My Takeaways From The Book The Death Of Meriwether Lewis

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 03:56 PM with 0 comments

So do you think Meriwether Lewis committed suicide or was assassinated? This question is not frequently asked as most people don’t often think of the person who was one half of the duo who explored America’s new territory over 200 years ago, and more than likely had no idea about his demise. At least I had no idea of the controversy, and I was the kid in school who liked U.S. history. This topic is explored in depth in the book The Death of Meriwether Lewis by Kira Gale and James Starrs.

The book has 2 unique parts. It opens with the transcript of a coroner’s inquest for the exhumation of Lewis’ body. It is believed by many that Lewis did not commit suicide, as was his official cause of death, but rather was assassinated. The inquest was held several years ago to recommend whether or not to exhume his body and perform an autopsy based on evidence provided, and it was decided to do so. Within the transcript lies the evidence proving reasonable doubt to the original cause. The second half is the backstory of Lewis’ life and death, and who may have been behind his murder. It is an interesting story not only about his life after he and William Clark trekked west but detail of the journey itself I was not aware of.

So could I possibly have takeaways from what is in essence a history book? Certainly. My greatest takeaway is there is more to historical events than is commonly taught. The Death of Meriwether Lewis explores the circumstances around his death that I had no idea about, and after reading it was glad I finally knew them. As most grade-school history courses have to cover many decades if not hundreds of years, it is not possible to delve into each story in depth. This is probably why books such as this are selling well, as people are curious about their country’s history.

Another takeaway form this was the reference to Lewis being the Neil Armstrong of our day. The mention of this caught me off guard, as we don’t think of the mere concept of celebrities prior to Hollywood and TV. News traveled a little differently in the early 1800’s than it does today, but people’s curiosity was alive then as now.

A final takeaway was on the importance of knowing one’s history. Why would people over 200 years later care how someone died? It is the belief of many that Lewis was killed, and they wish to correct the journals of history where it is mentioned that he committed suicide. They feel the truth should come out, no matter how long ago it happened.

The Death of Meriwether Lewis is a good read and I recommend it for anyone who has an interest in history and politics. Gale is a historian and has also written Lewis and Clark Road Trips, a book on traveling today along the trail Lewis and Clark took so long ago. Both The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Lewis and Clark Road Trips have excellent companion Web sites – I know, as my Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC developed them with Visible Logic, Inc. Though Gale is a client, I was not paid to say what I did about the book; it is my personal opinion that you should read it.


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