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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will always be remembered
"Undaunted Courage," by the great American author Stephen E. Ambrose is a book that will always be remembered. I found the up close look at Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and William Clark priceless. However, the backbone of this well-researched and superbly written book is the tale of brave men exploring an unknown frontier and only losing one member of the...
Published on 10 Nov 2003 by Bert Ruiz

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed account of an epic undertaking
Though less known to Europeans than the epic explorations of the interior of Africa in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Lewis and Clark's great crossing of North America to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1803-06 ranks with the expeditions of Bruce, Park, Burton and Livingstone. It is hard to conceive a subject more intrinsically exciting for a book and for...
Published on 7 Oct 1999


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will always be remembered, 10 Nov 2003
By 
Bert Ruiz "author/journalist" (Pleasantville, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"Undaunted Courage," by the great American author Stephen E. Ambrose is a book that will always be remembered. I found the up close look at Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and William Clark priceless. However, the backbone of this well-researched and superbly written book is the tale of brave men exploring an unknown frontier and only losing one member of the party.
Moreover, Ambrose documents the "essential honesty" that distinguished Lewis and Clark from other explorers like Hernando DeSoto and Francisco Pizarro who were looking for gold or wanted to convert Indians to Christianity. Ambrose also does an excellent job of informing the reader the sad truth of American Indian Policy which at the time of the expedition was, "get out of the way or get killed."
Nevertheless, this truly special book examines Jefferson, the "empire builder,"...Lewis, the fellow Virginian with a rich family history and a passion for exploration and Clark, the professional soldier and pragmatic friend who provided valuable leadership during key moments of the trip.
Lewis, Jefferson and Clark helped the United States become a continental power stretching from sea to sea. Ultimately, the news of Lewis and Clark's return and the subsequent published journals triggered a rush for the mountains across the nation. This is a wonderful book...because the partnership of Lewis and Clark is arguably the most famous in American history. Highly recommended.
Bert Ruiz
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important journey of discovery, 15 Mar 2007
I bought this book mainly because I have all of Stephen Ambrose's books and like his style of writing, commonly with passion and normally very informative. This is the case with Undaunted Courage and I think it is one of his best books.

After purchasing quite a large 'plot' of land from Napoleon in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase i.e. about a third of the USA for $15,000,000 (not a bad deal!), Thomas Jefferson commissions an expedition to chart a new trail to the Pacific coast and to explore this newly purchased territory. No mean feat as it takes the expeditionary team eighteen months to complete this mammoth undertaking as the land encompasses most of the western half of the USA.

There are epic river journeys up the Mississippi & Missouri rivers, a gruelling traverse of the Rockies and then the finale of the hair raising decent of the Columbus river until eventually these pioneers reach the Pacific...and then they come all the way back! There are Indians, grizzly bears, treacherous trails, white knuckle river rides and a host of other dangers along the way...truly an amazing journey!

This however is not just a story of a journey by a team out to chart and explore hitherto previously unknown territory. This is also a scientific journey of discovery of great importance. In this aspect, according to the author, it ranks alongside Darwin and Cook's in importance. The scientific collection and documentation involved is vast but is explained very well in the book.

Reading about this great journey was enthralling for me as it gave me an education into how the USA expanded into a two ocean country and henceforth into a superpower. This is a book really about the second birth of America, the first belongs to the Pilgrim Fathers....there is a third birth too and that belongs to the 1846 war with Mexico when the USA acquires another large 'plot' of land including California from the Mexicans but that is another story.

In summation this is a book that really gives you an insight into how America was really pioneered and explored, more so it explains the hardships, tragedies and tribulations involved by those that did it....a great historic read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanistic chronicle of the epochal Lewis & Clark Expedition, 22 Dec 1997
By A Customer
"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.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but interesting read, 12 Jun 2006
By 
E. Hughes (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I bought this book because I realised that while at school in the UK I was actually taught nothing about how America went from being discovered to become a giant from Atlantic to Pacific.

My entire schooling on this subject could be fitted into one paragraph: 'America was found... some people settled there... they rebelled against English (Boston Tea Party)... Revolution... civil war... giant country'. Everything else I picked up from travelling, TV, books, films etc. And I had to start filling in the blanks.

So I opened this book interested in what happened to expand the US between the Revolution and the Civil war (which too often is taught as one event in the UK making it hard to understand). The book basically follows Captain Meriweather Lewis, a Virginian gent, who was friends with then president Jefferson. It chronicles Lewis's upbringing and education, as well as Jeffersons desire to expand the States without bloodshed. An expedition is long muted, to travel from the east up the Missouri, through Indian country (making friends on the way) and hopefully find an all water route to the Pacific.

