While camped at the "Elk Sign" campsite on August 22, 1804, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark acted to replace Sergeant Charles Floyd, who had taken ill and died two days earlier. They called for the Corps of Discovery to vote on Floyd's replacement.
The election of Private Patrick Gass - the first recorded election in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase - was a distinct break from military custom. With victory in the War of Independence barely 20 years old, democratic zeal was strong among the expedition's cadre of independent backwoodsmen and its leaders.
Patrick Gass and the Corp of Discovery land at the "Elk Sign" campsite, August 22, 1804.
Patrick GasPatrick Gass volunteered for the Corps of Discovery over the objections of his superiors, while stationed at Fort Kaskaskia, Illinois Territory. At age 33, he was among the expeditions oldest and most veteran members. Meriwether Lewis considered him a man of "capacity, diligence, and integrity." He was also considered a good soldier and a first-rate carpenter a rare combination on the frontier. Patrick Gass kept a journal during the entire journey - a remarkable achievement given that his education was limited to nineteen days in school. He settled in Wellsburg, Virginia
now West Virginia and lived to age 99 as the last surviving member of the Corps of Discovery.
ordered a Vote of the men for a Sergeant of the three highest members a choice to be made
Gass Bratton Gibson — Gass
William Clark, August 22, 1804.