Publications by our Members

Shotgun on My Chest: Memoirs of a Lewis and Clark Book Collector

Shotgun on My Chest
By Roger Wendlick (Author),‎ Anneliese Dehner (Illustrator)

Shotgun on my Chest is the chronicle of one man's obsession with books. Roger Wendlick was born in Portland, Oregon, where he worked for most of his adult life in heavy construction. Roger also lived a parallel life as an antiquarian book collector. In 1980, Roger began collecting materials related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, making it his goal to assemble the world's most complete collection of printed materials relating to the Expedition. In 1998 Roger achieved his goal and devoted himself full time to study and teaching about the expedition.

Available from
Amazon in hardcover and paperback.

Sacagawea's Son

by Albert Furtwangler
Oregon Historical Society Press, 2004.
Available from the Oregon Historical Society

The youngest member of the Lewis and Clark expedition learned to walk — and even to dance — on the Corps of Discovery’s way to the Pacific and back. Later baptized as Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Sacagawea’s son was called Pomp on the trail. After the expedition, William Clark brought him to St. Louis for his schooling, and during his later years he lived at the court of a German duke and worked as a trader and guide on western trails. Charbonneau died in 1866 on his way from California to the goldfields in Montana. His grave near Jordan Valley, Oregon, marks the end of a long life of international adventures.

This essay questions earlier accounts and presents new information, including recent discoveries about the duke’s court and Charbonneau’s fathering of a child there. It also stresses that even though Charbonneau was cared for and carried far by whites, as an uprooted half-Indian he never found full acceptance in their world.

Vote? Not So Fast!

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By Tom Wilson, LCNHP Ranger, Retired
Throughout time, historical events have been recorded in many ways. From oral traditions, to books, to movies, history has been passed from one generation to another, told and retold. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803–1806 is no exception. There have been numerous books, films, and documentaries as well as various publications written of this famously epic expedition. Many of these accounts were done through tireless reading, research, and digging, while others have been primarily historical fiction and stretched the truth to please readers. Whether fact or fiction, many writers choose to change “consulting” and “opinion” to “binding vote”.

Dr. Gary Moulton’s 13 volumes comprising every surviving journal of the expedition is known as the most accurate and inclusive edition of the Lewis and Clark Journals ever published. Even with everything that was written during the nearly three-year expedition, there still is plenty of room for speculation and wonder.

Authors use the journals as springboards for telling a more personal account of the journey, as well as trying to fill in some of the missing pieces, such as emotions and feelings, which the journals do not always take into account. In doing so, too many authors and speakers attempt to use modern-day beliefs and mores that far too often do not reflect the times of the actual events. Such is the case when critical decisions needed to be made by the officers of the expedition, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. One of these critical decisions was made near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The Expedition had finally reached its main objective: the Pacific Ocean. However, winter was drawing dangerously near, they were extremely low on provisions (not having killed an elk since crossing the Rocky Mountains), their leather clothing had nearly rotted away, and they were extremely low on the trade goods which were vital in obtaining food, information, and whatever else the native people could supply. The Clatsop and Chinook people were perhaps the most skilled traders they had encountered and had set their prices with the ship captains who had been trading with them for roughly 13 years. The Expedition had 33 mouths to feed and could not rely on obtaining all of its food through trade with the natives. It was too late in the year to attempt heading back up the Columbia and cross the Rockies before winter.

A decision of where to winter needed to be made. Many accounts that have been written in books and films say the officers took a vote of the entire party—a democratic vote—to determine what to do. This is where one needs to do more research rather than relying on the retelling of historic events simply to add drama to the story.

Lewis and Clark had relied on the entire party throughout the roughly 4,000 miles they had traveled. Decisions on which rivers to take, Sacagawea’s help with obtaining horses from her Shoshone tribe, which man would replace Sgt. Floyd after his death early on, were all critical decisions made by this group who had been hand-picked by the officers. They had reached the Pacific by working as a team, trusting each other with their lives, and not letting egos get the better of them in making critical decisions.

However, to think that this military party was a democratic one is a mistake. As officers in the U.S. Army, Lewis and Clark knew that they ultimately were held responsible for any and all decisions, right or wrong.

A few years ago, I was having this discussion with a group of officers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who were studying the Lewis & Clark Expedition as a great example of leadership. Someone asked me why famous authors and filmmakers use the word “vote” when referring to this decision. They said it has never been and will never be military protocol for officers to conduct such a vote. After discussing the Expedition’s situation and what was needed, a young officer added something. She said the officers certainly did not call for a vote, but rather were gathering “intel” from the men, Sacagawea, and the natives, which offered information regarding where elk could be found, as to where they should winter.

Ever since this discussion, using the word “vote” in this situation has bothered me. When my group includes military veterans, I often ask if any of them have ever had an officer put forth a vote, whether in a critical situation or otherwise. Rarely do I get words, usually just laughter.

