An Extraordinary Life — An Extraordinary Scout

In delving into the history of the American West, I’ve often come across some quite unusual stories…facts.   Some of these stories are  “stranger than fiction,” and so is this story I’m about to tell you.

This is a true story, even if highly extraordinary.  It concerns an unusual man, a man who was born on the expedition and was the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  That man was Baptisle Chareonneau, Sacagawea’s baby.  I should probably post a note here that I’ll be giving away a book to some lucky blogger today.

In 1804-1806, Sacagawea, as we might remember, accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition into the West.  She was the only woman on the journey and Baptisle was the only child.  He was born in 1805 in the Minnetaree Village on the Knife River,  just a few miles below the Mandan Village on the Missouri.   His birth was noted by Lewis as February 11, 1805.  Baptiste’s father was a French trader who had won Sacagewea in a gambling wager in a Minnetaree Village, and because he could speak the language of the Indians, he engaged on the expedition, thus bringing his wife along with him, although she was with child.

It’s said by historians that Baptiste inherited his mother’s sunny disposition, her intelligence and attractive features.  Captain Clark was particularly fond of him and called him, “my little dancing boy, and also as “my boy, Pomp,” from Pomp’s tower.  Indeed, Captain Clark had become to so fond of the little boy, that he begged his parents to let him take the boy, whereupon he promised to raise him as his own.  Baptiste’s parents declined, but over the years, Clark apparently did enter both Baptiste and his older, half-brother into school.

Now, here’s where the story gets really interesting.  In 1823 (Baptiste would have been 18), he was introduced to Prince Paul of Wurtemberg, Germany.  The prince was twenty-six and he had come to America in search of scientific information.  It was at the mouth of the Kaw or Kansas River that the two were introduced and a fast friendship began between the two.  Indeed, the prince declared in his written diary in 1829 that he “hunger(ed) for the vast silent places and the simple life among free unaffected children of nature.”  Prince Paul offered to bring Baptiste with him back to Germany, where he promisedt to educated the lad and to tour the European continent.  Captain Clark, who by now was like a father to Baptiste, agreed, and so on November 3, 1823. Baptiste began his journey to Europe with Prince Paul.

For six years, Baptiste lived the life of a prince.  He lived in a castle in a beautiful woodland setting, he learned many different languages, including  German, English, Spanish and French,   He was instructed in the arts and social graces of the court and Baptiste was the companion of Prince Paul for all those years, developing a fast, fast friendship.  Here’s where the story gets even stranger.

To the left is a picture of Prince Paul.  In 1829 Baptiste and Prince Paul returned to America.  Here somewhere along the route, Prince Paul and Baptiste parted, never to see each other again.  Baptiste went on to become a mountain man and a scout for various private and governmental parties.  Why the two friends parted remains a mystery, as none of Prince Paul’s published works mention the affair.  It is, however, speculated that their separation was less than amicable.

To the right here is a painting of Baptiste.  The mystery of Baptiste became highly enigmatic since he never again corresponded with Prince Paul, nor did he keep a diary.  However, because Baptiste went on to be one of the best scouts the West has ever known, we have learned of him from the writings of travelers at that time.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Baptiste’s life is that he neither married, nore produced heirs, and this in a land where a man could easily have taken more than one wife or mistress.

What happened?  Why did he suddenly cut all ties to the prince in Europe?  Had he fallen in love with some princess, only to be dismissed out of hand because he lacked any real royal standing?  Perhaps.  My asking this question led me to write the story of THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, which is still available for purchase.   The book cover is off to the side.

 It’s one of the strangest stories that I uncovered in my research into the West and the many legends   What do you think?  Why did the Prince and Baptiste, who had been fast friends for six years — had toured together, learned together, hunted together — why did they separate, never to see one another again?  Come on in and tell me your ideas.

And don’t forget I have three books on sale right now at http://store.samhainpublishing.com/karen-kay-pa-1676.html — LAKOTA SURRENDER, LAKOTA PRINCESS and PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN.

Order your ebook copy of it today!

Karen Kay
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.
Updated: February 7, 2012 — 1:26 pm

60 Comments

  1. As always, Karen, you’ve written another fascinating post that gets the wheels turning this morning.

    I thought there was some question to Baptiste and Prince Paul’s relationship. That maybe they weren’t as close as some initially believed, which would explain why they didn’t keep in touch. Also, if I remember correctly, Baptiste did father a child while in Europe (the child died in infancy) and he fathered a child in California, or at least he was listed as the father. Not sure how accurate this is, because my research at the time was focused more on Clark and Sacagawea and their relationship than on Baptiste.

    But I like your take on the story and the results of your “what if” moment “The Princess and the Wolf.”

