Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore

Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America's Wild Frontier This is an expansion of my past micro review reflecting on a read from 2008 Very satisfying read about the Lewis and Clark expedition, with a focus on Lewis and his relationship to Jefferson To me it s great because of Ambrose s ability to render a great story while marshalling his skills in making sense out of the myriad of known historical details and context He brings alive so many of the times the expedition almost met disaster due to bad judgments or naive approaches toward Native America This is an expansion of my past micro review reflecting on a read from 2008 Very satisfying read about the Lewis and Clark expedition, with a focus on Lewis and his relationship to Jefferson To me it s great because of Ambrose s ability to render a great story while marshalling his skills in making sense out of the myriad of known historical details and context He brings alive so many of the times the expedition almost met disaster due to bad judgments or naive approaches toward Native American tribes they encountered His love of Western history shines through as does his personal experience with the Missouri River from so many camping trips with his family The flaws of both men are not neglected I cried at the end over the events surrounding the suicide of Lewis.My mind comes back to this book due to a recent read of a history by Howe on the 30 year period after this exploration What Hath God Wrought While the Lewis and Clark expedition experienced a welcoming response from most tribes, with essentially only one violent incident associated with a theft, the U.S relations with the eastern tribes deteriorated to the point that President Jackson spearheaded the near complete removal of most Indians east of the Mississippi River to Oklahoma Territory in the period 1830 35 Soon afterward, the U.S acquired lands in the west even larger than the Louisiana Purchase as spoils of the Mexican War of 1846 48 As the settlement of the west proceeded and greed for land and resources married the national vision of dominion under the banner of Manifest Destiny , all tribes of the west were subjugated and placed on reservations Everyone knows this history The point is the story told in Undaunted Courage captures such a haunting state of hope and innocence.The book is among my top ten of all time because of its handling of a subject in a way that really impacted my imagination and outlook It reads like a novel, one with an important quest, abundant adventure and wonder, and a story of a remarkable friendship and partnership between Lewis and Clark Compared to Clark, the Virginian Captain Lewis wasdiplomatic and trusting of Indians,of a naturalist, and less a fan of slavery and less capable in organizational details and finances Lieutenant Clark, who Lewis considered equal in authority on the mission, was less articulate andattuned to military hierarchy He waswary about trusting Indians due to his Kentucky militia experience in fighting Indians He was a great hand at navigation, mapping, hunting, and organizational management of the expedition He brought his slave York along as a valet, but came to accord himrespect and roles of responsibility in the superb teamwork of the Corps of Discovery Another delightful element of Ambrose s account is bringing all to bear that he could of the story of Sacagewea and her essential role in the success of the expedition A teenaged Shoshone woman and wife of a French Canadian trapper, she served as a guide and translator, defusing much wariness over many first encounters with Indian tribes on their journey It was amazing how she gave birth to a son on the trip and managed with aplomb to bring the infant along on the harrowing excursion over the mountains and down the Columbia River to the Pacific Coast Ambrose excels in portraying the perspectives of this band of travelers, their wonder over the beauty and vastness of this wilderness and their awe and special challenges in encounters with many tribes for the first time Their separation from the rest of the world forthan 20,000 years made some of them essentially aliens, yet recognizably human with a sophisticated culture and successful way of life Others had knowledge of Europeans from encounters with French trappers and mountain men, and, beyond the mountains, with Spanish missionaries, from whom horses were adopted and disseminated The threat of the white man wasin the way of their weapons and trade goods giving advantage to one tribe over the other Little did they realize that the expedition s demonstration of a path into the west and a way over the mountains to the Pacific opened the door to a major invasion of settlers who would want the lands and resources for themselves Even before that happened the diseases from the Europeans, especially smallpox, would devastate all the tribes due to their lack of resistance Already at the time of Lewis and Clark s wintering with the Mandans in 1804 that tribe had already been decimated from small pox The mapping and documentation of Indian tribes, new animals and plants was an amazing geographical and scientific accomplishment However, these successes could not sustain Lewis He had trouble writing up the official account of the expedition and could not master the challenges of administration required in his appointment as Governor of the Louisiana Territory Financial troubles and alcohol abuse appear to have contributed to his decline and the suicide inferred by Ambrose Clark did better in reaping the rewards of his success, assuming a succession of positions in military and civilian administration I was sad to see that despite his belief in Indian assimilation in white society he got tapped as Superintendent of Indian Affairs to implement a lot of the details of Jackson s Indian removal policy The impact of what Lewis and Clark accomplished is well respected these days Do yourself a favor and read this book and gain some pride about being human Read the book review Steve Sckenda forarticulate praise of the book See the wonderful Ken Burns documentary if you get a chance often posted as here to Youtube This was much than a bunch of guys out on an exploring and collecting expedition This was a military expedition into hostile territory InPresident Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a pioneering voyage across the Great Plains and into the Rockies It was completely uncharted territory a wild, vast land ruled by the Indians Charismatic and brave, Lewis was the perfect choice and he experienced the savage North American continent before any other white man UNDAUNTED COURAGE is