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By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis

By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis - John D.W. Guice, James J. Holmberg I know very little about the life of Meriwether Lewis. All I know about his death came from some "conspiracy theory" show on TV which strongly pushed the idea that he was murdered. I went into this book with that take on events uppermost in my mind.

What I came out of this book with, though, is that the only person that knows the details of how Meriwether Lewis ended up with two .69 calibre pistol balls in his body is Meriwether Lewis. This book really doesn't shed any great light on either the suicide or the murder arguments because no real hard proof exists for either theory. Both arguments are based on nothing but speculation, hearsay, and subjective interpretation of the historical record, which is spotty at best.

Because the circumstances surrounding Lewis's death are really unknown and speculative, this book is also an exercise in speculation. As it became clear to me that no historian can possibly know what really happened on the night of Lewis's death, I found myself paying more attention to the tone of the gentlemen making the arugments in this book. Frankly, this book ended up coming off as a (forgive the phrase) pissing contest between historians who were just as interested in sticking their tongues out at each other as they were in laying out their claims as to how they thought Lewis's death came about. The authors seemed to write this book at each other, not for readers, and boy, at times they really did come off as pompous!

The book did have some merit, to me, though. I am thankful that it pulled me out of the "conspiracy theory" show idea that Lewis was "almost certainly" murdered, and made me realize the truth, which is that no one really knows whose finger(s) were on the triggers of the guns that killed Meriwether Lewis.