The Childhood of Meriwether Lewis

Interesting facts about Meriwether Lewis’ Childhood

• Lewis was named after his mother, whose last name was Meriwether before she married William Lewis.

• A British prisoner of war camp surrounded the Lewis home in Albemarle County, Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Though widowed, Lewis’ mother Lucy knew how to shoot a gun, and she kept British soldiers away from the house.

• Lewis grew up close to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia. Later, the fact that they were neighbors and shared an interest in natural science led Jefferson to make Lewis his personal secretary when he became president.

• Both Lewis’ father and stepfather were officers in the Revolutionary War. After her first husband’s death, Lewis’ mother remarried and the family moved to Georgia. Georgia had even more wooded areas than Virginia. While living in Georgia, Lewis learned to perfect his hunting skills until his mother sent him back to Virginia for school.

• Lewis’ cousin had this to say about Lewis when they went to school together: “He was always remarkable for perseverance…of a martial temper and great steadiness of purpose, self-possession and undaunted courage.” Characteristics like perseverance and courage would later help Lewis when Jefferson sent him and William Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase.

• Because his father died when Lewis was very young, he had more responsibilities than other boys his age. Though he enjoyed school most of the time, he had to stop his formal education so he could take care of the property he inherited as the oldest son. This meant learning to farm from his uncles, and managing the family slaves. Lewis thought he would always be a farmer or maybe a military officer until Jefferson asked him to be his secretary in the Washington, D.C.

• Lewis was a devoted son who wrote often to his mother whenever they were apart. His writing skills would be important when describing plants and other new things he saw during the Lewis and Clark expedition. His later writings were remarkable because he could make really boring topics interesting.

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