Reviewed by Jan Jackson –
Maybe it is because I was born and raised along the Columbia River only 50-miles from Fort Clatsop, but I always wondered whatever happened to Sacajawea’s baby. The one she gave birth to during the 1805-06 Lewis and Clark Expedition. Born on February 11, 1805, while wintering at Fort Mandan, he was hands down the youngest member of this adventuresome 33-member party. When I stumbled upon Win Blevins’ book about him, I was excited.
To be born amid the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition is amazing enough but for the Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, that was just the beginning. By the expeditions end, William Clark offered Sacajawea and her French Canadian interpreter husband, to raise the boy and care for him as his own son. In 1811, he made good his promise. Clark immediately sent him to study with a Baptist preacher, then to a Catholic Priest and finally to complete his schooling in St. Louis.
After St. Louis, Jean Baptiste returned to frontier life where he met Prince Paul Wilhelm of Wuertemberg Germany. The Prince took him under his patronage for six years and returned him with a university education and fluent in four languages.
After returning from Europe, Clark wanted Jean Baptiste to use his experiences with both cultures by taking a prestigious position with Indian affairs. However, the still young half breed was too disgusted with the way the government treated the Indians to do so. Instead, he turned his back on the idea and headed off to the gold fields of California.
On his way from California to new gold discoveries in Montana, 61-year old Jean Baptiste ill and died of pneumonia. He is buried just a few miles west of the small Eastern Oregon town of Jordan Valley. On March 14, 1973, his gravesite was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
Blevins wrote Charbonneau, Man of Two Dreams in 1974. He started right out being clear about what he knew to be the facts and that he created the story in full view of them. I also really liked the way he sprinkled important dates in history throughout the story to give the reader a sense of what else was going on in the world at the time. The only thing I could fault him for was bringing Sacajawea back into the story when we already knew she had died (when Jean Baptiste was only seven years old).
Its’ OK, Mr. Blevins, I love the book. You are an accomplished man yourself and I can see how you related to Jean Baptiste. I’m eager now to read some of your other works.
Reading”Charbonneau, Man of Two Dreams,” is how I found out about Jean Baptiste’s gravesite and once I realized that, I travelled there to see it. I’m grateful to Mr. Blevins. It is a wonderful story and you told it in a very readable way.
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