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on May 25, 2004
As an historian with an interest in the L&C expedition, I have dozens of books on my shelves detailing their adventure, including at least a half-dozen one volume editions of the journals. Until recently, Bernard DeVoto's 50 year old edition was the best. Now Gary Moulton's masterful editing of the definitive 13 vol edition of the journals is echoed in this single-volume abridgement that is destined to become the standard for the foreseeable future. If you must read a popular accounting of the Corps of Discovery, Stephen Ambrose's _Undaunted Courage_ is quite readable and provides ample context for the expedition. But then do yourself a favor and read Mouton's abridgement of the journals, and learn firsthand the thrill of reading L&C's original words. Recommended for all with an interest in the expedition.
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on February 25, 2003
Professor Moulton has done a tremendous job of abridging over one million words in this manageable volume of five hundred or so pages. This volume will be the functional equivalent of the DeVoto edition for the twenty-first century. An excellent job that preserves the personalities of both Clark and Meriwether Lewis. Too many editors cannot avoid the temptation of "correcting" the 1804-06 English of the pair.
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on April 5, 2004
The only better source for understanding the adventure of the
Lewis and Clark expedition would be the full 11-volumn set
edited by this same author for the U. of Nebraska. As a readable one-volumn summary of their fabulous and hair-raising
expedition, the editor has selected many of the most interesting
passages from the actual diaries of the participants, and many
readers will be able to vicariously experience the wonder at
what the men saw and how they reacted to the natives of the large region, as well as to the flora and fauna of a then-unknown part of the continent.
Frequently, the same adventure, or the same encounter, is told
in the words of multiple observers, and it is most interesting
to see how they reacted.
One of the most fascinating, and almost humorous, attitudes is
that of Lewis toward Grizzly bears and how that attitude changes quickly as he encounters the great bear. It is easy to
feel the superior attitude of Lewis as he relates the first warnings of the Indians about the ferocity and size of this distinct bear. He first writes: "...the indians may well fear
this anamal equiped as they generally are with their bows and
arrows...but in the hands of skillful riflemen they are by no means as formidable or dangerous as they have been represented."
He is speaking of someone who is acquainted with the black bear
of the Ohio valley.
Shortly thereafter he notes, writing of another grizzly, that he
was "...extreemly hard to kill..." specifying that bear had been
shot 10 times before finally expiring. Only a few days later,
after another terrifying encounter with a grizzly, where a party of hunters had to go after a bear wounded who had escaped,
after chasing one of his men, Lewis concludes, "...these bear being so hard to die rather intimedates us all; I must confess
that I do not like the gentlemen and had rather fight two Indians than one bear;..."
These passages are only a sample of the learning curve the great
explorers were on, and their own words show how they learned and
adapted so quickly that they made their amazing trek to the Pacific coast and back with no casualties other than Sgt. Floyd
who died of a burst appendix. The editor relates that Sgt.Floyd
couldn't have been saved even with the best medical care available at the time.
The book abounds with descriptions of birds and animals seen for
the first time by any white man, and both Captains provide details showing their dedication and ability; in addition, Clark
drew many significant maps of the area.
But the book isn't perfect; some decent maps should have been
provided, because the very small, sometimes confusing maps aren't helpful at all, and the serious student or reader will have to find some maps to accompany his reading. Not even one
example of the fine maps drawn by Clark is provided. A few more
of their drawings of animals would have been very helpful and entertaining.
But fascinating beyond belief are their copious observations and
notes of the native Indians they encountered. They show far more sympathy toward the Indians than might be thought possible
from upper-class East-coast white men, and both Lewis and Clark
reveal their wonder at the various customs and practices of
the Indians. Both the Captains the the others who kept diaries
frequently express appreciation of the skills and lifestyles of
the tribes, and this expedition helpled forge considerable friendships between the white Americans and their native counterparts.
The fact that later government mistreatment of Indians led to
wars and the loss of life is an indictment of later political
administrations in Washington, rather than any indictment of
these wonderful leaders and the members of this expedition.
But the writers whose words are provided here show a depth of
curiosity and thirst for knowledge of these different cultures
that has to astound most readers today.
And we have to read the exact words of those men who encountered the Blackfeet in present Montana to know just how
it happened that the only violent deaths happened there; the
Lewis journal entries are very revealing.
Hundreds of entries show just how cool and thoughtful all expedition members were as they encountered unbelieveable problems and obstacles, and how they met them with both good
humor and determination.
You can learn here why the Lewis and Clark expedition was one of
the greatest explorations in the world and why those particular
men were the absolutely best choice for their unique roles.
Anyone interested in American history needs to read these words
and imagine what these men saw and heard.
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on August 25, 2005
This one-volume abridgement of the 13-volume "definitive Nebraska edition" of 2001 is a fascinating read from historical and anthropological perspectives as well as being a gripping adventure story. The presentation of the 1804-06 trek of the Corps of Discovery is superb; the editor provides a comprehensive introduction that tells the story crisply, then presents selections from the journals of the officers and men of the Corps (judiciously annotated with sidenotes), and finishes with an afterword that lays out the fortunes of the Corps members after their return home. A really satisfying book!
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on November 1, 2013
This edition of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was based, not solely on the Nicholas Biddle's book written in 1814, as were all other renditions since then. He didn't have access to all the journals of members of the expedition other than Lewis & Clark themselves that later became available, one as late at the 1960s. Many entries, particularly by Clark, have phonetic spellings that slow the reading. But one can imagine it is more historically accurate and gives a sense of how people of that era spoke and spelled. Sometimes the language is flowery and poetic. The spelling just wasn't settled on. Noah Webster's "An American Dictionary of the English Language" standardized spelling; but wasn't published until 1828, a quarter century after the Expedition. Some spellings of the same word are different in the same journal entry. That's just the way it was; and it makes entries come across as an authentic representation of the Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Some typos by the author are also present.
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on June 3, 2012
This is a spectacular book. Historian Moulton has assembled a fantastic cross-section of the entries from the diaries of Lewis, Clark and other members of the Corps of Discovery. He has used margin notes to add the current terminology for the locations, flora and fauna being described by the diarists, and somehow knew when enough was enough. These notes add without ever distracting. Furthermore, there are helpful maps well placed throughout.

