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13 of 13 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

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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5.0 out of 5 stars Missouri and after a momentous journey across the great plains and over the Rocky Mountains he camped beside ..., 20 July 2014
David Rowland - See all my reviews
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The western half of the United States in 1800 was a vast unknown land so President Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition to find a way from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean and to describe the country and peoples that he found in that huge blank on the map.

On 22 May 1804 Lewis, his partner William Clark and their expedition set out from St Louis, Missouri and after a momentous journey across the great plains and over the Rocky Mountains he camped beside the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River on 10 November 1805.

Stephen Ambrose in his sweeping account of the journey of the first white Americans to cross the unknown part of the continent brings the events vividly to life and when reading his account I tried to imagine what the country was like before white Americans settled there and built their towns, cities, railways and roads. Reading the original words of Lewis's diaries can be quite difficult because of the way he uses language so Ambrose performs a valuable service for us by putting into modern language Lewis's words. Clearly this is a labour of love for Ambrose who has himself followed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and he tells the story of the jouirney in such a way as to make it difficult for you to put the book down once you have started reading it.

It is a terrific book and I thoroughly recommend it to everyone and as someone who has seen for himself some years ago the magnificent country that the expedition crossed I think Ambrose has told the story in a way that is truly memorable and enjoyable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Internet and Society, 12 Mar 1999
By A Customer
"Undaunted Courage" is a remarkably detailed account of the Lewis and Clark ventures, known as the "Corps of Discovery", which relies on the journals of Lewis, Clark, and others that accompanied the expedition. Stephen Ambrose, also the author of New York Times bestseller D-Day and the biographies of Nixon and Eisenhower, successfully recreates this American journey to the Pacific for the reader by using direct quotes from the journals from start to finish. This allows the reader to fully understand the emotions and the actions behind the friendships, hardships, and first encounters with Native Americans and unknown land, the members of the expedition endured. During the tour, Ambrose critques and analyzes decisions made by the crew and then offers an alternative route that, if taken, may have changed history forever.
The main goal of the expedition was Jefferson's quest to find an all water route to the Pacific ocean and to make peaceful relations with the Native Americans. Jefferson was confident that Meriweather Lewis, his personal secretary and close friend, was the best suited man for the job. Jefferson and Lewis had the utmost respect for each other, and Jefferson trusted that Lewis would use his best judgement to ensure that the expedition be a success. Lewis felt his long time friend, William Clark, would best be suited to be his equal on the journey, and together they would lead a crew of men to the Pacific ocean and back. Lewis and Clark chose their crew based on prior military experience, reputation, and endurance, and promised the men land once the expedition was completed. This served as an incentive for the men, however most were excited to have the opportunity to explore the unkown.
Lewis and Clark both had complimentary skills that would be necessary for the success of the expedition. Lewis was knowledgeable about medicine and botany, and a skilled writer, while Clark was useful in mapping their progress. However, Jefferson and Clark both noted that Lewis seemed to suffer from depression, possibly genetically inherited from his father, but not thought to be too serious. Ambrose points out specific dates that Lewis quit writing in his journal, possibly due to depression.
Once the journey concluded, and an all water route was not found, it became apparent that Lewis's depression was more serious than suspected. Lewis felt that the expedition was a failure, and that he had disappointed Jefferson, alos he was unable to find love. He turned to excessive drinking, lying, and put himself into debt. The only failure he was responsible for was his failure to realize the significance of his discoveries. Lewis's failure to realize this may have possibly contributed to why people today are unaware of the contributions this hero has made to history.
However, once you read Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage" you will rediscover history and have answers to questions you thought you would never have. You will find this book hard to put down because of the excitement and surprised Ambrose induces by introducing us to material that will allow us to put pieces of history together that bring us to the present day. I must say that the book does begin slowly, however once the expedition is on their way, it is a page turner right to the very end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, detailed view with one glaring omission, 28 July 1997
By A Customer
"Undaunted Courage" is a well written, detailed look at Meriwether Lewis and his management of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition across the Louisiana Purchase. The author, Stephen Ambrose is clearly entralled with Lewis's adventures and he has a right to be. The decisions Lewis made, his unrelenting passion for the job given him by THomas Jefferson and the ingenuity he showed on so many difficult situations reveals Lewis to be a man of immense courage, stamina and intelligence. With one glaring omission the author reveals the true depth of Lewis and his abilities. We come away with a sense of how huge this undertaking truly was, how much knowledge was available to be gathered (and the supreme job that Lewis did in gathering so much of it) and the many layers of politics surrounding the expedition.
While noting in passing Lewis' many racist acts towards native Americans and his paternalistic attitude towards native Americans and African Americans, Ambrose does not at any point go into detail to look at what Lewis' racism says about the man and how it impacts the job Lewis did or the contributions that others made to his success. It is not enough to simply assume he was a man of his times. He was smart enough to see the possibilities in the native Americans who's skills he could use. In fact a number of native Americans played such an important role in the journey that it can be said it would have failed without them.
While this is not the focus of the book and should not overshadow it, Ambrose himself notes the racist acts so often that the reader is left with many questions and ideas which could have been explored in somewhat more detail by the author.
Having said that, I enjoyed the book immensely both for its deep history and for the pleasure of the author's own energy. Ambrose clearly loves the adventure of Lewis'journey, the countryside in which it played out and the telling of so many incredible tales.
Robert Quinn-o'Connor (
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at America when she was young, 21 Sep 1996
By A Customer
Undaunted Courage
by Stephen Ambrose
Reviewed by Tom Quinn

