lewis and clark: a court martial


On October 14, 1804, one of the men in the exploration party, John Newman, received a military court martial. He was charged with (original spelling is retained in these quotes) –

“having uttered repeated expressions of a highly criminal and mutinous nature; the same having a tendency not only to distroy every principle of military discipline, but also to alienate the affections of the individual composing this detachment to their officers, and disaffect them to service for which they been so sacredly and solemnly engaged.”

Mr. Newman pled not guilty, but the court that had been convened found him guilty on every charge. His punishment included:

“… seventy five lashes on his bear back, and to be henceforth discarded from the per-minent party engaged for North Western discovery … “

There were other penalties, such as doing hard labor, being relieved of his guns, and so on. A chief of the Arikara indians was present at the lashing. His reaction:

“The punishment of this day allarmd the Indian Chief verry much, he Cried aloud (or affected to Cry). I explained the Cause of the punishment and necessity. He thought examples were also necessary, & he himself had made them by Death, but his nation never whiped even their Children …”

On another occasion one of the men got drunk while on sentinel duty. He also allowed another man to draw whiskey out of a whiskey barrel intended for a party. The guard got 100 lashes. The man he allowed to drink  from the barrel got 50. Sedition is one thing, but whiskey is serious business.



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