Do you think
George Shannon had a few yarns to spin?
youngest member of the Corps of Discovery got lostmore than
onceon the journey west. He nearly starved to death in the
wilderness. And that's just what happened on the Lewis and Clark
expedition. In later years he cut his foot with an ax, was shot
by Indians, lost a leg, practiced law, and was a U.S. senator
from Missouri. Yes, Shannon led a pretty full life.
born in Claysville, PA, in 1785, the son of George Shannon Sr.,
who came to America from Ireland, and the former Jane Milligan.
George Jr. was the first of nine children. His father died in
January 1803 just months before George, at the age of 18, enlisted
in the Corps of Discovery.
one of the famous "Kentucky nine" recruited for the
expedition. Notorious for getting lost, Shannon was described
by his great-great-great-nephew as a "typical teenager"
who was "adventurous enough to be out with the leaders of
the time." Historian Charles Clarke (1970) described Shannon
as a Protestant Irishman who could sing, hunt, and sit a horse
well. Singing was not a skill vital to frontier survival, but
along with Pierre Cruzatte's violin
it was no doubt appreciated evenings around the campfire.
riding, on the other hand, were vital survival skills for the
expedition. Several menShannon includedwere enlisted
as hunters. That William Clark did not
consider Shannon to be a first-rate hunter was evidenced by the
captain's decision to send John Colter
with provisions in search of Shannon during Shannon's 16-day absence
in August and September 1804.
George Drouillard were sent in search
of two pack horses that had strayed Aug. 26. Drouillard returned
to camp unsuccessful. Several days passed, and when Shannon had
not returned, he was presumed lost. Shannon had thought the Corps
was ahead of him rather than behind. He had, in fact, found the
horses and was determined to catch up with the men on the river
so he pressed on.
Shields and Joseph Field were sent
to find Shannon. They reported that tracks indicated Shannon had
the horses, but they could not overtake him. Subsisting on plums,
grapes, and one rabbit, Shannon was still moving forward. After
running out of bullets after four days, he fashioned a stick into
a projectile that could be shot out of his gun. That's how he
killed the rabbit.
16 days the Corps eventually found Shannon, nearly starved to
death, sitting along the Missouri. He had decided to wait along
the river in hopes of seeing a trading boat.
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