the young, rambunctious Kentucky and Virginia woodsmen of the
Corps of Discovery who signed on for adventure, John Ordway was
a bit of an exception.
was "regular army," having volunteered for the expedition
from Fort Kaskaskia in the Illinois Territory. He was the only
one of the original sergeants to come straight from military service.
As a result, Lewis and Clark
assigned him a number of administrative tasks: issuing provisions,
appointing guard duties, keeping all registers and records, and
commanding the camp when both of them were gone.
aspect about Ordway was his birthplace. He was from the East,
born in Hebron, NH. Nearly everyone else on the trip was from
Virginia or Kentucky or other western outposts.
there was schooling. Ordway was well educated. That set him apart
from most everyone else on the expedition, except for perhaps
that, was it any wonder the 29-year-old Ordway faced a rocky road
starting his assignment after being appointed sergeant? In February
1804 as Lewis worked in St. Louis, the men started to give Ordway
a go at the Corps' winter camp. First, privates Reubin
Field and John Shields refused
to mount guard duty because they would not take orders from anyone
other than the captains. Privates John Colter,
John Boley, Peter Weiser, and John Robinson told Ordway they were
leaving to go huntingagainst his orders. Instead, they went
to a neighboring whiskey shop and got drunk.
didn't improve much in March. With the captains away, fights among
the restless men had broken out. Shields opposed another of Ordway's
orders and threatened the sergeant's life. Colter did the same
but took it a step further. He loaded his gun and threatened to
shoot Ordway. The captains had to step in with the latter incidents.
A mutiny trial resulted in the two privates seeking forgiveness.
They "promised to doe better in future," the captains
reported and issued no punishment.
better" they did. In fact, Colter in particular seemed to
patch things up with his sergeant. Ordway, who kept a journal
as required by the captains, noted that he and Colter worked many
days together the rest of the journey. They hunted together and
were at the salt works on the Pacific together. They ate together
and were in the keelboats and canoes with each other. Ordway probably
knew Colter as well as any man. In his journal Ordway often praised
the performance of Colter and the other men in his unit.
journal was purchased by Lewis and Clark after the expedition
with plans to incorporate it into their book. However, the journal
was "lost" after Lewis' death in 1809 until being found
a century later. It was published in 1913 and was notable for
the detail in which it named the hunters, saltmakers, and scouts
at the various places along the expedition. That human element
had been edited out of earlier versions of the journals from the
trip. Ordway's description of Indian culture also provided valuable
the end of the expedition, Ordway accompanied Lewis and a party
of Indians to Washington, DC. He then was discharged and returned
to New Hampshire. He bought several of the land warrants issued
to other members of the expedition. He returned to the Cape Girardeau
district in Missouri and settled in 1809, quite prosperous with
the land he owned. He eventually married, although both he and
his wife had died by 1817.
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