speaking people who, with the Mannahoac tribe, dominated an area that extended north from the Roanoke River valley to the Potomac, and from the fall line, or head of navigation, at Richmond and Fredericksburg to the Blue Ridge Mountains on the west. These agricultural tribes had lived in the Piedmont for three hundred years, but in 1722 their rich lands had been opened to white settlers by the Treaty of Albany.As the first whites arrived, the Monacans began to leave Virginia to live with the Catawbas in the south. They could anticipate the changes coming to their world by the arrival of honeybees. When the "white man's fly" appeared, Indians knew that settlers were dangerously close. Since there were always more hollow trees in the old-growth forests to the west than in the cleared fields to the east, the bees naturally went west. The honeybees were thought to keep about a hundred miles in advance of white migration all the way across North America.In 1749, John Clark and his new wife, Ann Rogers, were among the first whites in the area vacated by the Monacans. They packed their belongings and moved from the tidewater county of King and Queen, Virginia, to a home in the hills of the western Piedmont. There the young couple--he was twenty-four, she just fifteen--settled on land John had inherited from his father. It was on the Rivanna River in the newly created Albemarle County, just two miles east of the future location ofCharlottesville, but in the mid-eighteenth century it was America's first West.Among the Clarks' neighbors was Peter Jefferson, a husky surveyor and land speculator who fourteen years earlier had patented a thousand acres on a nearby plantation he called Shadwell. His son Thomas later would recall that Peter Jefferson was "the third or fourth settler, about the year 1737, of the part of the country in which I live."1 Along the horizon to the west lay the long, lazy profile of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beyond them, through Rockfish Gap, was the backcountry, a land still controlled by Indians and rarely visited by whites.
The first John Clark had arrived from Britain early in the seventeenth century, probably under the "headrights" system, a guarantee from Virginia's colonial government that any man who paid his passage to America would receive fifty acres of land when he got there. As a result, he got his start not as a clerk--the origin of his eponymous surname--but as a farmer on the James River. John passed his name down to a succession of eldest sons alternatively called John and Jonathan until it reached John Clark of Drysdale Parish, King and Queen County. At the same time, his heirs inherited from his Scottish-born wife a family attribute known genetically as an amino acid variation in the melanocortin 1 receptor but universally called red hair. John Clark of Drysdale Parish had a full shock of sandy red hair.Ann Rogers's side of the family arrived literally fresh off the boat. Her father, John Rogers, was born in the Chesapeake Bay aboard the ship carrying his parents to Virginia around 1680. Her mother, Rachel, was a descendant of the Bird family--but not, as sometimes claimed, of Virginia's celebrated Byrd clan. Acquiring land as a surveyor--in those days a surveyor's fee could amount to one-third of the property surveyed--John Rogers settled with Rachel and their nine children in Drysdale Parish, at the base of a finger of land extending into the Chesapeake Bay. There the Rogers and Clark families intermingled closely enough that when Ann married John Clark in 1747, she was marrying her second cousin.In Albemarle, the newly arrived Clarks were not large landholders. They had inherited just 410 acres, marked off in the county deed book as"beginning at 3 bushes standing on south side of the Rivanna" and continuing "238 poles to 3 red oak saplings standing on the east side of a branch between 2 mountains." Their farm would later be dwarfed by the 11,000 acres Thomas Jefferson accumulated for his plantations. But like virtually all of their countrymen, John and Ann Clark saw the acquisition of land as the best way to build and hold wealth. John Clark's father, Jonathan, may have signed his will with an illiterate's X mark, but he was still able to leave two farms and other property to his two sons.Like many other emigrants whose families were from the borderlands of northern England and Scotland, John and Ann were comfortable in the colonial backcountry. They built a cabin that was most likely a simple structure of square-hewn logs, in the convention of the times, with sides facing east and west and a fireplace at one end. The floor would have been puncheon--split logs laid with the flat side up--over hardpacked clay. A spring for fresh water flowed nearby.Two redheaded sons were born there: Jonathan in 1750 and George Rogers in 1752. But then the young couple encountered a problem. Success in the leading cash crop, tobacco, depended on access to tidewater ports and European markets. But they soon realized that they were above the fall line on the Rappahannock and the Rivanna was not deep enough nor the roads sturdy enough to carry heavy wagons from the Piedmont.Meanwhile, disturbing news was coming from the North. Relative calm had prevailed for decades in the North American backcountry as a result of an uneasy equilibrium between the French and British colonists and the Indians courted by both powers. While the British had a far greater population--the 1.25 million British colonists far outnumbered 