By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis

Edited by John D.W. Guice | Oklahoma University Press | $24.95 | 178 pages | 2008

Several decades past I lectured to the Judicial Conference at Pickwick Landing and returned to Nashville via the Natchez Trace. My companion and I made frequent stops to help turtles across the road; it was that time of year. I wish I had known then what I know now after reading this book. We would have spent time at Grinder's Stand near Hohenwald.

Did Meriwether Lewis shoot himself in the head and chest on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 1809? Or was he murdered? This slim volume presents arguments for each theory.

Initially most folks (including William Clark and Thomas Jefferson) assumed that manic-depressive Lewis committed suicide. But when Lewis County was formed in 1843, the committee charged to erect a monument reported that the honoree was murdered. Since then scholars have been roughly equally divided.

Read and decide. This book is a valuable addition to Tennessee history.


Don Paine DONALD F. PAINE is of counsel to the Knoxville firm of Paine, Tarwater, Bickers, and Tillman LLP.