Review

The True Account: A Novel of the Lewis & Clark & Kinneson Expeditions

by Howard Frank Mosher



"As he was drinking rum flip with Ethan…my uncle lost his
footing and struck his head so sharp a blow on the gate of the fort
that he never, I am grieved to report, quite regained his correct
wits." --- Ticonderoga Kinneson

Ticonderoga Kinneson's explanation paints the personality picture
of his uncle, Private True Kinneson. True's exploits in THE TRUE
ACCOUNT are acts that reflect his ribald imagination. The young Ti,
an artist in his own right, assumes the gargantuan task of keeping
track of True's heroic enterprises. THE TRUE ACCOUNT celebrates the
Lewis and Clark expedition bicentennial as a fictional account of
what might have been if there was a race to the Pacific between two
exploring groups.

In 1804, True and Ti set out from their home in Vermont on an
expedition to the Pacific, ahead of Lewis and Clark. True meets
with President Jefferson and receives approval to begin the trip,
but without official funds. His hilarious attempt to raise money is
through proceeds from his original pay. Not well received, the
drama gets him run out of town where he stages it. Undaunted, he
moves from Monticello to the Natchez Trace, where the race
begins.

His misadventures continue when he meets Flame Danielle Boone,
Daniel's daughter, an army of Spaniards and Anasazis, the Nez
Perce, Shoshone and Blackfoot tribes. Dressed as a Don Quixote
figure, Private True rides a broken-down mule and brandishes an
arquebus as his weapon. Chain mail, a belled night stocking and
galoshes complete his usual attire. Fifteen-year-old Ti spends much
of his time tracking the errant uncle. A conversation with
Meriwether Lewis reveals that the high-spirited True is a religious
devotee of the use of hemp plant. Lewis is astonished when True
confesses to sharing his smoke with a child of five years.

The action becomes more bizarre with the entrance of a mysterious
Blackfoot girl named Yellow Sage Flower Who Tells Wise Stories. At
this point, the Lewis and Clark group travels alongside True. Ti's
painting of the journey is the trip's chronicle, if one can believe
that he is given free license to draw the principals involved. At
best, the portrait of his uncle shows the "true" character.

The title, THE TRUE ACCOUNT, is an appropriate use of the lead
character's persona. Readers of the novel, with a thirst for
accurate history, will be disappointed. However, a map at the
beginning sketches the path of True's journey and the paths that
both follow and deviate from the Lewis and Clark route.
Page-turning to the maps kept my curiosity alive to determine the
author's willingness to adhere to history.

Howard Frank Mosher depicts a hilarious, ribald free-spirited man
who makes his own history. While I found the story too bizarre to
believe, it was inventive, clever, hilarious and good fun.
Apologies to historians devoted to the preservation of real
truth.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 23, 2011

The True Account: A Novel of the Lewis & Clark & Kinneson Expeditions
by Howard Frank Mosher

  • Publication Date: June 5, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0618197214
  • ISBN-13: 9780618197217