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Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West Paperback – Jun 2 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 286 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 2 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847397638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847397638
  • ASIN: 0684826976
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 286 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #77,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

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. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Ambrose wrote a very complete book here. Obviously extensive, well researched, and with a good flow - this book is worth reading. My pick with this book would be it moves along a little on the slow side, but so did Lewis & Clark on this voyage.
High Points:
Descriptions & Interpretations from the original journals - superb.
Multiple points of view, Lewis, Clark, the members of the corps of discovery, native americans, etc. Ambrose brings these to life.
Intricate step by step accounts of the trip.
Improvement Points:
At times it just moves along too slowly - Ambrose could have made it a bit more concise.
Confusing ending, did Lewis commit suicide? Was he muredered, Ambroses' guesses leave something to be desired.
All in all this is a good book which should be read by any aspiring student of history.
Joseph Dworak
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Format: Paperback
Written by Stephen Ambrose, an experienced author, Undaunted Courage is an account of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. This novel is written for someone who is not knowledgeable about this historic journey, and is written at a high school level (I should know, I'm in high school!). Ambrose designed this book to be a balance of fact and story told from Meriwether Lewis's view. The author presents a balance of facts, excerpts from Meriwether Lewis's journal, and his own voice telling the story.
Ambrose organized the story in chronological order, beginning with Lewis's childhood. He continues with the details on Lewis's teen and adult life, and continues on through the expedition and the events after the expedition's return. Lewis's childhood and adulthood prior to the expedition is details through the first six chapters. Chapter seven begins with the preparation for the expedition, detailing how the men who went on the expedition were chosen, the gathering of supplies, and the difficulties. The joint captainship of the expedition by Lewis and Clark magnifies how well they worked together. Chapters 8 through 12 detail the first year of the expedition. It begins with the travels of Lewis from Washington to Pittsburgh, where the expedition gathered and prepared to set off. The first leg of the journey down the Ohio River to the Missouri River to the winter camp of 1803 is told with emphasis on discoveries of new wildlife. Chapters 13 through 18 relate encounters with the Mandan and Sioux Indians. The winter of 1804 was spent at Fort Mandan with the Mandan Indians, who were very friendly. The expedition then continued up the Missouri River and encountered the Sioux. Unlike the Mandan Indians, the Sioux were hostile and demanded goods to let the expedition continue up the river.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Ambrose does a fine job in this history of the classic Lewis and Clark expedition. Born of Thomas Jefferson's insatiable curiousity about the world and prophetic vision of the U.S. as a vast and powerful country, Lewis and Clark set out to head upriver on the Missouri and find the Northwest Passage, a dream of explorers for generations. Ambrose details the outfitting of the expedition, the assembling of the team, and key to his success, the recruiting of Clark, a man he did not know all that well. We follow the group up the river and into an area few Americans knew. The many maps are essential here--one can only appreciate the rigors of this trip when you realize how far north the river flows, almost as far as today's border with Canada. Traveling season was short and winter camps located in harsh, cold country. The accounts of Lewis' encounters with the Indians are especially interesting and amusing, great examples of how Americans patronized and underestimated the intelligence of these "savages."
This expedition would have been successful enough if the only object was to reach the west coast. But Jefferson charged Lewis and Clark with forming alliances with the Indians, cataloguing the flora and fauna, and mapping the entire vast region. Although of course the Northwest Passage didn't exist, the scope of what the team did was enormous, and we know so much about it today because of the voluminous journals that were kept.
The end of the story is quite sad, however. Publishing the journals proved difficult, and Lewis' life deteriorated after a burst of fame on his return, for reasons not entirely clear. But he accomplished something under conditions that would be unthinkable today, and Ambrose ably conveys the challenges and hardship of this great adventure.
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Format: Paperback
The mystery of the U.S. West and the persona of the explorers who revealed its splendor are eloquently told in this book. Thomas Jefferson's interest in exploring the western territory extended back a half a century as his family had been awarded land west of the Appalachian Mountains. A week after Congress had approved funding for the expedition, Jefferson began writing his scientific friends about the matter. He had selected Captain Lewis to lead the discovery mission. While Lewis and Clark are linked permanently in American history, the two were distinct individuals. In 1803 they were not even intimate friends. An invitation by Captain Lewis to William Clark changed all that. Clark was chosen, in part, due to his competence and because "his word was his bond." Clark was a woodsman who was familiar with rugged territory. From the President's perspective it was the Lewis expedition. The book goes on to describe the personalities and the personal weaknesses of the people involved. He adds a discussion about the intellectual property resulting from discoveries made on the trip. In all, a new dimension is provided that makes for a very well written book.
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