John B. Thompson
(unknown - ca. 1815)
Private, U.S. Army
From Artillerist to Cook
hompson, who seems to have been from Massachusetts (he gave only "Northampton" as place of residence when enlisting), had been in the army for four years when he joined the expedition. He seems to have transferred from Capt. Amos Stoddard's artillery company Fort Kaskaskia in "the Illinois."1
When cooks were assigned to each mess in July 1805, Thompson became the cook for Sgt. Charles Floyd's (later Patrick Gass's), but was replaced by Peter Weiser on August 12.2
On the Clearwater River in future Idaho, October 8, 1805, the canoe that Sgt. Patrick Gass was steering split open and took on water. Its passengers, including Thompson, clung to the boat before it sank. Clark wrote, "one man Tompson a little hurt, every thing wet perticularly the greater part of our Small Stock of merchindize." The Corps encamped for two days to dry out the goods, allowing Thompson to heal a bit.
At Fort Clatsop, Thompson went out with several elk-hunting parties, specifically on March 1, 1806, to jerk meat in the field--nearly essential in that damp climate. He was in Clark's small party that explored up the Willamette River
beginning on April 2, 1806.
On the night of April 11, 1806, when three Watlala Chinook men took Lewis's dog Seaman from camp, "they also stole an ax from us, but scarcely had it in their possession before Thompson detected them and wrest it from them." The ax-taker was foiled in camp; Seaman's rescuers
go went unnamed.
In 1807, Thompson was a signer of
the a petition to Congress in which some former expedition members asked that their land grants be made in Indiana and Missouri, which places him in St. Louis and not on a fur-trading expedition far to the far northwest (as has been speculated).3 He may have been married to wife Peggy by then. The next record of John B. Thompson is the July 1815 notice from Peggy as administratrix of his estate. Clark listed him as having been "killed" by 1825-1828.4
--Barbara Fifer; 02/06
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), 199.
2. For the cooks' duties and privileges, see William Werner. No reason for Thompson's replacement was recorded. Moulton, ed., Journals, 2:472.
3. Morris, 151.
4. Ibid., 199.
Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Challenge Cost Share Program.