Steven Ambrose writes in
Undaunted Courage (p. 311), “This is the first vote ever held in the Pacific Northwest …the first time a woman had voted.” However, this statement does not take into account that the native women who lived along the lower Columbia River actually had influence in the decision making policies of their people. This in no way diminishes the corps members’ input. In fact, I believe just the opposite. The officers consulted each and every member including York—a slave—and Sacagawea—a trapper’s native wife—about what they thought because they greatly valued their input. They would not have chosen or brought them otherwise.

Moulton’s journals record everything written on that day, November 24, 1805. Not one of the entries mentions the word “vote”. Joseph Whitehouse, the only private who journaled that day writes, “ …In the Evening our Officers had the whole party assembled in order to consult which place would be the best, for us to take up our Winter Quarters at.” Sgt. Patrick Gass records, “…At night, the party were consulted by the Commanding Officers, as to the place most proper for winter quarters”. Sgt. John Ordway writes, “…our officers conclude with the opinion of the party to cross the River and look out a place for winters quarter.” Also from Whitehouse, on November 25, “…Our officers had concluded on crossing the River, & endeavor to find a suitable place, for our Winter Quarters.”

Even though William Clark records each person’s opinion, this does not make it a democratic vote as some speakers and authors suggest. In Clark’s journal on this day, he writes, “…together with the Solicitations of every individual, except one of our party induced us Conclude to Cross the river and examine the opposit Side, . .” I strongly believe it is more uplifting that each person was “consulted,” thus showing the trust that each member has in the officers, and vice versa.

There is only one account in the journals of a vote being taken. That is when Sgt. Floyd died and a new sergeant needed to be chosen. In the militia as well as the regular military, it was not unheard of to have the men choose from a selected group among them a leader who could be trusted and followed.

We should not make history an account of what we want it to have been, nor should we add drama and impose modern-day attitudes upon it. We may like it or dislike it, but we cannot change it, and hopefully we learn from it. This was a successful military expedition because of the chain of command making crucial decisions based on the experience and intuition of those who were chosen to be part of perhaps the greatest expedition our country has ever seen.

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Tom Wilson lives in Astoria, having retired from teaching elementary school there for 30 years. He began working with Fort Clatsop on its curriculum advisory board and later volunteered, then worked as a ranger. Since 2001, he has portrayed Corps members in Ft. Clatsop’s living history programs, and now focuses on William Bratton (Saltworks) and William Clark. He played Clark in A Clatsop Winter Story and the 2008 Ron Craig PBS film about York. He has served as president of Pacific Northwest Living Historians.

December 2017

Bringing Indians to the Book

by Albert Furtwangler
University of Washington Press, 2005.
Available from

In 1831 a delegation of Northwest Indians reportedly made the arduous journey from the shores of the Pacific to the banks of the Missouri in order to visit the famous explorer William Clark. This delegation came, however, not on civic matters but on a religious quest, hoping, or so the reports ran, to discover the truth about the white men's religion. The story of this meeting inspired a drive to send missionaries to the Northwest. Reading accounts of these souls ripe for conversion, the missionaries expected a warmer welcome than they received, and they recorded their subsequent disappointments and frustrations in their extensive journals, letters, and stories.

Bringing Indians to the Book recounts the experiences of these missionaries and of the explorers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition who preceded them. Though they differed greatly in methods and aims, missionaries and explorers shared a crucial underlying cultural characteristic: they were resolutely literate, carrying books not only in their baggage but also in their most commonplace thoughts and habits, and they came west in order to meet, and attempt to change, groups of people who for thousands of years had passed on their memories, learning, and values through words not written, but spoken or sung aloud. It was inevitable that, in this meeting of literate and oral societies, ironies and misunderstandings would abound.

A skilled writer with a keen ear for language, Albert Furtwangler traces the ways in which literacy blinded those Euro-American invaders, even as he reminds us that such bookishness is also our own.

Acts of Discovery: Visions of America in the Lewis and Clark Journals

by Albert Furtwangler
University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Available from

"CORPS OF DISCOVERY" is the name given to themselves by an extraordinary band of soldier-explorers, the party of early Americans who first crossed the continent from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific. They were always a corps, an interdependent group of disciplined soldiers and officers; they could not have survived otherwise. This book very well depicts the ways in which Lewis and Clark explored the West. I would recommend it to anyone who needs straightforward information for a report.

Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trails: A Guide for Paddlers, Hickers and Other Explorers

by Keith Hay
Timber Press, Inc.
Portland, Oregon
Available from

The Lewis and Clark expedition traveled the final 450 miles of their journey to the Pacific Ocean entirely by water, the last segment along the Columbia River. Beginning near the Bonneville Dam, the lower Columbia has been designated the Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail in recognition of its rich historical significance. With this authoritative guide, today’s water-traveling explorer---or motorist, bicyclist, or hiker---can discover the unique landscapes and history of the lower Columbia and imagine what this awesome, untamed terrain may have looked like during the time of Lewis and Clark.

  • 18 detailed maps, including all known Lewis and Clark campsites and routes
  • Launch sites, camping, suggested trips, and hiking and bicycling trails
  • Historical, cultural, and ecological highlights for more than 260 sites
  • Lists of places named and plants and animals described by Lewis and Clark
  • Tips on river safety, trail etiquette, and boat rentals