William Werner

(unknown—ca. 1839)1
Private, U.S. Army

Most Stable

The expedition did not start out well for Werner.2 On its second day, the boats stopped at St. Charles to await Meriwether Lewis's arrival from St. Louis, and the mostly-French residents honored their visitors with "a ball." Werner and Hugh Hall stayed out all night enjoying the hospitality; John Collins did even worse. William Clark convened a court martial the following day, May 17, 1804, which convicted all three men of the charges. Werner was sentenced to twenty lashes, but the panel recommended leniency, which Clark apparently accepted. That was the end of discipline problems with Werner.

Early in July 1805, when several men were ill at once, the captains decided that improper cooking and care of utensils was the culprit. (It probably was, in part, but they had no scientific knowledge of the germs invading nicks and cuts while the men spent much of each day in the Missouri River.) They assigned a cook for each mess, naming Werner for Sgt. John Ordway's. Being a cook included using fresh meat and rations promptly and cooking them for maximum nutrition and cleaning the utensils, but the cooks were in turn exempted ". . . from guard duty[,] . . . pitching the tents of the mess, collecting firewood, and forks poles &c. for cooking and drying such fresh meat as may be furnished them."3

Busy keeping this army traveling, Werner seldom appears in the journals. He went with Clark to Ecola Creek on the January 1806 blubber-trading expedition, afterwards being dropped off to take a turn at Salt Camp. In July 1806, he was one of the men Lewis left at the Great Falls to portage canoes and cargo.

Larry E. Morris states that, following expedition's end, Werner "may have lived the most stable life of any member of the corps." Upon marrying around 1807, he farmed in the western part of his home state, Virginia, where he and his wife raised their family.4

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

  • 1. Larry E. Morris, The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 200.
  • 2. Often "Warner" in the journals, and in his own signature. Ibid., 158.
  • 3. Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 13 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001), 2:357.
  • 4. Morris, 158.