Meriwether Lewis Biography

(Explorer, Politician)

Birthday: August 18, 1774 (Leo)

Born In: Ivy, Colony of Virginia

Meriwether Lewis was an American explorer, politician and soldier. He is renowned for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana territory acquired by the United States from France in 1803) and establish trade with and sovereignty over the natives and claim the Oregon Country and Pacific Northwest for the U.S. before the European countries. This expedition also aimed at gaining valued information about geographic nature of the region by collecting scientific data and knowledge about natives including flora and fauna. After his successful expedition, he was appointed as the Governor of Upper Louisiana by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806. ‘Lewis and Clark Exposition dollars’ made of gold were minted and postage stamps were issued to honour both Lewis and Clark. Many plants and their subspecies have been named after him. Geographic locations including Lewis County, Tennessee, and Lewis County, Washington, academic institutions and several US Navy vessels were also named after him as a mark of honour.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 35


father: Lt. William Lewis of Locust Hill

mother: Lucy Meriwether

Alcoholics Explorers

Died on: October 11, 1809

place of death: Hohenwald, Tennessee

U.S. State: Virginia

Diseases & Disabilities: Depression

Cause of Death: Suicide

More Facts

education: Liberty Hall (Washington and Lee University)

  • 1

    Where did Meriwether Lewis explore?

    Meriwether Lewis explored the American West, specifically the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, on an expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804.
  • 2

    What were the main goals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

    The main goals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition were to explore and map the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, establish trade with Native American tribes, and find a practical route to the Pacific Ocean.
  • 3

    What challenges did Meriwether Lewis face during the expedition?

    Meriwether Lewis faced numerous challenges during the expedition, including harsh weather conditions, difficult terrain, encounters with hostile Native American tribes, and shortages of food and supplies.
  • 4

    What significant discoveries were made during the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

    The Lewis and Clark Expedition made significant discoveries, including the identification of over 100 new plant and animal species, mapping previously unknown territories, and establishing friendly relations with many Native American tribes.
  • 5

    How did the Lewis and Clark Expedition contribute to the expansion of the United States?

    The Lewis and Clark Expedition helped to expand the knowledge of the American West, paved the way for future settlers and traders, and solidified the United States' claim to the Oregon Territory.
Childhood & Early Life
Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774 in Albemarle County, Virginia, in the Lewis family estate in Locust Hill to Lt. William Lewis and Lucy Meriwether Lewis as their first son and second child.
His father served in the Continental Army as a lieutenant and died of pneumonia in November 1779 while his mother was a famous herb doctor. His parents were originally cousins. The family had good relation with Thomas Jefferson’s family since long and Jefferson knew Lewis since his childhood.
After six months of his father’s death, his mother married Captain John Marks, a retired army officer.
In May 1780 his mother and stepfather moved to Georgia along with their three children and settled in the Goosepond Community in Wilkes County, (now known as Oglethorpe County), along the Broad River. They managed a 1,000 acre plantation.
John Hastings Marks, his half-brother was born in 1785 and Mary Garland Marks, his half-sister was born in 1788.
Till 12 years of age Meriwether Lewis did not have any formal education but was interested in enhancing his skill as a hunter often venturing out for hunting with his dog at mid-night. He was an outdoorsman from a young age and would be curious about natural history. Often encouraged and taught by his mother he learnt how to collect wild herbs of high medicinal qualities.
His parents sent him to Virginia at the age of 13 where he was taught by Matthew Maury and Parsons William Douglos. Nicholas Lewis, his father’s elder brother became his guardian. He was also taught by Dr. Charles Everitt but later in 1790 shifted to Rev. James Waddell.
He graduated in 1793 from ‘Liberty Hall’ (now known as ‘Washington and Lee University’).
He managed and developed the Locust Hill estate observing and maintaining the flora and fauna. His mother along with his half siblings came back to Locust Hill following the death of John Marks in 1792.
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In 1794 he was appointed in the Virginia Militia and sent in a detachment to control the Whiskey Rebellion.
In 1795 he was appointed as an Ensign (equivalent to present day Lieutenant) by the U.S. Army. He served the Frontier Army for six years and became a captain in 1800. William Clark his companion in the famous ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’ was his commanding officer at Fort Greenville.
On 1st April 1801, President Jefferson inducted him as personal secretary. Lewis was a staunch Republican as President Jefferson.
Jefferson chose Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition of the Pacific Northwest lands near the Missouri River in the west of Mississippi. The Congress gave its consent for the expedition in 1803 making it the first transcontinental military exploration initiated by the U.S. government.
Jefferson was the first person who taught him about navigation. He later went to Philadelphia to learn from skilled cartographers and astronomers.
Lewis chose Clark as his companion to share command with him in the expedition. A French-Canadian fur trader’s wife Sacagawea, who was a Shoshone Indian woman, accompanied them.
The purpose of this expedition was to explore the territory and set up commerce with the natives and establish the United States’ sovereignty over the region ahead of the European countries.
The expedition revealed that Native Americans were used to trading with European traders and were linked with global markets.
In November 1805, their expedition reached the Oregon Country (a disputed land beyond the Louisiana Purchase) and the Pacific Ocean.
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In 1806 they returned from the expedition. The success of this mission helped to strengthen the American concept of "Manifest destiny" - the idea that the United States was destined to reach all the way across North America from Atlantic to Pacific. He was rewarded 1,600 acres of land at the end of the expedition.
President Jefferson made him the governor of Upper Louisiana Territory in March 1807. His indulgence in alcohol consumption and delay to take responsibility as governor strained his relations with Jefferson. After a full year of appointment he went to St. Louis in March 1808.
On September 3, 1809, Lewis set out for Washington, D.C. to resolve issues regarding the denied payment of drafts he had drawn against the War Department in his capacity as governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory.
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His contributions to science, the exploration of the Western U.S., and the lore of great world explorers, are considered incalculable.
The 1803 Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. Lewis along with Clark described and sketched the flora and fauna of the region and described the native inhabitants.
Personal Life & Legacy
On 11th October, 1809, at the predawn hours, Meriwether Lewis was found dead in Tennessee at the Grinder’s Inn succumbing to gunshot wounds. The cause of his death still remains a mystery. He was buried near Grinder’s Stand.
In 1848, a monument was erected over his grave by the State of Tennessee.
Facts About Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis had a pet Newfoundland dog named Seaman who accompanied him on the famous Lewis and Clark expedition.

Seaman was a loyal companion and provided both protection and companionship during their journey.

Lewis was an avid naturalist and botanist, collecting and cataloging numerous plant and animal specimens during the expedition.

His contributions to the field of natural history were significant and helped to expand the scientific knowledge of the time.
His ability to communicate and establish relationships with indigenous peoples helped to ensure the success of the mission and maintain peaceful interactions along the way.
Lewis was known for his leadership skills and strategic thinking, guiding the expedition through challenging terrain and difficult circumstances with determination and resilience
Despite facing numerous hardships and dangers during the expedition, Lewis remained dedicated to the mission and maintained a positive outlook throughout the journey
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