Lewis stood on the shore of the Missouri River on April 7,
1805, at Fort Mandan and watched as the Corps of Discovery's keelboat
set sail back down the river for St. Louis.
on this day at 4 PM completed every arrangement necessary for
our departure, we dismissed the barge and crew with orders to
return without loss of time to St. Louis," Lewis wrote.
the keelboat crew of five soldiers and nine French trader-watermen
was Cpl. Richard Warfington. He was a good choice to take on the
responsibility of overseeing the precious cargo onboard.
Born in Louisburg,
NC, in 1777, Warfington had already had an exemplary military
career by the time he joined the Corps of Discovery in November
1804. At the age of 22 he joined the Second Infantry in 1799.
When he joined the Corps, he was a member of Capt. John Campbell's
company at South West Point, TN.
William Clark considered Warfington to
be reliable and efficient. He was described as 5'10" with
a fair complexion, black eyes, and brown hair. His leadership
qualifications were apparent to the captains at least as early
as May 1804, when he was named squad leader of the crew manning
the white pirogue on the ascent of the Missouri River.
on the keelboat was extremely important to Lewis. "It was
of some importance that the government should receive in safety
the dispatches I was about to transmit," he wrote. "There
was not one of the party destined to be returned from (Fort Mandan)
in whom I could place the least confidence except [Warfington]."
trip from Fort Mandan to St. Louis must have been a challenge
for Warfington. He was in charge of managing all the men who had
been dismissed from the permanent party, including John Newman
and Moses Reed, who had been court-martialed, as well as delivering
the items Lewis was entrusting to his care. The cargo included
the journals and scientific discoveries (including four live magpies
and a prairie dog). In addition to the plant and animal specimens,
there were detailed river maps, weather charts, and information
on the location, numbers, strengths, and habits of 53 Indian tribes.
journal recording the return trip has been discovered, little
is known about the journey to St. Louis. Proof that Warfington
faithfully executed his assignment is evident from a letter Lewis
wrote to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn when he returned from
duties assigned (Warfington) on this occasion were performed
with a punctuality which uniformly characterized his conduct
while under my command. Taking into view the cheerfulness with
which he continued in the service after every obligation had
ceased to exist, from the exposures, the fatigues, labours and
dangers incident to that service, and above all the fidelity
with which he discharged this duty, it would seem that when
rewards are about to be distributed among those of the party
who were engaged in this enterprise that his claim to something
more than his pay of seven dollars pr. month as corporal cannot
be considered unreasonable."
Congress denied Lewis's request for more money for Warfington,
it did vote that he should receive the same 320 acres of land
granted the men who were with the Corps for the entire expedition.
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