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Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America's Wild Frontier: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America's Western Wilderness Paperback – 6 Oct 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; First Paperback Edition edition (6 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074347788X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743477888
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 289,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Ken Burns Stephen Ambrose is that rare breed: a historian with true passion for his subject. Here he takes one of the great, but also one of the most superficially considered, stories in American history and breathes fresh life into it. Lewis comes alive as we've never known him. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stephen E. Ambrose, leading World War II historian, was the author of numerous books on history including the Number 1 bestselling BAND OF BROTHERS, D-DAY (on which SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was based) PEGASUS BRIDGE and WILD BLUE. He is founder of the Eisenhower Center and the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. He died in 2002.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: School & Library Binding
"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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Format: 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.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
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....
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