  2. I’d never known what had happened to Baptiste until I read your fascinating post, Karen. What a mystery. And Kirsten’s information about his having fathered children adds another dimension to the story. Hmmm.
    Love your beautiful covers.

  3. It had to be a woman, right? Isn’t that why most male friendships go bad? But it does tantalize the imagination to wonder where they met her and how they both fell in love, and what became of her. Did she die? Is that what caused the severity of the rift?

    Great story, Karen, and great fuel for the imagination this morning!

  4. Great post,,maybe,,they didnt like each others company that well,,,,or they each had bad habits that got on the others last nerve

  5. Kay, as always, a terrific post full of great historical information. I had heard a tiny bit about Sacajawea’s baby but never more than his infancy. What a guy!

  6. Kay, what a fascinating blog. You certainly got my brain to whirling. To me, Prince Paul looks very odd. Kinda feminine looking. Maybe that was the problem. Or maybe it was some kind of jealousy on Prince Paul’s part. Whatever it was must’ve been pretty serious.

    Wishing you lots of success with your books!

  7. Hi Kirsten!

    Wow, I didn’t know that he had fathered a child in Europe — but it would make sense, wouldn’t it? The accounts I read say that he never married and he never produced a new generation.

    Interesting. Do you have by any chance the sources of this — I would so love to read them. 🙂

  8. Hi Elizabeth!

    And thank you so much. Yes, I’d love to read the sources that she got that from — my sources say nothing about that — in fact, the opposite. But it certainly is a mystery…

  9. Hi Karen!

    I so agree with you on the reason for their split – I can think of no other reason — and of course it really inspired my imagination, also, which I then wrote about in THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF. 🙂

  10. Hi Vickie!

    The only problem with them “not liking each other” as I see it is that — look at their pictures again. It’s ALOT of trouble for an Indian to grow a beard — and look at how similar their looks are…

    I think they liked each other well enough — I think it was probably a woman…which of course I wrote about.

  11. Hi Tanya!

    Yes, it’s interesting the history you come up with in the West, isn’t it? Full of mystery…

  12. Hi Linda!

    That he does! That he does! Maybe he did have a few of the more womanly traits — but I do believe that if they’d had a relationship like that, we would have heard about it — such things are such common gossip.

    I have another history fact about Robin Hood that I may blog about eventually, even though it isn’t the West — a fact if you research that is astounding, actually — and of course it deals with the feminine of the species… 🙂

  13. Kay,

    The story about the child in Europe is found in the Oregon Historical Quarterly “Sacagawea’s Son as a Symbol” Fall 2001.

    After some searching, the record on the daughter in California is “Maria Canatarina Charguana, child of Margarita Sobin.” First Book of Baptisms, May 28, 1848 entry #1884.

    Also, I think Michael Ritter released a new addition to his book in 2011, which references the child in California. I’m not sure how legit this source is.

    Nothing ever mentions Pomp married, just fathered these children.

    Hope this helps. :o)

  14. It always amazes me that Sacagawea led those tough men, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition was made up of tough men, thruogh the Rockys. Her knowledge of the Rockies found them food. She saved them when the Indian’s who attacked included her brother.
    Her language skills helped them trade for what they wanted.
    She saved them over and over and over…and she did it all while she was pregnant and wearing a skirt.
    She is one my favorite heroines in history.
    To their credit, the Lewis and Clark diaries and journals give her a lot of credit, they seemed to treat her with great respect, far abover her husband. They let her vote when a question came up that had to be settled.
    One tough woman.

  15. I’ve also heard several versions of ‘what happened to Baptiste’. It’s gotten to the point that I think it is almost more legend than fact.

  16. Well, I just spent time reading about Baptiste on wikipedia.

    I’ve got a book to write you know!!! Stop being interesting!

  17. Hi Kirsten!

    But at least it’s nice to know that he did father some children — to leave no heirs would be a shame. From all accounts he was a delightful man, and handsome.

    Thanks for all the references — I now have to go and look at these! 🙂

  18. She was one tough woman, all right. It is interesting to note that she had to save them over and over — her husband was fairly useless on the trail from all accounts — she was the guiding influence.

    And apparently Clark really did love Baptiste and took the effort to make sure he had a grand life.

  19. Oh, Mary, you so brighten my day. But it IS interesting, isn’t it?

    Yes, he did go on to become a legend, if only because of all the languages that he could speak and read and write — he was loved by so many of the people who came West — so much so that they painted pictures of him.

    But I’ve always wondered what happened to him in Europe. I sure bet it was a woman.

  20. The problem with who they say was whose child back then is you never can say for sure in some cases – no DNA testing lol. When you said he hadn’t fathered a child (which could still be true) my first thought was that maybe they were more than just friends. I enjoyed as always your research into the past.