Essentially the book breaks down into four parts; 1 the introduction and build up to leaving, 2 the outward journey, 3 the return leg, 4 what happened afterwards.

The first and final parts are exceptionally difficult to read, much of the text is quotations from letters, and it isnt the easiest to read. Written English from 1800s had no formal spelling, and is often extremely wordy and convoluted.

However, please try to work through the start and get to the actual journey. This is fantastic, it really shows insite into how Lewis and partner Clark felt, what they saw, experienced, feared etc. A superb story, and an amazing one at that. I was facinated, and didnt want to put the book down. I always wanted to see what was around the next bend in the river, whether the next nation of Indians would welcome them, whether all would survive.

Apart from difficulty with some of the language (might be helpful having a thesaurus and or dictionary handy), the one thing which really spoilt this was the lack of information after the expedition. It is more focused on the downfall of Lewis and the fate of his journals.

It would be brilliant to have another chapter giving brief details of the American - Indian relations in the following ten-fifteen years, and whether any of Lewis's suggestions and policies on the subject ever came into play or ever worked.

Otherwise, a very interesting book from Mr Ambrose to add to Band of Brothers as a most memorable read from him.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed account of an epic undertaking, 7 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Paperback)
Though less known to Europeans than the epic explorations of the interior of Africa in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Lewis and Clark's great crossing of North America to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1803-06 ranks with the expeditions of Bruce, Park, Burton and Livingstone. It is hard to conceive a subject more intrinsically exciting for a book and for much of this work the author does it ample justice. In so doing he makes a pivotal period in United States history easily accessible. Within the context of a biography of Meriwether Lewis, the expedition itself dominates, and the story races along, made all the more enjoyable by the extracts from the leaders' journals and letters. Again and again one is struck by their delight at beholding sights of splendour hitherto unseen by civilised man, by their tenacity when confronting terrifying obstacles and by their indomitability in the face of hunger, cold, fatigue and illness. Through their eyes we witness the grandeur of an all but pristine wilderness and the self-inflicted misery of the lives of the tribes of savages they encounter. The first part of the book frames the expedition very competently in its historical context, using as a connecting thread the early life of Lewis and his contacts with Thomas Jefferson. The expedition is the core of the narrative but the final part is almost unbearably poignant, detailing Lewis's mental deterioration and eventual suicide within three years of his triumphant completion of his splendid achievement. It is a minor weakness of the book that William Clark remains a shadowy figure throughout, to the extent to which his separate exploration of the Yellowstone on the return journey is essentially not covered. Despite the foregoing strengths there are significant weaknesses. Mr.Ambrose's choice of wording often jars to the European ear - "the papers and maps were okay" (p.384) being typical. Even worse, is when he speculates that in the last moments of his life Lewis might have reflected on "the time he got shot in the ass." These are minor complaints however compared with the author's treatment of contacts with Indian Tribes, when we find the heroes taken to task for not sharing the opinions and attitudes of the Politically Correct of two centuries later (see p.357-8 for a superb example of being wise after the event). It is however with the fawning adulation with which Jefferson is dealt that the narrative falls to the level of the ridiculous. We learn of the master and lover of the slave girl Sally Hemmings that "No American has ever surpassed Jefferson, and fewer than a handful have ever equalled him as friend, teacher, guide, model, leader, companion"(p.63), an evaluation that seems unfair as regards Lincoln and the Roosevelts, not to mention many who never aspired to the White House. To describe this paragon as "the greatest champion of human rights in American history" (p.348) is not only unjust to these same gentlemen but is to dismiss Eleanor Roosevelt's work for the UN charter and Herbert Hoover's superhuman work of famine relief in Russia. In summary "Undaunted Courage" is a book that is enjoyable and readable, but could have been considerably better had the writer's prejudices been kept in check.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb Ambrose work, 19 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Paperback)
For me, Undaunted Courage seemed to start off incredibly slow, but it turned into a 'just one more page' type of reading once the expedition began. Ambrose, a professional historian and graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison (Chapman and Jorgenson, 8), has been forever interested in the Lewis and Clark travels since reading the Biddle edition of the journals of Lewis and Clark in 1975. Ambrose, a doctor of American History and former professor of history at the University of New Orleans (Chapman and Jorgenson, 8), is best known for his critically acclaimed, best-selling masterpiece D-Day. He didn't fall short of another masterpiece with Undaunted Courage. Ambrose is most appreciated for his "uncommon ability to bring history and historical actors to vivid life" (Chapman and Jorgenson, 10). He is particularly good at making Meriwether Lewis come alive in Undaunted Courage. He introduces the reader to a new side of Lewis - a side that is at times fascinating, yet frustrating to understand. Ambrose's account forces the reader to delve into the material and examine everything they previously thought about Meriwether Lewis and his heroic travels west. As I reexamined my ideas of Lewis, I was shocked to discover that there was so much I never learned. This work has opened me up to a completely different side of Meriwether Lewis. The hero portrayed in high school history texts differs greatly from the hero described by Ambrose. Although he is no less a hero, Ambrose's Lewis has problems that never make it into most history textbooks. He battles alcoholism and depression so serious "that it caused him unbearable pain" (471). These are characteristics I never would have associated with Lewis. I find it disturbing that Lewis' faults are never mentioned in classroom settings. However, that was part of the reason this book had such an impact on me . . . I learned so much from it. This book showed me that even heroes are human and that even the people who are respected and adorned are not always happy with themselves. Undaunted Courage could have easily been a book of fact after boring fact, but it was not. Ambrose's objectivity, devotion, and never-ending infatuation with the Lewis and Clark expedition helps keep the book interesting. It is filled with interesting facts about characters and the expedition itself, but what enjoyed most about the novel involved Ambrose's own experiences on that famous trail. Combined with quotes and authentic journal excerpts from both Lewis and Clark, the book is a masterpiece. Nothing is left unanswered. Everyone should read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my top ten all time reads!, 4 Oct 1997
By A Customer
I have always read history, and I am particularly interested in American history. But, I had never given Lewis and Clark much time or thought until I read Undaunted Courage. From the preparations for the journey to the expedition's return to St. Louis the book hums with excitement. It is filled with interesting characters--the mercurial Lewis, Cruzatte the one-eyed boatman, Drouillard the hunter, Jefferson the visionary, the scheming Manuel Lisa, Sacagawea bereft of myth, all are brought to life by Stephen Ambrose. Ambrose is a man who is so captured by the L and C story that he went over the route himself many times, and describes that magnificent country as it must have been nearly 200 years ago so that the reader cannot help but form images in their mind. And if the people and the scenery were not enough, this book has the sub-plots for at least five different movies--Showdown with the Teton Sioux, winter the lovely Mandan maidens, the miracle meeting with the Shoshone and Sacagawea's brother Cameahwaite (in my view one of the great happenstances of all history,) the wretched winter in the Northwest, the encounter with the Blackfeet. So why isn't there a good movie about Lewis and Clark? This book has fueled what will be a lifelong passion for Lewis and Clark. It makes my annual pilgrimages to Fort Clatsop so much more meaningful for me and the 60 eighth graders who accompany me each year. If you really like this book, I encourage you to follow it up with Dayton Duncan's "Out West," which brings the great adventure into the 20th Century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stepping into Paradise, 4 Mar 1997
By A Customer
One elaborate sentence governed the emergence of the American West. It was penned by President Thomas Jefferson to Captain Meriwether Lewis, in 1803: "The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by it's [sic] course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregan [sic], Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce." With Jefferson's pronouncement the stage is set for Stephen E. Ambrose and Undaunted Courage, his masterful re-telling of the story of the Corps of Discovery, as the expedition members were called, and especially of Lewis, its 30 year-old commander.

