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Daniel Boone’s frontier knowledge of tracking, hunting, trailblazing and American Indian cusstome would have immeasurably helped the Lewis & Clark’s expedition.

Although he would have been 68 years old in 1803, Boone could have been an invaluable addition to the Lewis & Clark expedition to explore the American Northwest.

During his lifetime, Daniel Boone had survived repeatedly off of the land for long periods. Lewis & Clark’s expedition constantly struggled and nearly failed because of its lack of wilderness survival skills.

One can only speculate that William Clark may have thought Boone was too old to make the long journey. Family tradition holds that Boone continued his journeys west well into his senior years.

One story places him on the Yellowstone when he was in his 80s. A U.S. Army officer at Fort Osage, Mo., reported seeing him on his way to the Platte River in Nebraska when Boone was 85.

How did Daniel Boone acquire his valuable 18th century skills?

He learned how to read and write from his mother, and his father taught him wilderness survival skills. Boone was given his first rifle when he was 12. He quickly proved himself a talented woodsman and hunter, boldly shooting his first bear when most children his age were too frightened.

At age 15, Boone moved with his family to Rowan County, North Carolina, on the Yadkin River, where he started his own hunting business.

In 1755, Boone left home on a military expedition that was part of the French and Indian War. He served as a wagoner for Brig. Gen. Edward Braddock during his army’s disastrous defeat at Turtle Creek, near modern-day Pittsburgh.

A skilled survivor, Daniel Boone saved his own life by escaping the French and Indian ambush on horseback.

In August 1756, Boone married Rebecca Bryan, and the couple set up stakes in the Yadkin Valley. The couple would have six children. At first Boone found himself content with what he described as the perfect ingredients to a happy life: “A good gun, a good horse and a good wife.”

But adventure stories Boone heard from a teamster while on an expedition ignited his interest in exploring the American frontier.

In 1767, Boone led his own expedition for the first time. The hunting trip along the Big Sandy River in Kentucky worked its way westward as far as Floyd County.

In May 1769, Boone led another expedition with John Finley, the teamster he had marched with during the French and Indian War, and four other men.

Under Boone's leadership, the team of explorers discovered a trail though the Cumberland Gap. The trail would become the means by which many settlers would access the frontier.

Boone took his discovery a step further in April 1775. While working for Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company, he directed colonists to an area in Kentucky he named Boonesborough where he set up a fort to defend the settlers and their claims.

Led by Capt. Caldwell and Simon Girty and British sympathizers and their Indian allies surrounded and commenced a siege of Bryan Station. After several days, they departed, heading in the direction of Blue Licks.

The pioneer men, under the commands of Col. John Todd and Col. Stephen Trigg, pursued the them. On Aug. 19, 1782, they did not wait for reinforcements being brought from Lincoln County by Col. Benjamin Logan and approached the Blue Licks. Daniel Boone, then only a lieutenant colonel and not in command, cautioned against proceeding. He suspected an ambush.

Boone’s warning went unheeded. The men, perhaps under the rash encouragement of Hugh McGary, ill-advisedly charged ahead. Under fire from concealed riflemen, Kentuckians began to flee down the hill, fighting hand-to-hand with other Indians who had flanked them. They were ambushed, just as Boone suspected.

Todd and Trigg were killed. McGary rode up to Boone’s company and told him everyone was retreating and that Boone was now surrounded. Boone ordered his men to retreat. He grabbed a riderless horse and ordered his 23-year-old son, Israel Boone, to mount it. He then turned to look for a horse for himself.

Israel suddenly fell to the ground, shot through the neck. Boone realized his son was dead, mounted the horse and joined in the retreat to escape being killed and scalped.

On Sept. 26, 1820, Daniel Boone died of natural causes at his home in Femme Osage Creek, Mo. He was 85. More than two decades after his death, his body was exhumed and reburied in Frankfort.

Boone is still remembered as one of the greatest frontiersmen in American history.

 

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