May 20, 1804 is the first entry in Augustus Pelletier’s diary of the Lewis and Clark expedition in “Blazing West: The Journal of Augustus Pelletier, The Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804” by Kathryn Lasky. In the first entry, we learn that he is 14, unmarried, kind of scrawny, and wants to join Captain Lewis and Captain Clark’s Corps of Discovery, “this outfit going up the Missouri all the way to the other sea at the very edge of this continent.”
This is no ordinary expedition, either: “They are going at the special request of President Thomas Jefferson.”
Gus, as he refers to himself, is half French and half Omaha Indian. His dad was a trapper and his mom was Omaha. They’ve both died at the time of this writing. Dealing with his abusive step-father is almost too much, so Gus sets off alongside the expedition. The hardest part about going alongside the group and not with the group is being the shadow. The trackers on the team are good, and it’s hard for Gus to cover his tracks and stay hidden.
One day he makes himself known – and useful – and while some of the guys from home recognize him and are shocked that he made it 200 miles into the wilderness on his own, Gus knows what it takes to survive. The question is will he survive the rest of the way to make it to the other sea? Or will the wilderness devour him like others before him on the expedition?
Lasky weaves a tale of research and passion to make this journal of the early 1800s come alive with real-life drama.