It's a question that's been around since the beginning of time, or at least since 1806 (the year Lewis and Clark completed their two-year journey...read a book people!) When it comes to Lewis and Clark who in fact was the more epic explorer? Until now history has been unable to come to a clear conclusion, but today I'm here to change all that as I pit the famed duo against one another. I'll be judging the two in five different categories, and at the end will crown a winner.
Did you know Lewis and Clark were not their first names? The pair were born as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Not to mention the two didn't even know each other until their late 20's. I'm going to go ahead and blame the public schools on this one because I honestly thought they were somehow related, and that's why everyone was on a first named basis.
I'm not going to try to look you in the eye and tell you Meriwether is a name that commands attention, but consider the alternative. Bill Clark sounds like a super hero's alter ego who's trying to blend in at an accounting firm. Bill probably makes bad dad jokes, (which for the record I'm all for) and has a bumper sticker family proudly displayed on the back of his minivan. At least Meriwether Lewis conjures up the image of a 1920's boxer who was labeled a, "journeyman" because he never captured the heavyweight title. That being said, if we're being truly honest neither name is that impressive so I'm going to refer to them as just Lewis and Clark from here on out.
Life in the late 1700's was no walk in the park, and it should surprise no one these two came from humble beginnings. Lewis grew up in Georgia under the guidance of his mother and stepfather after his real father died of pneumonia. (You can go ahead and cue the, "You're not me real dad!" jokes.) Meanwhile Clark, the ninth of 10 children, spent his childhood on a Virginia plantation. I bet you didn't know Clark's parents were slave owners. Even worse it's a trend he continued through adulthood. Neither had any formal education until they were teenagers, and both joined the army at a young age (I mean what else was there to do). Like I said pretty modest beginnings.
Point again goes to Lewis, and it has to do with something I didn't mention in the previous blurb. (I know that was sneaky of me.) It turns out Lewis was quite the outdoors man well before he ever stepped into a canoe. His mother taught him to turn wild herbs into medicine, and apparently a pastime of his was going on winter hunting trips with just his dog. Now he lived in Georgia so let's not go crazy about the "winter" part, but still pretty cool.
Not only did both of these guys join the military, but they actually first crossed paths as members of the Virginia militia. By this point Lewis was a Captain, and Clark was one of his superior officers. Both men had a defining military moment; Lewis helped put down the Whiskey Rebellion while Clark is credited with commanding the decisive battle that ended the Northwest Indian War. I'd like to think their military backgrounds served as a nice icebreaker during their early days on the trail before they really opened up to one another.
Hey Clark got on the board! This one is pretty cut and dry. Not only was Clark Lewis's superior, but he also helped end a war. If the pair ever got into an argument over military achievements how could Lewis compete? Plus, once the pair were in uniform Clark could just pull rank.
Post Trip Fame
It's safe to say neither would again achieve the same level of fame they experienced following their two-year expedition. Lewis was named both the governor of the Louisiana Territory, and a private secretary to Thomas Jefferson. However, he was considered a terrible governor, and allegedly developed both an alcohol and opioid dependency. Meanwhile Clark was named a one-star general, the US agent for Indian affairs, and Missouri's governor. But (there is always a but) he was voted out as governor in Missouri's first ever election, and today his negotiations with the Native Americans are considered to be shady at best. Though to his credit back then he was known for his fair treatment of the Native Americans.
If you can just look past the whole drug and alcohol thing Lewis had a pretty sweet setup. I mean he had a direct line to Thomas Jefferson. Back then that might have been second to only George Washington as the best name drop. Not to mention, Lewis also received 1,600 acres of land for his two years of expedition work.
Lewis's luck ran out at the age of 35. Strapped for cash he was on his way to speak with Thomas Jefferson when he either committed suicide or was murdered. That's right we're still not sure if one of America's greatest explorers was assassinated. To add insult to injury Lewis was then buried in an unmarked grave, and it more or less stayed that way for over 100 years. Clark on the other hand had eight children and would die peacefully in his own home at the age of 68.
Did you even have to ask? One was a potential murder victim while the other wasn't. That in and of itself should end the argument. Side note, we'll likely never know what happened to Lewis in his final hours. In 2010 the Department of interior went back on their original agreement to study Lewis's remains saying it would have disturbed the resting place of over 100 pioneers buried nearby.
Lewis but it's a close race. For starters the journey is called the Lewis and Clark expedition. While you could easily make the case Clark lived a fuller life that wasn't the question. It was who was the more epic explorer? For my money I'm going with the guy who knew herbal remedies, and had noteworthy hunting trips with his dog every time..
(If you stick with us you'll see there's a lot of pointing in these old paintings)