  21. i love ur research and i always go with the it takes a village to raise a child i know alot of tribes do the everyone has aturn so no one can know whose the father so they love them equally

  22. Very interesting post!

  23. Did prince Paul marry? Did he have kids? Did one of them have black hair? Those questions pop up for me.

  24. Kay,
    As always, a fascinating post, just filled with interesting facts and tidbits. I guess I had never thought about that baby Sacajawea is always pictured carrying growing up and becoming a man. LOL What a story you weave of his life! I wish these things were taught in school so that children could learn about the interesting people in our history, not memorize names and dates and let that be the end of it. Great post and so interesting to know that’s how you got your idea for a book!
    Hugs,
    Cheryl

  25. Great post. The book sounds interesting.

  26. Wow! This whole legend is very interesting and I want to do more research on it. Thanks for picking my brain.
    Also, I totally agree with Cheryl’s post. If history class was more of a narrative with stories like this, rather than memorization, it would have been a lot more interesting to me.

  27. Hi Catslady!

    You know, I hadn’t thought of that… The only thing is/was…with royalty, their lives are open to scrutiny and I think we would have learned about his…desires…were that the case.

    But it’s a possibility.

  28. Hi SiNn,

    Do you know of tribes like this? I’ve never run across one like that in Native America — it’s true that the child had the run of the camp and could treat any home as his own, but the father was always known and always respected. Made a difference in the tribe. Most tribes would not allow people to marry from the same band or clan — it was strictly forbidden — therefore, it was very very important to know who one’s father was…

  29. Hi Cheryl,

    Oh, I so echo your sentiment. I so wish that history were brought alive to children — not just mere dates and facts — but about people who lived and breathed and had problems just like we do…

  30. Thanks so much, Estella! 🙂

  31. Hi Sullivan!

    Good questions and ones I don’t have the answer for — but it could account for a lot, huh?

  32. Hi Wilma!

    Thank you so much! 🙂

  33. Oh, Kimberly, I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 Only after I began researching my books did history really come alive for me — and now it’s one of my most favorite things.

  34. Wow what an interesting post I’d always thought that Sacagawea and Clark had become an item somewhere along the way. I think I’d seen pictures of the baby she carries but I’d never really given much thought as to how he was raised.

    As for Jean Baptiste and Prince Paul and why they parted ways? I sort of have the same idea as catslady, maybe their relationship only started off as best friends and then maybe it grew into something more, and if that’s the case maybe one them wanted turn it into something even stronger then a lover’s relationship.

    Then again maybe it’s not something so complex, I’ve read and have heard about relationships both the friendship and the lovers kind that end because of something silly and trivial.

    I guess this is just one of those things where you’ll just have think and fill in the blanks for yourself, and I don’t know about you guys but I like puzzles!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  35. I have not entered a contest in a while and as my birthday is coming up I just hope to win a wonderful book. I will even leave a review on my blog and on book sites.

    May God bless

  36. What interesting information! I’m intrigued and can see why your imagination was sparked. Thank you for sharing!

  37. I’m with catslady and gabrielle on the idea of their being more than friends. What if Prince Paul
    must marry to further his family’s lineage? What if they had to part to clear his life of any outside influences? Whatever happened to Prince Paul? Has anyone done any research into his life after he
    returned to Europe? Oh, my! I think I have caught
    a serious case of the “what ifs? ”

    Pat Cochran

  38. Hi karen

    I love all those western romances and it is great to read the history. History is such an important part of life and it comes alive in those wonderful books.
    Thank you
    Elizabeth

  39. What a facinating story! So many interesting things happened in the West and finding out about some of them is such fun. It is amazing though that even the facts we do learn are available, for there was so much to take up the individual’s time other than trying to record what was happening. You post is another revelation.
    Thanks so much!

  40. Hopped over here late today… as usual you find such interesting things to share with us… Thanks Karen!

  41. Love the post Karen, very interesting. Also you have the best covers on your books, their awsome

  42. Interesting post. I have always been facinated by the stories about the Louis and Clark and those with them. As far as the mystery of Baptiste and the Prince…it had to be a woman.

  43. Hi Gabriella!

    It could’ve been. Like you said, it’s a mystery and we may never know. Of course my take on it was that it was a woman. Seems to me that there’s nothing like a woman — where both parties want her — to end a perfectly good friendship. But that’s my take on it.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  44. Hi Edna!

    Thanks so much for coming here and I hope that you have a wonderful happy birthday! 🙂

  45. Hi Hildie!

    Thanks so much for your thoughts. And what an interesting name you have. Appreciate you coming here today. 🙂

  46. Hi Pat!

    Prince Paul kept journals and so it should be easy to find out more about him. We know about Baptiste because of the people who came West — who wrote about him in their own diaries. I haven’t researched Prince Paul’s journals — all I know is that he never wrote about what happened between himself and Baptiste.

