Meriwether Lewis death investigated at New Dominion
Author Kira Gale will read from and sign copies of her book The Death of Meriwether Lewis–A Historic Crime Scene Investigation at the New Dominion Bookshop on Thursday, May 28 at 12:15pm.
Press release: Meriwether Lewis met his mysterious death on October 11, 1809 and was buried on the site where he died, at a traveler’s inn called Grinder’s Stand on the Natchez Trace. Lewis’s death, at age 35, was accepted as a suicide, though the reports were all second hand and suspect. Despite his status as Governor of Louisiana Territory, and his fame as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, his death was not investigated.
Two centuries later, mystery continues to surround Meriwether Lewis’s death–did the famous explorer commit suicide or was he assassinated? The Death of Meriwether Lewis is an unforgettable tale of political corruption, assassins, forged documents, and skeletal remains. New research implicates General James Wilkinson–commanding general of the U. S. Army and co-conspirator of Aaron Burr–as ordering the assassination. Riveting testimony from leading experts in wound ballistics, forensic anthropology, suicide psychology, gravesite exhumation, and handwriting analysis offers new insight into what exhuming Lewis’s remains might reveal.
In 1996, thirteen forensic scientists and historians testified at a Coroner’s Inquest held in Hohenwald, Lewis County, Tennessee. The expert witness testimony forms the first half of the book. Co-author James E. Starrs, a professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University, organized the event. It was an official, though unique, court proceeding. Lewis County is the site of the Meriwether Lewis National Monument and Gravesite, 78 miles southwest of Nashville, Tennessee on the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Coroner’s Jury called for an exhumation of Lewis’s remains.
In January, 2009 members of Meriwether Lewis’s family submitted an application for exhumation of his remains to the National Park Service, and the process of obtaining permits is underway. When an exhumation takes place, the family wants to have a Christian reburial at the National Monument site.
The Death of Meriwether Lewis is a call for action. Readers may judge the historic record for themselves as 19 documents are included in the book. Kira Gale presents “The Case for Murder” in the last section. Her extensive research is well documented, with many primary sources quoted. Gale contends that fraudulent land claims, the wealth of the lead mines south of St. Louis, and a planned invasion of Mexico all played a part in Lewis’s assassination. The primary suspect, General James Wilkinson, is acknowledged by historians to have been one of America’s most notorious traitors.
Kira Gale is the author of Lewis and Clark Road Trips. She is a cofounder of a Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation chapter and the recipient of the organization’s 2007 Meritorious Achievement Award. An extensive website has links to over 800 destinations at lewisandclarkroadtrips.com. Gale also writes a monthly email newsletter containing Lewis and Clark news from around the country, and blogs.
James E. Starrs is the author of a Voice for the Dead. He is an emeritus professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University; a longtime editor of Scientific Sleuthing Review; and a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has been involved in many historical investigations, including the exhumation of Jesse James’s remains and the Alfred Packer cannibalism case.