In short, Moulton has done an excellent job of selecting from and then organizing these diaries for those who are not prepared to read the (reportedly) more than one million words of the unabridged diaries.

As to the excerpts from the diaries: they are breathtaking. The descriptions are stunning and any reader will be hard pressed not to be lost in imagination trying to picture the events and scenery as experienced by the Corps. As surely as one's eye would be drawn to a great beauty (Marilyn Monroe/Halle Berry/insert a name of your choice here) even if she was dressed in a potato sack, these diaries would be a great read in any format. But when the diaries (or Marilyn or Halle or...) are dressed up as beautifully as here, there is magic.

I rate this book with the best I've read: Crazy Horse (by Sandoz), Grapes of Wrath (by Steinbeck), Battleground (by Shmuel Katz) and Paul Revere's Ride (by Fischer).

I will close by repeating: this is a spectacular book.
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on January 20, 2014
This book will take you to the places Lewis and Clark traveled to get to the end of their journey for the President. It is like being there as they discover so many new things along the way.
It is described in such a way a person thinks they can fully understand the sufferings and joys they must have had on that journey.
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on February 25, 2014
This is a book for those who want more than a summary and want to see the actual text of the writing, but in a way that you can understand what is being said and what they are meaning. This is much less detailed that all of the journal writing, but most of it you do not want to read (full journals) anyway. This gives the best account I have see yet.
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on May 7, 2012
I bought this book because Steven Ambrose so wholeheartedly recommended it. Actually, it almost demanded it! It has been fun to open the Kindle and find the Corps of Discovery waiting for me. This is a well edited version of the Corps chronicles. Highly recommended.
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on March 3, 2015
This book is a wonderful addition to my Lewis and Clark library. Dr. Moulton was in Cheyenne recently and gave a talk at our library. It was a wonderful presentation that was so enjoyed by a large crowd.
Anyone who is interested in Lewis and Clark will find this book helpful.
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