It is well known that Meriwether Lewis suffered from some kind of mental illness, and that the his symptoms were especially pronounced during his final days of life, in the weeks leading up to his death by suicide. There are also suggestions that, along with many other signs of mental instability, Lewis had begun to fantasize that his old friend William Clark was coming to save him from his afflictions.

his Servent reports that [ ] “on his way to nashvill, he would frequently “Conceipt [conceive] that he herd me Co- meing on, and Said that he was certain [I would] over take him, that I had herd of his Situation and would Come to his releaf ”
- Letter from William Clark to Jonathan Clark, November 26, 1809; quoted in The Death of Meriwether Lewis, James E. Starrs & Kira Gale, p. 243

This account comes to us in what is at least the third hand; the servant, presumably John Pernier, related the story to Captain Gilbert Russell, the commanding officer of Fort Pickering, at Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee, who later wrote a series of letters to William Clark. When Lewis had arrived at Fort Pickering, he was "in a state of mental derangement", and apparently drinking quite heavily; after he attempted to commit suicide, Russell "detained" Lewis in his personal quarters for about two weeks for his own safety.

I have also heard that in his last hours, among other ravings, Lewis claimed that Clark was on his way to find Lewis and help him, but I haven't been able to find the source of this claim.

Did Lewis have any reason to believe that Clark was coming to see him, and/or render some sort of assistance to him?

  • 4
    For what it's worth, it would be perfectly acceptable to answer "Lewis was just out of his mind".
    – Wad Cheber
    Sep 12 '15 at 0:17
  • Too much peyote. Sep 13 '15 at 17:42
  • @TylerDurden Opium wasn't it? ;) Sep 13 '15 at 21:46

Although the Lewis and Clark expedition ended on September 23, 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark remained close both personally and professionally up until the death of Meriwether Lewis on October 11, 1809.

Lewis, Clark and Clark's wife Julia actually lived together for a short time (ca. 1808) in St. Louis, Missouri. Julia Clark gave birth to a son in January of 1809, the baby was actually named Meriwether Lewis Clark.

In August of 1809, Meriwether Lewis left for Federal City (Washington D.C.) William Clark also left for Federal City, but stopped off in Kentucky to visit relatives first. William Clark actually received news of Meriwether Lewis death en route to Federal City via a Frankfort, Kentucky newspaper article.

As fragile as Meriwether Lewis mental state was at the time, he knew that William Clark was en route to Federal City. In the dillusional state that he was in before his death, there is a high probability that Meriwether Lewis believed he had reached his destination instead of actually being in Tennessee.

To answer the question, Yes. Meriwether Lewis did have reason to believe that William Clark was coming to see him.

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