1770 - 1838
The explorer who co-led the Lewis and Clark expeditionby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“Great joy in Camp we are in view of the Ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to see and the roaring or noise made by the waves braking on the rocky shores (as I suppose) may be heard distinctly.” This was quoted when the explorer Captain William Clark, the co-leader of the Corps of Discovery, finally reached the Pacific Ocean, their final destination.The famous Corps of Discovery has hugely contributed to its country by finding a route to the other side of the vast continent and by starting the Western Expansion. Despite Captain Lewis’ efforts, the expedition would have failed if its co-leader, Captain Clark was absent on the expedition.
William Clark, a Virginian born in August 1st 1770, was the man who co-led the Lewis and Clark expedition into success. Born among John and Ann Rogers Clark, he grew up experiencing the wild life while spending his early life in Kentucky. His elder brother, George Rogers Clark, who was a famous military hero, taught young Clark how to survive in the wilderness. Young William grew to be a tough, six-foot tall, red-haired man. He joined the militia at the age of nineteen and continued to serve there until he resigned in 1796, due to health problems.
While in the militia in 1795, Clark met a man who would later change his life. The man’s name was Meriwether Lewis and he worked under Clark until his resignation. Lewis admired William’s leadership skills which later led him to ask Clark to share command of the expedition. Few years after he resigned, Clark received a letter from Lewis, asking him to co-lead the team that will change history. Clark agreed to his old comrade’s suggestion and left his plantation in 1803 to join the Corps of Discovery.
Although Lewis was four years younger than William, Clark paid him respect and technically put him as the one in charge of everything. Despite Clark’s poor education, he did an outstanding job in making maps, controlling the expedition’s supplies, and negotiating with the Indian tribes. Although he made numerous spelling mistakes, his journal has given America great information about the Native Americans’ culture and lifestyle. He also kept records of the expedition’s progress and their status. The Lewis and Clark expedition succeeded in crossing the Rocky Mountains and reaching the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the vast Americas and during this expedition, Clark became an expert in dealing with the Indians.
After his return in 1806, President Jefferson appointed Clark a general in the Louisiana territory. Clark played a big role in the War of 1812 by leading numerous campaigns and by asking the Indians to stay neutral or allies with them until the end of the war. In 1813, President Madison made him the governor of Missouri Territory, where he remained as governor for seven years. In 1820, Clark was defeated in an election against Alexander McNair to be the governor of the state Missouri. But in 1822, President Munroe appointed him as the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Clark was the best man for the job, considering Lewis’ sudden death in 1809.
While Clark dealt with the Indians as governor and superintendent, the Americans and the Native Americans remained in peace due to Clark efforts. Clark focused on trading with the Indians and keeping the peace. The Indians thought of him as a friend and he was honored among them.
Clark married Julia Hancock in 1808, and had five children from which one of them he named Meriwether Lewis Clark, after his friend. After Julia’s death, Clark remarried in 1820 and had three more children. In 1838, Clark died after an illness. He was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery and a monument was built for him in 1904.
Clark was an Episcopalian and he evangelized to a few Indians on his journey. Few years later it is known that few Indians came searching for the Book of Heaven and Clark helped sending missionaries to the Indians. Clark evangelized with the right heart. He respected other cultures and lifestyles, and gained their trust, leading them to Christ. Also his efforts at trying to make peace with other tribes paid off greatly for the new country. The explorer William Clark devoted his time and energy to make peace, lead the Indians to Christ, and open the way to the Western Expansion.