Snips and Snails and Rattlesnake Tails.



In this entry from the Journal of the Lewis and Clark expedition, dated 11 Feb 1805, Meriweather Lewis explains  how to produce a "fine boy" with a bracing tincture of rattlesnake parts:

The party that were ordered last evening set out early this morning. the weather was fair and could wind N. W. about five oclock this evening one of the wives*  of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. it is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn and as is common in such cases her labour was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had freequently adminstered a small portion of the rattle of the rattle-snake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child; having the rattle of a snake by me I gave it to him and he administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added to a small quantity of water. Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth perhaps this remedy may be worthy of future experiments, but I must confess that I want faith as to it's efficacy.

*Sacagawea -- she was about eighteen when the baby was born and died at 25. Her husband was Toussaint Charbonneau and the fine boy was Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau.

The illustration comes from a website devoted to the Sacagawea dollar.

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It could also have been a certain amount of social awkwardness. People didn't usually refer to women by their first names. It was impolite. And he couldn't call her Mrs. Charbonneau when there were two of them...
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*shrugs* I'm mostly in agreement, but one might also consider that the social conditions of the time would also be likely to have made even him understate her role. It's all relative.
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What is most amusing about this account is that Sacagawea is presented as Lewis really considered her: "one of the wives of Charbono (Toussaint Charbonneau)". She is not identified by name, nor described as the great guide & leader that she is mythologized into today in politically correct gradeschool textbooks. No doubt that her actions did contibute to the success of the expedition - Clark himself later expresses his gratitude for her presence, but the PC movement has transformed her from a minor player in a large expedition into one of the major players, and even its saviour.

Merriweather Lewis considers her one of Charbonneau's wives. Wikipedia identifies him as *Sacagawea's husband*. Considering Lewis was a little closer to the action, I think we know where the real truth lies.
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