High on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, just south of what is present-day Sioux City, Iowa, stands the towering monument to Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only person to die during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
President Thomas Jefferson enlisted William Clark and Merriweather Lewis to put together of team of handpicked frontiersmen to explore the Western part of the North American continent and the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.
On August 19, 1804, after only 98 days into the journey, Sergeant Floyd became violently sick with what Lewis and Clark diagnosed as “Beliose chorlick” or bilious colic. The following day, August 20, 1804, Sergeant Floyd’s condition worsened. Weakly he whispered, “I am going” and he slipped away. Medical experts of today believe what Sergeant Floyd died from was acute appendicitis which most likely ruptured. At the time, there was no known cure.
The corps member carried Floyd’s body to the highest bluff in the area and buried him with full military honors. His grave was marked with a cedar stake painted with his name and date of death. Two years later, on their return trip the Corps of Discovery stopped on the same spot and found that the grave had been disturbed. They refilled the grave and finished the remaining leg of the trip to St. Louis.
By 1857, the bluff was being badly eroded and encroaching on Floyd’s grave. To protect his grave from further erosion, his remains were dug up and moved 200 yards to the east and reburied.
In 1894, Sergeant Floyd’s journal, which had only recently been discovered, was published stirring interest in the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the story of Sergeant Floyd. Once again his remains were exhumed and reburied in urns. His grave was marked with a large marble ledger covering his grave. A committee formed to mark his grave properly. Congress and the State of Iowa appropriated funds, along with private donations from citizens to build a lasting and fitting memorial to the fallen soldier.
For the fourth and last time, Sergeant Floyd’s remains were unearthed. They were reburied and placed in the lower courses of the monument. The dedication of the monument took place on Memorial Day, 1901.
According the plaque at the site, “The monument is an Egyptian obelisk of white sandstone 100 feet high. Its foundation is 22 feet square at the base, 11 feet, 14 feet square at the top, and made of solid concrete reinforced with 32 lengths of railroad irons. Poured in one day, this mass weighs 278 tons. The total weight of the monument is 717 tons.”