The reason America stretches from "sea to shining sea" probably has more to do with Thomas Jefferson's vision of the future country than it does with George Washington's or perhaps with any other founding father.

Seeking to avoid a country of European-like warring states, Jefferson envisioned one nation extending from coast to coast. His further innovation was to see new territories, not as colonies subject to the federal government, but as states in every way equal to the original thirteen. Indians were considered by our third president as fully capable of citizenry, once educated. Strangely, he never credited slaves in the same way, even though Jefferson realized that slave-holding dehumanized owners and set this country on a disaster course.

So much did Jefferson want a continental nation that he fostered several failed explorations of the western territories, both by philanthropic subscription as well as by government commission. One expedition was recalled when the government discovered its leader was a French spy. Eventually, the Lewis and Clark expedition achieved Jefferson's desire to map the northwest territory and spur commercial development.

Jefferson's eager and sweeping vision of America is described in Undaunted Courage, the recent history by Stephen Ambrose of the Lewis and Clark trek which followed the US purchase of the Louisiana territory from Napoleon. Jefferson was a member of the Lewis and Clark troop all but literally. He hand-picked Merriweather Lewis as commander, seeing in his fellow Virginian and former army paymaster a practical, meticulous, loyal, and educated leader of men. Lewis lived with Jefferson in the White House for two years as his secretary and aide, all the while receiving Jefferson's humanist tutelage in everything from science and politics to philosophy and Indian affairs. He even sent Lewis to study with the young nation's foremost botanist in Philadelphia to prepare for the trip.

Captain Lewis picked his good friend Lieutenant William Clark to co-lead the expedition which included a 15-year old Sacegewea, baby on her back, as they journeyed across some of the wildest and most dangerous territory in an exploratory feat worthy of Christopher Columbus or Francis Drake. Along the way, Lewis made celestial observations; sent Indian chiefs to Washington, DC, to meet the President; transcribed the vocabulary of Native American nations; made the first maps of rivers, plains, and mountains; recorded many new-to-science species of animals and plants in meticulous descriptions and drawings; and sought to displace the British and French traders who had already established trading relations with tribes in the area. He delivered Sacegewea's baby; treated his men with mercury for their syphilis and for other ills with pills from Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence); he barely escaped with his life from a grizzly; ordered his men flogged (after trial) for desertion and other misdeeds; built boats and forts; traversed rapids and mountains; and survived a fight with young Blackfoot warriors, killing several in the battle and escaping pursuit by riding almost non-stop for two days. He described vast panoramas, seeing buffalo as far as the eye could see; observing huge herds of elk, many beaver, and thousands of migrating squirrels; and writing of skies darkened by thousands of birds. Lewis' journals are filled with quaint and variable spellings and with acute observations. It was not uncommon for him to use hundreds of words in describing a single bird or the design and construction of Native American canoes. Lewis was feted in towns and cities on his triumphant return to DC where he spent many hours with Jefferson (one evening in the White House was spent on all fours as he and Jefferson together examined his maps of the heretofore uncharted territory). Jefferson received from Lewis plant and animal specimens, Native American artifacts, and even live animals.

The most important mission of the journey was to record and publish the journals, opening the way for American commerce to displace European traders. The Lewis and Clark expedition stimulated the commerce all right, but Lewis never finished the task of publishing. He accepted Jefferson's appointment as Governor of Louisiana, but dawdled over a year before going to St. Louis to fill the post. He avoided editing his journals, dragging them around with him on his travels. He courted several women unsuccessfully and bemoaned his misfortune in letters to Clark. He drank heavily. Because of his failure to publish, Lewis' journals did not appear for decades, long after other travelers had given their own names to the many rivers and landmarks first mapped and named by Lewis and Clark. As a result, the true success of the Lewis and Clark expedition was not appreciated until late in 19th Century.

As Governor, Lewis engaged in land speculation and tried to make his fortune by investing in one of the many fur trading companies then formed. He made political enemies and, when a bureaucrat in President Madison's administration called him to account for spending thousands of dollars of government funds, Lewis feared personal bankruptcy. He set out from St. Louis to DC to justify himself. After traveling down the Mississippi River, he took an overland route to avoid New Orleans, fearing a British attack in the years before the War of 1812. Enroute he was depressed (apparently a lifelong condition), and one gruesome night, Merriweather Lewis shot himself -- twice -- in a bungled, though eventually successful, suicide. He was yet in his thirties.

