Dear Brother


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Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark

William Clark; Edited and with an introduction by James J. Holmberg; Foreword by James P. Ronda

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Over the course of his career, American explorer William Clark (1770–1838) wrote at least forty-five letters to his older brother Jonathan, including six that were written during the epic Lewis and Clark Expedition. This book publishes many of these letters for the first time, revealing important details about the expedition, the mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis, the status of Clark’s slave York (the first African American known to have crossed the continent from coast to coast), and other matters of historical significance.

There are letters concerning the establishment of the Corps of Discovery’s first winter camp in December 1803, preparations for setting out into the country west of Fort Mandan in 1805, and Clark’s 1807 fossil dig at Big Bone Lick, Kentucky. There are also letters about Lewis’s disturbed final days that shed light on whether he committed suicide or was murdered. Still other letters chronicle the fate of York after the expedition; we learn the details of Clark and York’s falling out and subsequent alienation. Together the letters and the richly informative introductions and annotations by James J. Holmberg provide valuable insights into the lives of Lewis and Clark and the world of Jeffersonian America.

Published in association with The Filson Historical Society

James J. Holmberg is Curator of Special Collections, The Filson Historical Society. James P. Ronda is H. G. Barnard Professor of Western History at the University of Tulsa.

“Encountering these letters from William Clark to his brother Jonathan, many readers will feel the same ‘electrifying’ jolt that James Holmberg felt when this previously unknown collection was turned over to the Filson Historical Society. Solving a few of the mysteries that have lingered through scores of biographies and shedding new light on a number of other historical controversies, these letters will be treasured by all aficionados of Lewis and Clark.”—Stephen Aron, University of California, Los Angeles

“With Dear Brother we get a chance to see into the heart of William Clark and finally acknowledge how indispensable he was to the success of the Expedition. We now have a much more complete portrait of the man who co-piloted and mapped the Corps of Discovery to its rightful place in the history of North American Exploration.”—Stephen E. Ambrose

“At this time in our Nation’s history, it is reassuring to look back at our most honored heroes and examine what made them strong. With Dear Brother we get a chance to see into the heart of William Clark and finally acknowledge how indispensable he was to the success of the Expedition. They have been called the ‘writingest explorers’ of all time. Yet these letters show it was Clark who was the most reliable correspondent; these letters are the most important contribution to Lewis and Clark studies since Donald Jackson. Thanks to Jim Holmberg and the Filson Club we now have a much more complete portrait of the man who co-piloted and mapped the Corps of Discovery to its rightful place in the history of North American Exploration.”—Stephen E. Ambrose

“James J. Holmberg has edited the letters painstakingly, and his accompanying remarks and extensive notes streamline the collection and enhance its value considerably. . . . [The] book provide[s] useful vignettes of life of life on the upper Mississippi in the early nineteenth century and a sharper picture of Clark and his family that calls for a new biography. Coming as they do within years of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, these letters cannot fail to excite interest.”—John Sugden, Indiana Magazine of History

“Holmberg presents a fascinating and informative collection of 54 letters William Clark sent to his older brother Jonathan and other family members, many of which are published here for the first time. . . . With the upcoming bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 2004 and continued interest in the lives of these great explorers, this book will surely be popular.”—Library Journal

“Yale University Press is to be commended for the quality of this work and its welcome addition to the growing number of Lewis and Clark-related articles and monographs. During this time of national commemoration of the expedition, it is all the more timely and welcome. It is recommended for high school ages and above.”—Gregory S. Camp, Nebraska History

“With these treasures, [Holmberg] has constructed a fascinating window into a moment when Americans were caught up in the great transition from seaboard society to continental empire. . . . Holmberg is not only to be congratulated for bringing these significant documents to our attention but also for contributing to our knowledge of an expedition and a period of time that still—so long as we are concerned with the difficult and at times contentious question of what it means to be ‘American’—call for our continual assessment and re-assessment.”—Patrick Griffin, Ohio History

“There is no doubt that this outstanding work assures Holmberg a place among the highest ranks of Lewis and Clark scholars.”—John D.W. Guice, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

“This collection of Clark’s letters is a priceless treasure trove, not only for people in Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, but for all of America. . . . William Clark was an innovative grammarian and an uninhibited and creative speller. Anyone who has tried to read the originals will appreciate seeing the printed version. Best of all, these personal letters give us a better glimpse into the amazing life of this truly remarkable man.”—Jay H. Buckley, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"An important contribution. . . . A delight. Read with the extensive explanations Holmberg provides, [the letters] offer a window on William Clark not available anywhere else."—Peter Sleeth, The Oregonian

"An important addition to our knowledge of a significant time period in American history."—Virginia Genealogist

"[A] noteworthy contribution. . . . Holmberg should be congratulated for assembling the various collections of William Clark letters in this volume. . . . Those interested in the Lewis and Clark Expedition should certainly add this volume to their bookshelf."—Gene A. Smith, Virginia Magazine

“These fifty-five letters . . . are priceless, but equally so is the information provided by the editor. . . . This is the best available study of William Clark, and a most valuable addition to Expedition literature.”—Harry W. Fritz, Western Historical Quarterly

"An eminently readable volume, of interest to both professional historians and others with an interest in the life of William Clark. . . . Dear Brother is a first-rate collection of letters that will both confirm and overturn many commonly-held preconceptions about William Clark. It is a volume that historians and lay scholars alike should find very useful and interesting; it should be considered a must-have for anyone wishing to understand not only William Clark but also this chapter of early American history."—Andrew McMichael, Ohio Valley History

ISBN: 9780300101065
Publication Date: August 11, 2003
Publishing Partner: Published in association with The Filson Historical Society
354 pages, 6 x 9
17 b/w illus.
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