60,000 French Canadians--the French enjoyed warmer relations with the Indians thanks to the chain of fur-trading posts they had built stretching from the St. Lawrence River to Detroit and Michilimackinac and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.Conflict erupted, as always, over land. In 1752, a group of Virginia land speculators known as the Ohio Company acquired a huge grant from the English Crown and cut a road from the headwaters of the Potomac across the Allegheny divide to the Youghiogheny and Mononga-hela rivers. The prospect of English settlers flooding into the Ohio watershed so alarmed the French that they evicted the immigrants and built a new fort at the Forks of the Ohio, now the location of Pittsburgh.A combined army of French and Indians then forced the surrender of the twenty-two-year-old George Washington and his Virginia militia at Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania in July 1754. That was the opening engagement of the conflict known in North America as the French and Indian War and in Europe as the Seven Years War. A year later, an invading British army led by Major General Edward Braddock stumbled into an Indian ambush near the Forks of the Ohio, suffering casualties of 1,000 of the 1,400 men under arms.Large tribes like the Delawares and the Shawnees were mounting their own independent resistance to the American invaders. Bands of Indians continued to move up and down the "Warrior's Path" through the Shenandoah Valley, just over the ridge from the Clark family cabin. So when a bachelor uncle died and left John Clark 170 acres of farmland near the Rappahannock in the southwestern corner of Caroline County, twenty-five miles from the coast, John saw his opportunity. He sold his Albemarle farm, and the family returned to the central tidewater, east of the fall line. The American push westward typically produced a counter-migration to the east in its wake, and the Clarks were part of that first backwash. It would be the last time a member of the Clark family would move any direction but west.
The Clarks settled on gently rolling land in Caroline County, located at the first rise of land from the coastal plain. The house began to fill with children. In quick order after Jonathan and George Rogers came Ann (1754), John (1757), Richard (1760), Edmund (1762), Lucy (1765), and Eliza (1768). Then, on August 1, 1770, another redheaded boy arrived. The parents named him William, perhaps after his great-grandfather, William John Clark. William was followed three years later by the last of the ten Clark children, a daughter named Frances but forever called Fanny. The six sons and four daughters were an average complement for rural families, for whom more hands meant more help in the fields. Daniel Boone's wife, Rebecca, bore ten children, and John Clark's brother, Benjamin, is said to have fathered thirty-one children with two wives, including twenty-nine sons--though only six survived to maturity.The Clarks were landed gentry who did not find working with their hands to be beneath them. Still, they were not the only ones who workedtheir land. Living with them was the other most important form of property in Virginia: enslaved African-Americans. In the seventeenth century, Africans had begun to replace indentured whites and enslaved Indians as the essential source of labor on the plantations. The new tobacco and cotton economies on the Chesapeake were far more labor-intensive than the mixed-crop farming that had preceded them. By the 1730s, two thousand slaves were arriving in the Chesapeake ports every year. Half of them were Ibos from the most-desired ports of origin in Gambia and the Bight of Biafra. By the time of the American Revolution, there were 200,000 slaves in Virginia, and wealthy planters like Jefferson and Washington had 200 slaves apiece. As relatively modest landholders, the Clarks never owned more than two dozen slaves.Throughout the Chesapeake, slave families lived in parallel universes with their white owners. Men worked in the fields, and women did household chores--cooking, cleaning, and mending--though some would be sent into the fields at harvest time. Among the possessions Africans lost upon arriving in the colonies were their names. Slaves could be named after the day they arrived, Tuesday or Easter, or receive classical names like Caesar or Scipio that mocked their lack of status.John Clark had inherited from his father a slave named Old York, presumably because he had disembarked on the York River, then the center of the slave trade in the region. Old York and his wife, Rose, had several children, including a son, also called York, who became William Clark's playmate, and eventually his servant.When the time came for schooling, the elder boys, Jonathan and George Rogers, were sent back to King and Queen County to live with their maternal grandfather, where they could study under Donald Robertson, the husband of Ann Clark's younger sister Rachel. The Scottish-born Robertson, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, ran a well-known academy on the Mattaponi River, where another of his students was the young James Madison. Boarders studied history, geography, and arithmetic--and paid tuition of £13 a year, though Robertson willingly accepted in-kind equivalents, including brandy, wheat, cider, and "Half-homony beans."Formal study for the remaining children began after Jonathan and George Rogers left Robertson's school: copies of their lesson books werehanded down through