Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to die on the Corps of Discovery, is honored today with the Sergeant Floyd Monument located in modern day Sioux City, Iowa. Now WE know em

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Charles Floyd was born in 1782 beyond the Appalachian Mountains in an area that was known as Kentucky County.

Eventually, the residents of Kentucky County petitioned for separation from Virginia. Ten constitutional conventions were held in the Constitution Square Courthouse in Danville between 1784 and 1792.

In 1790, Kentucky’s delegates accepted Virginia’s terms of separation, and a state constitution was drafted at the final convention in April 1792.

On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state to be admitted to the union.

Charles Floyd then became a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

President Thomas Jefferson commissioned an expedition to be led by Captain Meriwether Lewis shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Lewis then selected his close friend Lieutenant William Clark as second in command of their Corps of Discovery.

Then in October of 1803, Lewis and Clark met near Louisville at the Falls of the Ohio and

enlisted the core men for the expedition from a group of U.S. Army volunteers.

It is thought that Charles Floyd was a relative of William Clark, as Charles was the one of the first men selected to join the expedition and considered a “man of much merit” by Captain Clark.

Charles Floyd was also a cousin of the expedition’s Sergeant Nathaniel Pryor.

Charles Floyd was then given the position of quartermaster for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Their goals were to explore the vast territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase and to establish trade and U.S. sovereignty over the native peoples along the River Missouri. President Jefferson also wanted to establish a U.S. claim of “Discovery” to the Pacific Northwest and Oregon territory by documenting an American presence there before Europeans could claim the land.

According to some historians, President Jefferson understood he would have a better claim of ownership to the Pacific Northwest if the team gathered scientific data on animals and plants.

However Jefferson’s main objectives were centered around finding an all-water route to the Pacific coast and commerce.

Before their departure Jefferson’s instructions to them stated:

The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principle stream of it, as,

by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia,

Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication

across this continent for the purpose of commerce.

Then on December 12, 1803, 33 men set up a winter “training” camp at a staging area known as Camp Dubois (Camp Wood in English) across the Mississippi River from St. Louis on official U.S. territorial land.

This was important because the transfer of the Louisiana Purchase to France from Spain did not actually occur until March 9, 1804, and then from France to the United States on March 10, 1804.

Then William Clark, Charles Floyd and the Corps of Discovery departed from Camp Dubois at 4 p.m. on May 14, 1804 in boats, crossed the Mississippi, entered the Missouri River and met up with Lewis at St. Charles, Missouri.

A short time later, the expedition began its voyage westward up the Missouri River.

Soon they passed La Charrette, the last Euro-American settlement on the Missouri River, and headed toward modern day Kansas City.

The river then led them northwest to modern day Omaha, Nebraska.

Late in July, Charles Floyd took ill with what Clark diagnosed as bilious colic.

On July 31, Charles Floyd wrote in his diary,

“I am very sick and have been for sometime but have recovered my health again.”

 

However, this apparent recovery was soon followed by a severe turn for the worse.

Captain Clark recorded in his journal on August 20, 1804, “Sergeant Floyd much weaker and no better…no pulse and nothing will stay a moment in his stomach or bowels….Floyd died with a great deal of composure, before his death he said to me, ‘I am going away. I want you to write me a letter.’

A funeral was held and Charles Floyd was buried on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The expedition named the location Floyd’s Bluff in his honor.

Charles Floyd’s burial site was marked with a cedar post on which was inscribed his name and day of death.

A mile up the river the expedition camped that night at a small river which they named Floyd’s River, “about 30 yards wide, a beautiful evening.–”

Two years later, the expedition returned after reaching the Pacific Ocean, and found that animals had disturbed Floyd’s grave.

They restored his grave and replaced the fallen cedar marker of their comrade.

Floyd’s Bluff is located near modern day Sioux City, Iowa.

Modern doctors and historians believe Floyd’s death was likely to have been caused by a ruptured appendix. The brief “recovery” Floyd described may have represented the temporary relief afforded by the bursting of the organ, which would have been followed by a fatal peritonitis. If that were the case, because there was no known cure for appendicitis at that time, he would have been no better off had he been with the best physicians of the day.

Sergeant Floyd Monument

By 1857, erosion had caused much of Charles Floyd’s grave — even the original cedar post marker left by the crew of the Lewis and Clark Expedition — to slide into the river and wash away.

Concerned citizens rescued most of Floyd’s skeleton, including his skull, and re-buried it 200 meters east of the original burial site.

A forensic reconstruction of Sgt. Floyd’s probable facial appearance based on a plaster cast of his skull is on display at the Sergeant Floyd Riverboat Museum in Sioux City.

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After Charles Floyd’s expedition journal was published in 1894, public interest arose in Floyd.

His grave-marker was even stolen by thieves.

Floyd’s remains were re interred once more on August 20, 1895 with the planning of a monument.

A marble cornerstone three feet wide and seven feet long was then placed in 1900.

Then an obelisk of white sandstone standing 100 feet high was completed on May 30, 1901.

 

Historic image of the capping of the Sergeant Floyd Monument Courtesy of the Sioux City Public Museum

Historic image of the capping of the Sergeant Floyd Monument
Courtesy of the Sioux City Public Museum

With this Charles Floyd’s grave was moved for the fourth time to rest nearby, where it remains to this day.

In 1960, the monument was recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior as the first National Historic Landmark.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 30, 1960.

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Today, The Floyd Monument encompasses a 23-acre park that offers visitors a splendid view of the Missouri River valley.

 

Now WE know em

 

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