PRIVATE GEORGE SHANNON (1785-1836)
Shannon was eighteen years old when he joined the expedition. He was the youngest man to serve. Shannon was born in Pennsylvania and was well educated. By 1800, his family had moved to Ohio. He was one of the earliest members to join. Lewis selected him while on his way down the Ohio River when he stopped at Maysville, Kentucky. He was not considered to be the best woodsman, and some writers have stressed the situations in which he was lost or separated. However, Lewis and Clark respected his great courage, perseverance and loyalty. He is listed as one of the “ Nine young men from Kentucky. George was protestant, Irish and was said to have a beautiful tenor voice. George had six brothers and three sisters.
Early in the journey he was “lost” for sixteen days. He had gone hunting and thought he had fallen behind and tried to catch us. He used up all his bullets and nearly starved. He had to rely on berries. He did manage to kill a rabbit with a stick he shot from his rifle. With all hope gone, He finally decided to give up trying to catch up to the expedition. He sat down on the riverbank hoping some Indians or trappers would come along and take him down river. However on September 11, 1804 around the bend came the expedition. In reality he was not lost, but he had been ahead and not behind the group.
After the expedition he returned to St. Louis. On September 23, 1808, George Shannon Learned his father had died during the first winter of the expedition – having become lost in a blizzard while hunting .
The high regard that Lewis and Clark had for Shannon was shown by their actions. They selected him to be part of the expedition that returned to Washington along with some Indian chiefs to meet with Jefferson. In 1807, he was part of the party that attempted to return the chiefs such as the Mandan chief Shekeke his wife and son to their villages. The return party got into a fight with Arikaras, and Shannon was severely wounded. As a result his leg was amputated. After that he became known as “Peg Leg” Shannon.
Shannon was with William Clark in Shelbyville, Kentucky on October 28, 1809 when Clark saw the account of Lewis death in the Frankfort Argus.
In 1809 Clark asked him to assist Nicholas Biddle in preparing the first edition of the Lewis and Clark Journals. In 1810 he went to Philadelphia to start working on them. The Journals were finished in 1814. Clark asked him to join him in the fur trade business, but Shannon had other plans. He went to Transylvania University , studied law and became a lawyer practicing in Lexington, Kentucky.
On September 18, 1813 he was married to Ruth Price. Mr. and Mrs. Shannon eventually had seven children all born in Lexington between 1814 and 1825. Three sons and four daughters.
In February of 1814, he spoke at a remembrance of George Washington’s birthday celebration.
By 1818 he was practicing law at Lexington, Kentucky. He was elected a member or the Kentucky House or Representatives in 1820 and 1822. He sold his land warrants ( awarded by congress to the men of the expedition) to the Honorable Henry Clay. Shannon then practiced law in Missouri and served as a Senator from Missouri before returning again to law. Shannon’s Brother William, was a member of Congress in Ohio.
George Shannon died suddenly in court at Palmyra, Missouri in 1836 at the age of 51, and is buried in that city. His Grave site has not been positively identified.