the family. Jonathan's leather-bound "Cyphering Book" was passed from brother to sister and eventually to "Billy," as William was called. The book's topics included "Simple Interest" and "The Rule of Three Direct" and calculation questions reflecting the daily concerns of rural Virginians:"When the days are 9 hours long I can travail from here to Williamsburg in 9 days, how many days will I be going the same journey when the days are 14½ [hours] long.""If 10 horses in 14 days eat 14 bushels of oats, [how many] will serve 18 horses in 165 days?""How many feet of plank that is 13¼ inches broad will floor a room that is 24 foot long by 24½ broad?"Schoolboys could still be schoolboys. Scattered among the lesson plans are notations such as "John Clark Loves Nancy Patterson," or "Miss Fanny, fair and witty, Not to wise not to pretty," andWilliam Clark is a spark And he loves to shoot a gun He left a fart behind catch And it sounded like a drum.One entry-a ribald story about a farmer's wife who calls a hired man named Jack to catch a mouse she claims has run up her petticoat--was earthy enough to have been partially bowdlerized later by a pen-wielding Clark descendant.Other notations in the book suggest a darker side of colonial life. There was a premium on good paper, so when children were finished with copying, parents used their books for notepaper. Thus, this draft of a note in John Clark's hand appears in the family copying book under the date of April 7, 1776:Let the Bearer Cupit [Cupid] pass to Mr. John Wollers meeting And he pass home Monday morning. John Clark.Plantation owners would write such notes to tear out and hand to a traveling slave to assure other whites that the man was not a runaway. A slave apprehended away from his owner's land without permission could be arrested and whipped. In this case, three months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Clark was giving his slave Cupid safe passage to attend a nearby Sunday church service.Other participants in the lives of the Clark family included scattered Indian peoples who had lived among the European settlers for more than a century. Once-powerful tribes like the Powhatans had long since been decimated by war and disease. Of the two million native peoples living east of the Mississippi when Columbus arrived, only an estimated 250,000 remained. John Clark's small plantation in Caroline County was close enough to the main road between the colonial capitals at Philadelphia and Williamsburg that Indian travelers would pass by frequently.While Indians and whites examined one another with suspicion as well as awe, they were not enemies every day. Frequent interaction was important to both groups, and they started to adopt each other's habits as soon as they first came into contact. It began at the table: white and native Virginians both ate Indian corn (maize), beans, squash, hominy, pumpkins, sunflower seeds, and jerked venison. Indians and whites both carried cornmeal in powder horns and made cornbread, which was originally known as "journey cake" but became "Johnny cake" in a tidewater accent.The Indians' growing reliance on imported trade products resulted in the gradual abandonment of goods they made for themselves. They needed European weapons and ammunition, woolen cloaks, shirts made from the mixture of linen and wool known as "linsey-woolsey," vermilion and verdigris for skin-painting, kettles and spoons, knives and hatchets, needles and scissors, and tools of every kind. Their traditional wampum beads made from whelk and quahog shells were replaced with beads hollowed out by steel tools in Albany, New York. In return, to satisfy the European craving for felt hats made of beaver pelts, the Indians over-hunted their lands and depleted the region's supply of game. "A modern Indian cannot subsist without Europeans," said the British superintendent John Stuart. "What was only conveniency at first is now become necessity."2He could have said the same about the colonists. Indians built better canoes than the Europeans and were far more at home in the wilderness.Newly arrived whites typically did not know how to hunt, since shooting wild game was a privilege reserved for leisured aristocrats in eighteenth-century Britain and France. The Indians taught them to set fire to a forest to create meadows for game, or hunt by "jacklighting"--using flaming torches to encircle and freeze deer in their tracks at night before shooting them.3Some Europeans became "half-Indian" or "white savages."4 These frontiersmen dressed in buckskin hunting shirts, leggings, and moccasins, wearing their hair long and greased with bear oil. "Their whole dress," said an English visitor, "is also very singular, and not very materially different from that of the Indians."5 In turn, Indians adopted some, but hardly all, European fashions. They wore manufactured clothes but continued to slit their ears and tattoo their faces. A traveler observed four Shawnee chiefs "in white men's dress, except breeches, which they refuse to wear, instead of which they have a girdle round them with a piece of cloth drawn through their legs and turned over the girdle, and appears like a short apron before and behind."6The log-cabin style of home construction, first brought to the colonies by Swedes and Finns, was spread throughout America as much by Indians as by white settlers. Travelers frequently remarked on the similarity of Indian villages, their streets likewise lined with log dwellings, to white communities. Labor in both