    It does trigger the imagination. I for one still think it was a woman. 🙂

  47. Hi Elizabeth!

    Boy, it really does come alive with historical romances, doesn’t it?

    There’s a similar story about Robin Hood that I really want to find out more about… But it’s a whole ‘nother research project…

  48. HI Gladys!

    Yes, yes, there was so much going on that it’s amazing that we know as much as we do. Thank goodness, however, that people could write and actually did so. 🙂

  49. You are so very welcome, Colleen. Thanks for coming here to share.

  50. Hi Connie!

    Yeah, I really agree with you on that one. I really do think it was a woman…

    It would have to be, I think, to cause them to never communicate again. Had to be some hard feelings there…and nothing like a woman to come between the two men…

  51. Late to the party, again. Thanks for an interesting post as usual. I have been reading the comments. I too considered a different type of relationship between the two men, but if you look up Prince Paul, he seems to have liked the ladies. He had five children with his wife. He also had several mistresses and children by them.
    I had known that Capt. Clark took an interest in Baptiste and helped him go to school. The information about his time in Europe and friendship with Prince Paul was all new to me. He sounds like he was an intelligent man and friendly, so I do find it a bit odd that he never found someone to settle down with. The romantic thought would be that he couldn’t have the woman he truly loved, so he had now one. It is rather sad that he died more or less alone.
    Thanks again for a thought provoking post.

  52. Well, I had a different thought, although I don’t suppose it could really happen – but what if the Prince and Baptiste swapped lives? The Prince went to America and Baptiste lived out his days as the Prince?

    pageturner345@gmail.com

  53. LOL Pageturner – I was thinking the same thing! 🙂

    As soon as I saw the 2 pictures, I remembered the Prince writing that he “hunger(ed) for the vast silent places and the simple life among free unaffected children of nature.” Then the ‘Prince and Pauper’ idea struck me and wouldn’t leave. Everything about Baptiste’s education after that furthered the thought.

    So no, I don’t think it was a woman at all. I think each man got what he wanted.

    Thank you, Karen. Very interesting. 🙂

  54. Hi! Loved the blog, and being from North Dakota – Sacajawea was always a favorite of mine. I always admired her and her importance to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
    The information about Baptiste and Prince Paul is fascinating. Yes after considering different possibilities I do think he met his soulmate in Europe and then had to leave her behind. Thank you for the story of the Princess and the Wolf so we can imagine another ending. I have enjoyed your stories for many years and I am happy that you are still sharing them with us. How wonderful you were able to spend you honeymoon in Montana on the reservation. Cheers Jolene

  55. Oh, Patricia, I so thank you for doing the research on Prince Paul — I didn’t think it was that kind of relationship, either, if only because we really would have heard the rumors. I do believe that Baptiste lost his heart to someone and if he couldn’t have her, he wouldn’t have anyone. Am so glad to learn that he did sire heirs, however.

    What an interesting account of the old West, huh?

  56. Oh, Page Turner, what a great idea — and another whole book could be written about that. 🙂

  57. Hi Anita!

    What another brilliant idea — that they both got what they wanted and lived happily ever after. In my book, I, also, take his words on missing the open spaces to heart — but I wrote it in a different fashion. 🙂

  58. Hi Jolene!

    You have given my heart a reason to soar today with your kind words. Thank you. 🙂

    Yes, I do still believe that Baptiste met his soulmate in Europe and perhaps pined for her there after. Perhaps he even got her pregnant and then had to leave her behind because royalty in those days could NOT marry someone who did not already have royalty blood flowing in their veins.

    Thanks again!

  59. I will be doing the drawing for a free book tonight — last night we had company — that will allow those who posted late to also have their name in the “hat,” so to speak. So look for the announcement tonight (Wednesday).

  60. Hello Karen,

    I’m in the process of writing a book about Jean baptist Charbonneau, so I’m immersed in the research. There are presently four recent full-length historical books about JBC. But new information is being discovered every year, so you pretty much have to pace all the details in the pot and sift through what the real facts are versus the misinformation that has been faithfully passed on from researcher to researcher. The thorough Furtwangler articles in the Oregon Historical Quarterly are absolutely necessary to help you get at the truth (ie what he may have looked like, what children he fathered, the truth about his mythical friendship with Duke Paul, etc). By the way, the picture you label as JBC is actually that of Sir William Drummond Stewart, who hired JBC as a guide for about 6 months. You can find some interesting mentions of JBC in various journals of the Mormon Battalion. All best, Allan Wolf

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