Fort Lewis Gets Its Namesake Statue

By Morgan, Thomas D. | Army, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Fort Lewis Gets Its Namesake Statue


Morgan, Thomas D., Army


Camp Lewis, Wash., was built in 1917 as one of 16 National Army cantonments for the great World War I mobilization. It was named after Capt. Meriwether Lewis, the co-captain with William Clark, of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803-1806). It was designated Fort Lewis, a permanent Army post, on September 30,1927. In 2005, on the 78th anniversary of the post changing from a temporary installation into a permanent post, Fort Lewis acquired a larger-than-life statue of Capt. Lewis and his dog Seaman, who accompanied him on the long and arduous expedition. A replica of the 15-star national flag of 1803 was raised at the memorial park site during a military dedication ceremony presided over by Brig. Gen. John Morgan III, the I Corps and Fort Lewis deputy commanding general, who said, "As Capt. Lewis answered his nation's call to duty, this park stands as a tribute to the same selfless answer made by all servicemen and women." This magnificent statue, sculpted by local artist John P. Jewell and cast by the Bronze Works of Tacoma, Wash., was the result of two years of effort by the Fort Lewis Chapter of the Association of the United States Army.

One of the key words for the Lewis statue is "authentic." Alan Archambault, director and curator of the Fort Lewis Military Museum, ensured the authenticity of Capt. Lewis' uniform and accoutrements. Many artists have depicted Capt. Lewis wearing frontier outfits, but this statue shows him wearing the proper uniform of a captain of the First Regiment of Infantry circa 1803. Lewis is shown holding a spontoon, a pike arm carried by officers, in addi- , tion to his traditional sword. The face of Lewis on the statue was taken from an accurate portrait and his physical dimensions were taken from historical accounts. Two Fort Lewis-based soldiers were used as models for the statue as the sculptor Grafted Lewis's physical likeness. A local Newfoundland dog was similarly used to sculpt Seaman.

Archambault conceived the idea of a statue of Lewis and Seaman as a tool for teachers to use in educating students about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and to remind people that Fort Lewis is named after Capt. Meriwether Lewis. Maj. Gen. John Hemphill, U.S. Army retired, devised the plan to raise funds for the purchase of the statues for donation to the Army as a project for the Fort Lewis Chapter of AUSA.

The statues are set in the newly created Fort Lewis Memorial Park by the post's main gate entrance. When the park is completed, it will serve as an outdoor classroom for teaching the exploits of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and it will highlight the accomplishments of the U.S. Army in exploring and building the West. Since Fort Lewis is the premier military installation in the Pacific Northwest that is so closely associated with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it was deemed fitting and proper to commemorate the great accomplishments of the expedition at Fort Lewis in Washington State. The Lewis statue also symbolizes the selfless service, extraordinary personal sacrifice and devotion to duty that were needed to complete the expedition. Those values continue in the Army today.

There are several memorial plaques associated with the Lewis and Seaman statues and the memorial park. The plaque to Capt. Meriwether Lewis emphasizes that he was President Thomas Jefferson's choice to organize, equip and lead the Corps of Volunteers for North Western Discovery (Corps of Discovery) which has gone down in history as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lewis was born in Virginia, a neighbor of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, in 1774. He served as an enlisted man and officer in the Virginia Militia and the First Regiment of Infantry. He became President Jefferson's secretary and aide in 1801. In 1802 he was appointed by Jefferson to organize, recruit and lead an expedition to explore the Missouri and Columbia Rivers for a water route to the Pacific Ocean. …

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