The Reenactment

Lewis and Clark Unite on the Banks of the Ohio River
By Walker Robinson, age 13, Kentucky
Scholastic Student Reporter

After a day of wind and cold, Louisville, Kentucky, was blessed with a warm, sunny day for the reenactment of Meriwether Lewis's arrival on the banks of the Ohio River. Lewis came to Louisville on October 14, 1803, to meet up with his co-captain for the Corps of Discovery expedition, William Clark. On October 14, 2003, actors dressed in period clothes reenacted the events in the rain. The next day, they did it again for the public, but this time under clear blue skies.

The reenactment began when a wooden boat was spotted about 500 yards from Riverfront Park in downtown Louisville. The keelboat docked to cheers from fourth-graders dressed as villagers from the 1800s.

Lewis disembarked and shook hands with William Clark. They then marched to a stage set up for the bicentennial ceremonies. The stage filled with dignitaries, including Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, members of the Mingo and Shawnee tribes, and a fife and drum band for a final salute of fireworks and sparklers.

The reenactment of the Lewis and Clark meeting was a huge event for the citizens of Louisville. Prior to the reenactment, the local fire department showed off its new fireboat by shooting water into the river. To start the pre-reenactment ceremony, the 3rd Infantry Old Fife and Drum Corp. from Ft. Myers, Virginia, played marching tunes. The infantry division was dressed in traditional military uniform for the time. They also played the National Athem.

After the music, Louisville Mayor Jerry E. Abramson gave an introductory speech to the audience of more than 1,000 people. A pre-recorded presentation explained how the Eastern Legacy states of the expedition (Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and Delaware) were so important to the journey and how the Shawnee, Mingo, and Chickasaw tribes played a central role. Each state and tribe was honored by a flag on stage. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Lewis and Clark Color Guard presented the American flag. Representatives of the Shawnee and Mingo nations performed their flag songs.

Thomas Jefferson, played by Clay Jenkinson, also addressed the crowd.

"I should tell you before I begin that although I purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, I am also considered by some to have been the foremost architect of our westward expansion," he said. Just as Jefferson's words began the expedition in 1803, his words ended the ceremonies on the Ohio River in 2003.

Meriweather Lewis, William Clark, the 3rd Infantry Fife and Drum Corps, and members of the Shawnee and Mingo tribes gather with Kentucky dignitaries to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

The 3rd Infantry Fife and Drum Corps play the National Anthem at the Louisville celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Meriwether Lewis comes ashore in his keelboat during a reenactment of his meeting with William Clark on the banks of the Ohio. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Thomas Jefferson, played by Clay Jenkinson, explains why he chose Meriwether Lewis to lead the Corps of Discovery 200 years ago. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)