Indian and white villages was also broadly equivalent. Indian men and white men did most of the hunting, while white women and Indian women worked in the fields and cooked.7Women from both groups were often the first to interact with outsiders, and intermarriage between colonial men and native women had been commonplace throughout North America since the time of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. A vocabulary of Shawnee and Delaware words compiled in 1785 is peppered with translations of such phrases as "I love you" and "Will you sleep with me?"8 The common-law wife of Sir William Johnson, the British superintendent of Indians north of Virginia, was Molly Brant, the sister of the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. Visitors to Johnson's home unfamiliar with the interlocking worlds of whites and Indians were startled to find Indians seated at the dinner table politely speaking English. Conversely, the Shawnee captive James Kenney was astonished when an Indian woman "boiled some water in a small copper kettle, with which she made some tea in a tea-pot, using cups and saucers of yellow-ware."9From the outset, the Europeans' idea of the Indian had been a blank slate on which they could project their prejudices. Indians were originally seen not as racial inferiors but as white men in a less developed state of culture, not unlike English peasants before the Romans arrived. American natives were thought to be a simple, malleable people who, once they came to understand the benefits of European faith and civilization, would embrace them. If the English colonists described Indians as "savages," "pagans," or "brutes," they were commenting on their unfortunately primitive stage of development, but not on their capacity for improvement.Early English settlers regarded Indians as not significantly different in skin color from their own. Captain John Smith reported that his Indian neighbors at Jamestown were "a colour browne when they are of any age, but they are borne white."10 Sir Walter Raleigh likewise observed, "They were never said to be red but 'brown and tawnie.'"11 Even their darker hue was thought to result from the Indians' ritualistic skin-painting and what William Wood called "the sun's livery."12 Not until the three-century struggle for power in eastern North America entered its bitterest phase in the mid-eighteenth century would the word "redskins" become the epithet of choice for warriors who painted themselves red for battle.13
The conclusion of the Seven Years War with the fall of Quebec and the ensuing Treaty of Paris in 1763 changed everything for the Indian nations. The French abandoned the continent, ceding to Britain all of their lands in Canada and east of the Mississippi and turning over New Orleans and the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi to Spain (which had yielded Florida to Britain). No longer able to find a strategic middle ground by playing the contending European powers against one another, the tribes were left with few options. Instead of dealing with Frenchmen who wanted their trade but not their land, the native peoples were confronted by a line of settlement advancing from the east. The world of mutual dependence and accommodation, in which Indians and whites could find a place for one another, was disappearing.In the Ohio Valley, the Delawares and Shawnees lashed out against the enemies--both whites and rival tribes--who had driven them from their original homes in the East. The British official Lord Jeffrey Amherstenforced a repressive Indian policy that went so far as to include distributing blankets infected with smallpox. The result was a bloody rebellion led by the Ottawa chief Pontiac. By the summer of 1763, more than two thousand settlers had been killed in Pontiac's War, and the British had lost nearly every trading fort in the west.In an attempt to buffer the Indians from the traders, as well as to prevent settlers and land speculators from establishing breakaway colonies, King George III signed the Proclamation of 1763, which drew a line down the crest of the Appalachians and declared that neither colonial governments nor the King's subjects could survey, settle, or purchase land west of it. For the first time, the English backcountry was defined as Indian land, which would be kept "as open and Wild as possible for the purposes of Hunting."14 As it would turn out, however, defining the land was the necessary first step toward acquiring it.Few colonists took the proclamation as anything other than a temporary delay in their inevitable march across the mountains. Fur traders continued to cross into the Ohio Valley, and men like George Washington told their friends to begin surveying before it was too late. The competing colonial governments in Virginia and Pennsylvania made no attempt to hold back the settlers. Between 1765 and 1768 alone, an estimated thirty thousand settlers surged across the mountains to settlements like Redstone Creek on the Monongahela River.Faced with increasing encroachments by whites on recognized tribal lands, the British authorities responded in a manner that set the pattern of Indian relations that would prevail for a century: unable to enforce their laws, they decided to rewrite them. Unable to protect Indian lands, they took them.In the autumn of 1768 the British superintendent William Johnson convened more than two thousand Iroquois at Fort Stanwix on the Upper Mohawk River for the stated purpose of redrawing the boundary line farther