the tale of a hero, but it is also a tragedy Lewis may have received a hero s welcome on his return to Washington in , but his discoveries did not match the president s fantasies of sweeping, fertile plains ripe for the taking Feeling the expedition had been a failure, Lewis took to drink and piled up debts Full of colourful characters Jefferson, the president obsessed with conquering the west William Clark, the rugged frontiersman Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the expedition Drouillard, the French Indian hunter this is one of the great adventure stories of all time and it shot to the top of the US bestseller charts Drama, suspense, danger and diplomacy combine with romance and personal tragedy making UNDAUNTED COURAGE an outstanding work of scholarship and a thrilling adventure Lewis and Clark the actual story.This is the ultimate adventure A bunch of dudes, in totally uncharted territory, trying to to make it there and back alive What I loved it shows Indians both good and bad Some Indians were incredibly gracious to the party Others complete manipulative jerks All of them wanted guns, all of them wanted tobacco, and all of them really really wanted whiskey And they gave away their women for anyone to boink I had too romantic a view of indians before this b Lewis and Clark the actual story.This is the ultimate adventure A bunch of dudes, in totally uncharted territory, trying to to make it there and back alive What I loved it shows Indians both good and bad Some Indians were incredibly gracious to the party Others complete manipulative jerks All of them wanted guns, all of them wanted tobacco, and all of them really really wanted whiskey And they gave away their women for anyone to boink I had too romantic a view of indians before this book it enlightened me It shows how Jefferson was a man who wanted an American empire very, very badly How he foolishly thought he could manipulate the Indians And the utter insensitivity and disrespect white men had for indians Also, I am supremely jealous they traversed the land before any airplane had ever flown over it, any car driven through it Lewis gives gorgeous portraits of the land as he passes through did you know the great plains were once filled with game, and it was only the hunting and destruction the settlers brought that forced them to the mountains where they live today Good stuff.And Ambrose is a superb writer this one will not put you to sleep like any history textbook The Lewis and Clark expedition is one of the most fascinating aspects of American history Ambrose does an impeccable job of chronicling the journey, as well as details before and after the adventure This book can be a little hard to stick with, so I opted to switch off between audio and print That seemed to harness my attention better 12 years later, I continue to dwell on the historical knowledge I gained form this incredible story Highly recommended. This is one of the best books on exploration and great explorers I have ever read As a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, there were numerous reminders via place names of these explorers named Lewis and Clark Clark Fork, Lewiston, historical markers of their route, etc Given the ruggedness of the terrain, I knew that these men must have been made of very tough stuff and resourcefulness then And Ambrose clearly shows what Lewis and Clark were up against indeed, the mission to put a This is one of the best books on exploration and great explorers I have ever read As a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, there were numerous reminders via place names of these explorers named Lewis and Clark Clark Fork, Lewiston, historical markers of their route, etc Given the ruggedness of the terrain, I knew that these men must have been made of very tough stuff and resourcefulness then And Ambrose clearly shows what Lewis and Clark were up against indeed, the mission to put a man on the moon had farlogistical, technical, and scientific support than did Meriwether Lewis and William Clark undertook their mission to find a route from the Eastern United States to the Pacific via the newly obtained Louisiana Purchase After reading this book, I have an even greater respect for their courage, resourcefulness, and determination to do what they did Highly recommend this book to anyone desiring to knowabout the Lewis Clark Expedition and or the history of the American West I ve been weighing up whether or not to read this again, that I feel some resistance to journeying up the Missouri to the pacific coast again in its company probably rules against it, perhaps I might have had a higher regard for it had I not first read Hidden Cities The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization, which although it only touches on Lewis and Clark was I felt farinteresting in its discussion of the context of their mission Jefferson s vision of America and i I ve been weighing up whether or not to read this again, that I feel some resistance to journeying up the Missouri to the pacific coast again in its company probably rules against it, perhaps I might have had a higher regard for it had I not first read Hidden Cities The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization, which although it only touches on Lewis and Clark was I felt farinteresting in its discussion of the context of their mission Jefferson s vision of America and ideas about the indigenous inhabitants of the continent This by contrast feelsof a lash by lash account of how the soldiers on the mission were whipped for stealing whiskey on the difficult journey west Although Lewis and Clark and their expedition are certainly fascinating I found this book to be readable but not particularly memorable Also having later found out that Ambrose s use of evidence in his Eisenhower books was questionable, so I don t know if I can entirely trust him as a writer Perhaps I m tainted by revelations about the author s techniques that were revealed late in his life But also, understanding what really happened on this journey, makes me think that without the Native Americans, Lewis Clark would have never made it over the mountains, never mind making it back.They were incredibly lucky And the author focuses primarily on Lewis It s a good over view of the journey, pulling together various sources, but it seemed whenever Ambrose had to really get you into Perhaps I m tainted by revelations about the author s techniques that were revealed late in his life But also, understanding what really happened on this journey, makes me think that without the Native Americans, Lewis Clark would have never made it over the mountains, never mind making it back.They were incredibly