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Camp Du Bois
Wood River, Illinois
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Corps of Discovery re-enactors of the Lewis & Clark Expedition arrived in a replica keelboat, December 12, at the east bank of the Mississippi River near Wood River, Illinois, commemorating the arrival of the expedition at its winter camp near here exactly 200 years ago. © 2003 Bob Moore, SLFP.com
Corps of Discovery Re-enact History at the Winter Camp of the Lewis & Clark Expedition
Camp Du Bois at Wood River, Illinois
by Betty Magrath, SLFP.com
WOOD RIVER, IL (SWI-News.com) December 25, 2003 - Two hundred years ago, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition celebrated Christmas at their winter camp set up at Wood River. Camp River Du Bois, located near the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, was a military camp where about forty recruited men were trained for the expedition.
On December 12, 2003, Corps of Discovery re-enactors arrived in a replica keelboat at the east bank of the Mississippi River, commemorating the arrival of the expedition at its winter camp near here exactly 200 years ago.
Just twelve miles north of the hustle and bustle of twenty-first century city life in St. Louis, re-enactors will stay throughout the winter in replica structures, performing daily chores and military activities as documented in Clark's journal.
Bob Anderson, from Raymond, Ohio, who portrays his ancestor, Private George Shannon, intends to stay the winter and go the whole distance with the Corps of Discovery. On a cold Christmas Eve, he was busy preparing the dressing for a Christmas turkey on a handhewn log table. The tiny room was lit by candlelight and a roaring fire.
"I've always been interested in Shannon," stated Anderson. "The stories that were passed down through my family were the stories that he told when he got home. I can remember the things that I visualized when I was a kid. This has been a lifelong dream to do this," he said with a smile.
With only the light of three candles, Bob Anderson, portraying his ancestor Private George Shannon, began preparing the dressing for the Christmas turkey.
Anderson recounted how George Shannon, the youngest member of the expedition, met Meriwether Lewis in Pittsburgh. "Shannon's dad had sent him there in late summer of 1802 to go to school," stated Anderson.
"The next summer Shannon met Lewis when he was working on the riverboats to help support himself. Lewis told him about the trip and what they were doing. He thought it sounded interesting. Lewis told him that if he proved himself going down the river, and if Clark approved, they would take him."
Anderson stated that when the Expedition returned to St. Louis and all the men were discharged, Shannon was asked to accompany Lewis and Clark and the Mandan Chief Sheheke back to Washington, D.C. "It was really an honor for him. In order to do that, he had to have been able to communicate with the Mandan Chief and to have known some of the language."
He was part of the group that attempted to return the Mandan Chief back to his village after visiting the President. Unfortunately, Shannon was shot in the leg during an attack by Arikara Indians. He lost his leg and and nearly died. Shannon elected to study law after the Expedition. He later served as a circuit court judge and state senator in Missouri.
Anderson's lifelong interest in the Lewis and Clark Expedition has led him to build his own collection of historic everyday items such as uniforms, utensils and tents. In March, he will return home to Ohio to put a traveling exhibit together for the Bicentennial Celebration. "Just having been interested in the journey, I have a collection of items from one hundred years ago, that are similar to those that Lewis and Clark might have used.
There is a resurgence of interest by history buffs to retrace the steps of the explorers and their heroic journey. Anderson, who was disabled from an accident in 92, stated that this was an wonderful opportunity to relive history. "I can do this and I love to talk to people." With great enthusiasm, he showed several visitors how they would cook the turkey in the fire using a period rotisserie.
Jim (Lorenzo) Small, who grew up in Alton, Illinois, commented that he was rather fascinated with the Camp and especially with York, Clark's slave. "I came once before when it was under construction just to satisfy my curiosity," stated Small. "I didn't know that there was anyone Black who was involved in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I think this Camp will be very beneficial to relate the history of how things came to be in this area."
Next week, on New Year's Day at noon, visitors to the Camp will have an opportunity to personally witness military camp life from two hundred years ago as re-enactors will hold a shoot using period muskets.
Ed Hamburg and Richard Slusser walked to the replica of the Winter Camp at Wood River with the hopes of joining the members of the Corps of Discovery. Hamburg, a Lewis & Clark history buff from the area, had come to greet the re-enctors when they landed December 12. Slusser, Chamois, Missouri, stated that "This is a once in a lifetime thing. I don't expect to be around in anther hundred years."
See related articles:
- Unknown Lewis and Clark Expedition History Unfolds at Camp River Dubois
- Lewis and Clark State Historic Site Focuses On the Beginning of the Expedition
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