west. But, in an unauthorized and illegal step, Johnson then purchased from the Iroquois a vast tract of land south and east of the Ohio River that included much of the present states of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The Iroquois did not occupy these lands, but claimed to have taken them from the Shawnees. For £10,000, they thereby ceded to the Crown all the hunting grounds of the Shawnees south of the Ohio and the overlapping claims of the Cherokees.The land companies that had sprung up around the colonies were quick to seize the rich opportunity. Supported by many of the most prominent men in the colonies, they rushed to lobby in London for land grants in the newly available region. Schemes were hatched to create what amounted to proprietary colonies, fancifully named Transylvania and the State of Franklin. Among the stakeholders in various speculating companies were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir William Johnson himself. Most of the new investors would remain in the East.Rejecting any restrictions on their movements, American colonists began to press across the northern end of the Alleghenies into the Upper Ohio Valley. "They do and will remove as their avidity and restlessness incite them," complained Virginia's royal governor, Lord Dunmore. "They acquire no attachment to Place; but wandering about seems engrafted in their nature; they do not conceive that Government has any right to forbid their taking possession of a vast tract of country."15Farther south, Daniel Boone began leading backcountry hunts across the Blue Ridge Mountains into a fertile land that the Iroquois called Kanta-ke. Huge herds of buffalo, elk, and deer roamed through the hardwood forests, "rolling fat, and weary for the rifle shot," as one writer put it.16 The Shawnees had once lived there, but they had been driven north of the Ohio by the Iroquois, who now shared the region with the Cherokees as a common hunting ground.At some point, the enticing rumors about the earthly paradise across the mountains reached the Clark family of Caroline County. They lived midway between the market centers at Richmond and Fredericksburg--close enough to keep up on news carried by travelers but remote enough to steep them in the ways of provincial Virginia. John Clark knew that to guarantee his children's future, the family would need more land. The course they and thousands of their countrymen took to get it led directly to the snowfields of St. Clair's Defeat.Copyright © 2004 by Landon Y. Jones
Meet the Author
Landon Jones was managing editor at People magazine for eight years and wrote and edited for Life, Time, Money, and People for thirty-seven years; and is currently vice president of the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. His books include Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom and The Essential Lewis and Clark. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Landon Y. Jones is the former head editor of People and Money magazines. His books include The Essential Lewis and Clark and Great Expectations, which was nominated for an American Book Award. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and Bozeman, Montana.
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Overall, not a bad read. I think the author didn't spend enough time on the Lewis & Clark expedition. After Lewis dies the last third of the book seems to be more aboubt the travesity of how we treated the American Indian versus about Clark. The lasfgt part of the book seemed slow and I finished the book feeling i still didn't mknow Clark that well.
After reading 'Undaunted Courage' by Stephen E. Ambrose way back in 1997, I wondered what ever happened to Lewis's buddy Clark after Lewis committed suicide. Well, now the Clark biography is finally out! I learned about the most important Indian treaty in U.S. history, namely the 1795 Treaty of Greenville. The subsequent Indian treaties are mere follow-ups. The author only devotes 1 chapter to the famous Lewis & Clark journey, which is fine for those that already read 'Undaunted Courage' first. The author hops around a little with the timeline of events but it works out.
This is a great book for the Lewis and Clark fan or anyone. The author has searched sources I've never seen before and compiled some very interesting new facts about Clark and the times. He spins the whiskey-indians point a bit too much. Judging a society 200 years ago by today's standards. For example, instead of reporting the traders drank eight ounces of whiskey a day, he criticizes Clark for letting them take 12 gallons (!!!) for a half years trip.
The book is an excellent portrayal of a complex leader and a man who survived by killing and taking property from Indians directly or indirectly, his entire life. Clark was in the advance party that provided a map for the settlers to seize more land and take more lives during the creation of the nation known as the USA today. It is a sad,sad tragic story and part of a fabric of deceit that is the bedrock foundation of the USA, long overdue in its delineation but known intuitively to all but the most ignorant and naive patriots. It should be required reading for the 4th of July celebrations in a nation that champions freedom, and truth that it is built on theft, half-truths and murder. Nation building means death to the owners of land, overpowered by technology and outwitted by scheming invaders masquerading as friends. Clark shows his American character in this telling book.