Foregoing a college education to take over running of the family plantation in Virginia, Lewis was at an early age already an established member of the community. When the Louisiana Purchase became reality, it was to Lewis, his Private Secretary and friend of two years, that Jefferson turned to head the expedition.

Accordingly, in May, 1804 Lewis, joined by William Clark and 29 others, crossed the Missouri and began his famous trek to explore the vast plains and mountains beyond the then-limits of civilization. Twenty-eight months later they emerged from the wilderness to a country that had never really expected to see them again.

Early chapters are devoted to circumstances surrounding the outfitting of the expedition. Then, in Chapter 8 we set out on this tremendous voyage of discovery, a monumental undertaking that would prove to be a watermark of scientific knowledge of the new continent, achieving high praise for some, and grave disappointment to others. (Lewis had difficulty obtaining success after the expedition, committing suicide in 1809.) Ambrose calls him "the greatest of all American explorers," and this fine book brings Lewis and his company to life. I think you will enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Lewis and Clark expedition, 17 Aug 2012
By 
P. Morrill (New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Paperback)
I live in the US, and a British citizen is joining several of us for a week-long bike tour of the Katy Trail, in Missouri. UnDaunted Courage is a well-written account of the Lewis and Clark expedition and our bike tour will follow the route of that great expedition.. Amazon UK was able to quickly ship a copy to my friend and I hear he is enjoying the book. It is one of the best history books ever written and will deepen our expedition along the Missouri river.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So far it is AMAZING, 21 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Although this book is long, and my seem to be BORING at the begining, once you get to the actual expidition, it's great. It is an easy read, because I am only 10 and I am already more than halfway. When the expidition meets the indians, it gets really exiting. This is a great book and is not for everyone.
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