John Robinson

(ca. 1780–unknown)
Private, U.S. Army

Mystery Man

Also called "Robertson" and "Roberson" in the journals, this man is perhaps the most mysterious of the expedition's mystery men.

Gary Moulton speculates that he was Cpl. John Robinson of Fort Kaskasia on the Illinois frontier, and a member of Capt. Amos Stoddard's artillery company.1 Clark called him a corporal on December 26, 1803, when he noted that Pvt. Alexander Willard and "Corpl. Roberson" returned to Camp Dubois about 11 o'clock "today," apparently having stayed out over Christmas night. Clark later referred to Robinson as a private, and may have demoted him. Moulton notes that Clark complained of a corporal who, on January 4, 1804, allowed William Werner and John Potts of his mess to fight and "bruse themselves much," and who "has no authority." (The captains assigned Richard Warfington, the other corporal from Stoddard's company, to command the keelboat return party in 1805, obviously trusting him.)

Robinson was assigned to the return party, but on 12 June 1804, Pvt. Joseph Whitehouse wrote that seven Chouteau Fur Company pirogues heading downstream met up with the upward-bound Corps. After a little trading, "we put on board . . . one Man . . . belonging to Captain Stoddards company of Artillery, who is going to Saint Louis . . ." No other journalist mentions this part of the encounter, but "Robertson" or "Roberson" never is mentioned again in any journal.

Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Challenge Cost Share Program

  • 1. Moulton, ed., Journals, 2: 520-1.