Who was the Only Person to Die During the Lewis and Clark Expedition?
My most recent book, the one that I am currently working on I am calling Two Rivers. It is about Isaac Thorton, a young man who leaves behind his family and the girl everyone expected he would marry and goes up the Missouri River with the Lewis and Clark expedition.
This book has led me to research the Lewis and Clark expedition including specific members of the expedition. One of them was Sergeant Charles Floyd.
Sergeant Charles Floyd’s Life
He was the son of Robert Clark Floyd and born in Kentucky in 1782. He was the nephew of James John Floyd, a cousin of Virginia governor John Floyd. His middle name indicates that he was possibly a relative of William Clark.
He was one of the first men to join the expedition. He was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, and the quartermaster of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He was the only member of the expedition to die during the expedition.
The Circumstances of His Death
Floyd probably died of a ruptured appendix and consequent peritonitis. The ailment was not even recognized by medical science until twenty years after the expedition, and the first successful surgical treatment came in 1884. Probably no physician of the time could have done much more for Floyd than the captains did. A purgative like Rush’s pills, their usual remedy for digestive disorders, could only have hastened Floyd’s death, but this is probably what Dr. Benjamin Rush himself would have prescribed if he had been present—along with bleeding, which would have accomplished nothing.
Floyd was buried near Sergeant Bluff on the Iowa side of the river, near the present town of Sergeant Bluff, Woodbury County, Iowa.
Later travelers often remarked about the site, and George Catlin painted it in 1832. By 1857 the Missouri had undercut the bluff and the grave was opened and some of the bones lost. Citizens of Sioux City moved the bones to a new burial site., and a concrete slab and a one-hundred-foot monument was erected in 1901.
After Floyd’s expedition journal was published in 1894, new interest was taken in his life. In 1895 thieves stole his grave marker and the bones were examined. He was re-buried on August 20, 1895, with a monument. A marble cornerstone three feet wide and seven feet long was placed in 1900. When the obelisk of white sandstone was completed on May 30, 1901, Floyd’s grave was moved for the fourth time to rest nearby.
The Sergeant Floyd Monument was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark on June 30, 1960. This monument is now located in a 23-acre park that offers visitors a view of the Missouri River valley. Floyd’s final resting place is located on old U.S. Highway 75, in the southern part of Sioux City, Iowa, in the United States.
The Floyd River still bears his name. He is the namesake of Floyd County, Iowa. The Interstate 129 bridge between Sioux City and South Sioux City, Nebraska is named the Sergeant Floyd Memorial Bridge in his honor.
I Read His Journal
In reading his journal, my main thoughts throughout were that I knew he was going to die early in the book and that I felt sad because I knew that he wouldn’t see the expedition beyond the first few months of the expedition.
I read his while I was also reading the journal entries of the other members of the expedition and I will be sharing from those journal entries as I continue writing their stories not only in my book but here on my blog as well.
If you would like to read his journal and the journals of other members of the expedition, here’s a link https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/journals.
Two Rivers will be the seventh book in The Locket Saga. If you would like to read the first six books of The Locket Saga, here’s a link to my Amazon Author Page. https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B007SM23IK