Undaunted Courage is a fascinating look at America when she was young and at America's storybook heroes as they really were. America and its heroes remain impressive, warts and all.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Focused and spell binding, draws you in!, 7 Jun 1998
By A Customer
For students of American history, this is simply not to be missed. This book will no doubt become a must read for students and historical hobbyists everywhere. I predict that the book will further stimulate travelers making the pilgrimage along the famous route. The author brings scenery and the terrain to life; you feel like you were there when you've finished a chapter. The commentary on the leadership of Lewis and Clark is unique, balanced, detailed and fair. While clearly a fan of the two explorers, he does not hesitate to note his opinions, which he discusses in detail, of errors of judgement and the fortunes of luck. He notes clearly that the success of the journey, and of their safety, rested on a occasional encounters with small numbers of friendly native Americans, most of whose names are lost to history. The stories of the teenage boys who led them eastward back across the mountains was especially poignant. While not a comprehensive book detailing the full scope of politics of the time, the book weaves the journey into the national debates and conflicts between Jefferson and Congress. Contains an excellent biography for further reading. In addition, there were several excellent maps (although the inclusion of current state lines would have been useful).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Must read for lovers of history or great adventures, 28 Jan 1997
By A Customer
Travel with Lewis and Clark up the Missouri River into the Pacific Northwest. "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen E. Ambrose, a detailed account of Meriwether Lewis' journey with William Clark and the Corps of Discovery, taken from the explorers' words, allows the reader to experience firsthand the adventure into unknown lands.

Ambrose details the life and times of Lewis, including the events that shaped his life and how ultimately the trip cost him more than he could have ever anticipated. The reader will have the opportunity to return to the late 1700s and early 1800s as seen through the eyes of Meriwether Lewis.

Thomas Jefferson is also a prime figure in the story as he fosters the idea of the venture and the young mind of Lewis. Jefferson had the dream of expansion and development of the country and became instrumental in arranging the trip and preparing Lewis for his responsibilities on the trip. The relationships between contemporaries, Jefferson and Lewis and Lewis and Clark, is explored in great depth as these historical figures come to life in these pages.

"Undaunted Courage" is a must read for lovers of history or for people who simply enjoy a great adventure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Armchair time travel for those born centuries too late, 2 Mar 1999
By A Customer
I, a 30ish female mystery reader, purchased this book because the cover caught my attention and to prove to myself that I could read something besides brain candy. Basically the same reason I read "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking, and "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" a few years ago. This book may turn me into a permanent non fiction reader by choice. I read the early chapters with the attitude of a school girl preparing for an exam and laid the book aside for a few months. Last week I picked it up again as a nighttime sleep inducer and found myself enthralled for hours. My excitement has increased with each new chapter and I'm trying to draw it out because I don't want to reach the end. My husband has suffered through my reading incredible sections aloud and my new desire to visit many of the places discussed. I wish to thank Stephen Ambrose for the tremendous effort to bring this story to life. He has enabled me to see the continent as it originally was with the excitement of an early explorer searching for knowledge. I was transported.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Are there any Lewis' left?, 5 Sep 1997
By A Customer
Everyone (hopefully) knows the 'facts' about this episode in US history - the purchase of the Lousiana Terratory and the expedition to the Pacific Ocean lead by Lewis and Clark. What most people do not know is contained in this well written, compelling narrative.

Ambrose takes the reader by the hand and together accompany the explorers across rivers, over mountains and prairies until they reach the Pacific Ocean. He also paints a convincing background of the beliefs (e.g., that the Mandan Indians might have been the Lost Tribe of Israel) and politics which fueled Jefferson's ambitions for the future of America.

However, the heart of this story is the character of Meriweather Lewis. A man, born into a landed and privileged family in Virginia, Lewis is the epitomity of self reliance, a man of modest but heroic proportions. His observations of the 'new' lands, animals, mountians and challenges he was facing are both scientific and moving. His ability to lead men, co-manage the Corps of Disc
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Political Side of the Lewis & Clark Journey..., 31 Dec 1996
By A Customer
Steven Ambrose's treatise on the political motivations of the Lewis & Clark Expedition will undoubtedly have huge popular appeal as the bicentennial of the Expedition approaches.

The author has researched the motives behind Thomas Jefferson's historic decision to ask Congress to fund the Expedition, as well as his decision to select Captain Meriwether Lewis to command the voyage.

The reader is escorted step-by-step along the journey -- immensely interesting by itself -- then further treated to an analysis of the miriad of small decisions made along the way. Any single poor decision -- in navigation, indian relations or daily survival -- could have changed history forever.

Ambrose has concluded that Jefferson's decision to commission Meriwether Lewis for the "Voyage of Discovery" was perhaps the single most important point in American history -- the right man at the right time!

Review by Mark Norrell (Pocatello, Idaho)
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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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