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Holly and Tracy splash around in the depths of history.

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How did Meriwether Lewis die? | December 02, 2009

 
Katie

Right, some things about it are pretty fishy.

Sara

One – I mean, the major point is that Lewis was a good shot, and why did – he carried a 69 caliber pistol.

Katie

And how do you shoot yourself in the head with a 69 caliber pistol?

Sara

And live to shoot yourself again? So that’s an interesting point. It’s not really pointing fingers at any assassin, but it’s an interesting reason why it might not be a suicide.

Katie

Right. And part of it was about the trajectory. Neely wrote in one of his letters that the second shot had “entered and passed downward through his body, and then came out low, down near his backbone.” And some have said, well, that wouldn’t make sense if it was a self-inflicted wound.

Sara

But we provided some potential motives for the suicide, so we’ve got to do the same for the murder. Who might have murdered Meriwether Lewis?

Katie

Well, our first suspect would be the traveling companion Neely, who Eldon Schenard, who’s the authority on the medical history of the whole Lewis and Clark expedition, that’s who he thinks is our best culprit.

Sara

And he’s the one suggesting that the bullet trajectory is off.

Katie

Right. And he also says that Lewis may have found Neely going through his stuff, and Neely shot him. In general, Neely’s a really sketchy character, and he doesn’t come off well by anyone’s account. He never even gives Lewis’ stuff to his family. And he’s not a friend of Lewis'; he’s a government Indian agent that Lewis runs in to at Fort Pickering during his difficulties.

Sara

When he’s being kept there because he’s in such a depressive state.

Katie

Right, and he’s happy to find a traveling companion. Another thing that people have pointed out that was strange about his behavior is that he sent his servant with Lewis and Pernia, who was Lewis’ servant, instead of keeping him to help his own mission of finding these stray horses. And why would he do that? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. And also, why didn’t he get better accounts of Lewis’ death. Is it because he had something to hide? So he’s actually a fairly credible suspect if you’re going with the murder theory.

Sara

And so is Lewis’ servant, Pernia. Pernia went straight to Jefferson after the death saying it was a suicide, and then he goes to the family saying that Lewis owes him money, $240.00, and the family thinks that he might have been the one who murdered Lewis, if Lewis was murdered.

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