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Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West Hardcover – February 15, 1996
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A biography of Meriwether Lewis that relies heavily on the journals of both Lewis and Clark, this book is also backed up by the author's personal travels along Lewis and Clark's route to the Pacific. Ambrose is not content to simply chronicle the events of the "Corps of Discovery" as the explorers called their ventures. He often pauses to assess the military leadership of Lewis and Clark, how they negotiated with various native peoples and what they reported to Jefferson. Though the expedition failed to find Jefferson's hoped for water route to the Pacific, it fired interest among fur traders and other Americans, changing the face of the West forever.
From Publishers Weekly
Ambrose has written prolifically about men who were larger than life: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Colonel Custer. Here he takes on half of the two-headed hero of American exploration: Meriwether Lewis. Ambrose, his wife and five children have followed the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition for 20 summers, in the course of which the explorer has become a friend of the Ambrose family; the author's affection shines through this narrative. Meriwether Lewis, as secretary to Thomas Jefferson and living in the White House for two years, got his education by being apprenticed to a great man. Their friendship is at the center of this account. Jefferson hand-picked Lewis for the great cross-country trek, and Lewis in turn picked William Clark to accompany him. The two men shook hands in Clarksville, Ohio, on October 14, 1803, then launched their expedition. The journals of the expedition, most written by Clark, are one of the treasures of American history. Here we learn that the vital boat is behind schedule; the boat builder is always drunk, but he's the only one available. Lewis acts as surveyor, builder and temperance officer in his effort to get his boat into the river. Alcohol continues to cause him problems both with the men of his expedition and later, after his triumphant return, in his own life, which ended in suicide at the age of 35. Without adding a great deal to existing accounts, Ambrose uses his skill with detail and atmosphere to dust off an icon and put him back on the trail west. History Book Club main selection; BOMC split selection; QPB alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
It was hard to put the book down.
You almost feel you are on the dangerous expedition with these brave explorers.
I recommend this exciting book
Lewis's unraveling and acute illness when he assumed a political post after the expedition was over is heart breaking. He became terribly ill, ultimately committing suicide while still in his 30's, and there didn't seem to be anyone available to help him. Or, of course, the sort of medications routinely available to modern day physicians. Despite his ignominious and terrible slide toward death by his own hand, Meriwether Lewis stands with his great friend William Clark as one of the best men our armed forces ever saw.
This book puts into perspective how difficult the trip was and how even with modern technology, this trip would've still been difficult. I learned a few things such as what a sextant is. It was interesting to read Lewis's descriptions of the Native Americans describing them as savages while also admiring them. I think a lot of history books gloss over the Expedition with only minor details. It was interesting to learn of his fight against the Blackfeet as well as the medical issues endured by the men via the weather and also medical conditions brought on by themselves through intercourse with Native American women.
We also see a glimpse into the tight relationship between Lewis and Clark. Lewis was very much a scientist and reading about what wildlife he saw as the first American to do so was really cool. With some locations, Ambrose frequently tells us around where the present day location is and being a Google Maps lover, I would look it up. It was fascinating to see places where I could visit myself that Lewis and Clark had visited.
In all, I can see myself coming back to this book to read again.
I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't read it but it was also sad to read of the battle Lewis had with alcoholism and malaria(?)