Lewis Loved Clark? Intriguing Hints Abound about America's Historic Trailblazers

By Smith, Bob | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), October 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Lewis Loved Clark? Intriguing Hints Abound about America's Historic Trailblazers


Smith, Bob, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In May 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, America's most famous same-sex coupling, led 45 men up the Missouri River with the purpose of exploring the newly acquired lands of the Louisiana Purchase and the goal of reaching the Pacific Ocean. Throughout this year our nation has been celebrating the bicentennial of their expedition of 1804-1806 with events and exhibitions from Missouri to Oregon. For gay and lesbian Lewis-and-Clark buffs, the recent speculation that Meriwether Lewis might have been gay has made an already fascinating story downright titillating.

In Brian Hall's beautifully written 2003 novel about the expedition, I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, the heterosexual author makes a case that one of the causes for Lewis's suicide in 1809 at the age of 35 was that after Clark married a woman named Julia, his farmer partner felt bereft. Lewis was already severely depressed after their trip and never fully readjusted to life back in civilization. Three years after, he still slept an the floor on buffalo skins because he claimed that he was no longer comfortable sleeping in beds. A couple of days before his suicide on the Natchez Trace trail, a delusional Lewis was convinced Clark was trying to catch up with him, coming to his "relief."

"What fascinated me about Lewis was his intense personal loneliness and the intriguing hints in the record that he had a much more intense feeling of comradeship for Clark than Clark did for him," explains Hall.

Many historians claim that there is na evidence that Lewis was gay It's true that Lewis never described Clark in his journals as a total hottie, but his surviving letters and journals should trigger the gaydar of open-minded readers.

When President Jefferson asked him to lead the expedition, Lewis wrote to Clark saying, "Believe me there is no man on earth with whom I should feel equal pleasure in sharing them as with yourself." He went on to say, "I should be extremely happy in your company and will furnish you with every aid for your return from any point you might wish it. …

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