- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

That's Captain Clark, please.

He conquered racing rapids, maddening mosquitos and wild undergrowth but not the bureaucracy. William Clark never got the promotion he was once promised by Thomas Jefferson.

Until Tuesday, that is almost two centuries after the fact.

House lawmakers agreed to make a captain out of the lieutenant who trekked 8,000 miles through hell and high water with Meriwether Lewis back in 1804.

"Clark served his country admirably and emerged, along with Lewis, as a true American hero for all time," noted Rep. Doug Bereuter, Nebraska Republican, who introduced the bill.

The bill must make its way through the Senate and across President Clinton's desk to become final. It does not entitle Clark's descendants to "any bonus, gratuity, pay or allowance."

But in the meantime, Lewis and Clark themselves have certainly not been forgotten.

There are Lewis and Clark-themed fly-fishing schools, RV parks, botanical walks, canoe expeditions, interpretive hikes, encampments, outreach programs, newsletters, Internet fan sites, re-enactments, journal-keeping classes and trailblazing clubs.

Thirty-three major projects are planned to celebrate the pair's upcoming bicentennial, while six other Lewis and Clark bills are pending before Congress, these meant to protect old trails and mint a new commemorative coin.

"Both represented what was good and best about America," said David Borlaug, president of the North Dakota-based Lewis and Clark Foundation.

Indeed, their journey from 1804 to 1806 has been called visionary and adventurous. Lewis and Clark walked, ran, climbed, pushed, finagled and paddled their way across land that would one day comprise 10 states. They combined military and scientific prowess for epic results.

Clark was no young turk, either. The youngest brother of Revolutionary War hero Gen. George Rogers Clark, he was 32 when he set off, already a veteran of the Northwest territorial Indian wars, serving under Gen. "Mad Anthony" Wayne.

But Clark was determined to reinvent himself. He studied astronomy and field medicine. He penned out detailed maps.

Clark's daily journal entries still beloved among historians and fans alike chronicled such things as catfish, sudden squalls, tribal behavior and nightingale song with spirit, not to mention interesting spelling.

"The ticks and musquiters," Clark wrote in August 1804, "are verry troublesome."

The entourage journeyed from Missouri to the Pacific coast, following the fits and starts of major rivers and the mountain ranges. They were greeted as heroes on their return to St. Louis in September 1806.

After all was said and done, Jefferson made Lewis governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. Lewis was later involved in a government finance controversy, and he died in 1809 of gunshot wounds in a Tennessee roadhouse while on his way to Washington to resolve matters.

Clark, meanwhile, entered public service. A year after the expedition ended, Jefferson made him the superintendent for Indian affairs in the new territory; he later failed in a bid for governor of Missouri. His promotion from lieutenant to captain was forgotten.

"Clark himself was a dedicated military leader," Mr. Borlaug said. "Unfortunately, he got caught up in the military bureaucracy of his day. There was a whole bottleneck of officers waiting for their promotions at the same time."

Clark died at 68 in 1838, "winning a reputation for fairness and honesty from whites and Indians alike," according to historical accounts.

But it is never too late, apparently.

"History has always treated Clark as a captain," Mr. Borlaug said. "Now Congress is making that a reality. That's very reassuring."

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