"Undaunted Courage" covers events of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that preclude and culminated in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Included are the backgrounds of the expedition's leaders, and the tragic epilogue to the adventure for Meriwether Lewis.
The group of exceptional people that participated in the expedition was referred to as the "Corps of Discovery" by Captain Meriwether Lewis.
The newly formed and expanding United States of America were in an economic, political and cultural competition for control of the rich resources west of the Mississippi river. President Thomas Jefferson who had purchased the Louisiana territory in order to secure the nation's place in that competition, did so without actually knowing for sure its potential, since no one had been there to evaluate or map it. Jefferson needed someone to find out what it was he purchased from the French. He searched for and found in Meriwether Lewis a singular human being who proved to have the desire and capability to organize and implement one of the greatest explorations of all times. The exploration originated in the nation's capitol, began its penetration of wilderness at St. Louis on the Mississippi river, traversed the entire Missouri and Columbia rivers to the pacific coast and returned again to the Mississippi river, all in a 3 year span of time.
In his book Steven Ambrose has undertaken the extensive task of compiling and chronicling the birth and execution of the Corps' incredible journey across the early 19th century American western wilderness. These compilations and interpretations probe beyond pure historic fact to explore the character and personalities of the expeditions proponents, participants and critics. Accomplishments of the Corps and the expeditions epilogue are worth the time it takes to read them as they give a more human, intimate meaning to the formation of our country and the character of its leaders.
Stories of encounters with inhabitants of the territory, both human and animal are well presented; descriptions of the landscape, living conditions and hazards endured satisfy the most discerning reader's interest.
Discussed are the expeditions goals which were to find if a waterway across the continent to the Pacific ocean existed that would open up global commerce; inventory the resources of the territory; open a dialog with native inhabitants of the area and persuade them that resistance was futile. Numerous other benefits would accrue to the U.S. as may be uncovered by reading this wordy but interesting volume.
Probably due to the extensive amount of material covered and its length, this book may be for some a labor to read. However, a minimum of curiosity and discipline will provide the reader with insight not usually available from purely historical writings. It was not written as a novel, but if the reader will use a creative imagination and allow freedom of emotion during the reading, the expedition can become a real thriller.
Stephen Ambrose, in much the manner of Captain Lewis, undertook the task of compiling the explorer's adventures and set them to print in this book, not a work of art, but a work of admiration.