1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ledyard, John

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LEDYARD, JOHN (1751-1789), American traveller, was born in Groton, Connecticut, U.S.A. After vainly trying law and theology, Ledyard adopted a seaman's life, and, coming to London, was engaged as corporal of marines by Captain Cook for his third voyage (1776). On his return (1778) Ledyard had to give up to the Admiralty his copious journals, but afterwards published, from memory, a meagre narrative of his experiences — herein giving the only account of Cook's death by an eye-witness (Hartford, U.S.A., 1783). He continued in the British service till 1782, when he escaped, off Long Island. In 1784 he revisited Europe, to organize an expedition to the American North-West. Having failed in his attempts, he decided to reach his goal by travelling across Europe and Asia. Baffled in his hopes of crossing the Baltic on the ice (Stockholm to Abo), he walked right round from Stockholm to St Petersburg, where he arrived barefoot and penniless (March 1787). Here he made friends with Pallas and others, and accompanied Dr Brown, a Scotch physician in the Russian service, to Siberia. Ledyard left Dr Brown at Barnaul, went on to Tomsk and Irkutsk, visited Lake Baikal, and descended the Lena to Yakutsk (18th of September 1787). With Captain Joseph Billings, whom he had known on Cook's “Resolution,” he returned to Irkutsk, where he was arrested, deported to the Polish frontier, and banished from Russia for ever. Reaching London, he was engaged by Sir Joseph Banks and the African Association to explore overland routes from Alexandria to the Niger, but in Cairo he succumbed to a dose of vitriol (17th of January 1789). Though a born explorer, little resulted from his immense but ill-directed activities.

See Memoirs of the Life and Travels of John Ledyard, by Jared Sparks (1828).