Private George Shannon

"Where is George?" might have been one of the most oft-asked questions throughout the Lewis and Clark expedition, because the youngest member of the Corps of Discovery earned a reputation for often getting lost. George Shannon, Jr., the son of George Shannon and Jane Milligan was born in 1785 or 1787 in Pennsylvania. His family moved to Ohio in 1800, and shortly thereafter to Kentucky, where Shannon was one of the "nine young men from Kentucky" to volunteer for the expedition with Lewis and Clark.

One of his more notable disappearances on the expedition include his adventure in 1804 when he left the party to go reacquire some stray horses, and got lost for almost a month, even though he found the horses. He thought he had fallen behind the party, and in his attempts to catch up, traveled ahead of the rest of the corps. He eventually decided to wait at the river in the hopes that a trading ship would pass, at which point, the rest of the expedition caught up with him. Shannon found himself unintentionally separated from the rest of the Company on several other occasions, but earned respect from the party as a talented hunter.

In 1807, Shannon was a member of the party led by Nathaniel Pryor charged with returning Chief Shahaka (known as Big White due to his 300 pound frame and albino complexion) to his home with the Mandan people. The chief had accompanied Meriwether Lewis to Washington, D.C. to meet President Thomas Jefferson. On the journey, a tribe of Arikara Indians attacked the party, and Shannon was shot in the leg. He later had it amputated.

In 1810, Shannon traveled to Philadelphia to assist Nicholas Biddle with editing William Clark's journals, on Clark's request. He later returned to Kentucky, and in 1813, married Ruth Snowden Price of Lexington, KY. Clark invited Shannon to start a fur trading business with him called George Shannon and company, but Shannon declined. Shannon decided to study law, and did so at the University of Kentucky in Transylvania, near Lexington. He practiced law for several years, serving as a Judge of the Circuit Court and as a U.S. District Attorney. Shannon was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1820 and 1822 and served as a Kentucky Senator for several years afterwards.

George Shannon died in 1836, in Palmyra, Missouri.

Information From:

Clarke, Charles G. The Men of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and a Biographical Roster of the 51 members...Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1970. p.39.

"George Shannon." The Lewis and Clark Rediscovery Project. Accessed 22 December 2003.

Lanman, C. "George Shannon." The American Biographical Archive. London: K.G. Saur, limited, 1876.