lucky And the author focuses primarily on Lewis It s a good over view of the journey, pulling together various sources, but it seemed whenever Ambrose had to really get you into what these men experienced, he had a hard time and had to use the words of others Having experienced the Rocky Mountains in winter at minus 60 and on many feet of snow during Winter Warfare training with 10th Special Forces Group Airborne I have tremendous respect for what these men accomplished and went through I m not quite sure Ambrose understood he did mention the rafting trip he took.But really, it wasn t like it was an uninhabited wilderness They constantly needed Native guides to show them the way That doesn t diminish what they did, but it does make me think of the whole thing a bit differently.By the way, I drove the Natchez Trace Parkway recently on the way to New Orleans and have to admit the monotony could drive a depressed man to suicide To do list Defend pop history, talk about America I was on the phone with a history major friend of mine and I told him I had just finished Undaunted Courage He chuckled and told me Stephen Ambrose is a pop historian who isn t really worth reading Well I asked him, when was the last time he had read a research paper or PHD thesis for fun There exists a needless divide between academic writing versus accessible, interesting yet informative writing The divide exists because of the attit To do list Defend pop history, talk about America I was on the phone with a history major friend of mine and I told him I had just finished Undaunted Courage He chuckled and told me Stephen Ambrose is a pop historian who isn t really worth reading Well I asked him, when was the last time he had read a research paper or PHD thesis for fun There exists a needless divide between academic writing versus accessible, interesting yet informative writing The divide exists because of the attitude of people like my anonymous friend named after an African water dwelling mammal if normal people can read it, well then it must not be sufficiently academic for the likes of me, a true intellectual Instead of pretending to enjoy the esoteric research writing style I take my hat off to people like Ambrose who are able to express ideas in an intelligible and passionate way that is still understandable to most people My favorite example of this would be Carl Sagan and Cosmos, but Ambrose is in a similar vein He discusses big ideas and explains them in such a way that isn t boring but instead enjoyable to read He s not writing to a handful of people who read peer reviewed journals, he s talking to most people What s so bad about that Onto America and this book The story of the actual expedition is incredible There journey was basically like exploring a new planet as the expedition was cut off from communication with the outside world for 2 years They had no idea what they were going to encounter or discover The best minds at the time knew the continent was about 3,000 miles wide, in between the coasts they believed that the Rockies would resemble the Appalachia in size and that dinosaurs still existed there is a paragraph about Lewis speaking with Caspar Wistar before heading off They really were setting off on a journey of discovery, people didn t know what was out there but they had sharpened a method of recording data and reporting it back to the various intellectual societies With an immense desire to learn and record what they saw diligently, Lewis, Clark and their 30 some odd men set off The astonishing sense of possibility and discovery at the time, the leadership displayed by the captains, the perseverance of the Corp of Discovery, the fascinating stories of encountering tribes who had never seen white people before, the discovery of plants and animals sometimesfrightening than others , survival of hardship, etc, all incredible Within this book there are several stories that can be extracted and discussed Some of my favorites are seeing a Sioux war dance, encountering the grizzly bear, Shoshones tribes and their lack of guns, 8 year old boys exploring and hunting in the woods at night There are several personalities that are a delight to consider and who are presented with enthusiasm This marks the second time I ve read this book, and on my current America bender I read with a focus towards what makes America unique What defines us, how did our soul begin to form This book has a lot of information in those areas I think the main things I walk away with are the sense of possibility, the joy of discovery, and the one I d like to focus one our unique leadership style of the passionate outdoorsman meets the quiet intellectual Lewis embodies the American spirit in a body that Jefferson wishes he had well, minus the suicidal part He is intelligent, capable, a man of principle, a hard worker and a tough leader but a man who can get his hands dirty and would never ask a subordinate to do something he wouldn t do himself, a man who inspires the best out of others that s the American spirit and leadership style to a t Be able to get your hands dirty but still discuss Shakespeare America was the right place at the right time, you had men who gave birth to an idea and real estate to the west that allowed their ideals to take on different shapes that were appropriate to the circumstances as they traveled America is an idea that evolves and takes on different shapes while adhering to her fundamental principles of equality, opportunity and hard work It s interesting to note that at the beginning of the country there was still division over the how we go about doing this do you favor the businessman or the common man, do you pinch pennies or do you invest in the future , I wonder if we still have such an acute sense of possibility or frankly the kind of opportunities that were available to people during this time or even our grandparents I digress, but here s the point America kicks ass We did then and we do now The new order of man was perhaps a bitexcited then but if we can retain their idealism as we explore increasingly populated terrain That s this generation s Lewis and Clark campaign How do we navigate the new frontier of a crowded, entrenched and entitled group of people Will we achieve the same excellence Is it something we can maintain We shall see.QuotesJefferson talking about Lewis childhood, he was remarkable even in infancy for enterprise, boldness and discretion When only 8 years of age, he habitually went out in the dead of night alone with his dogs, into the forest to hunt the raccoon and opossum as a boy and young man, he went barefoot, in the Virginia manner According to Jefferson, the young Lewis hunted barefoot in the snow 24..30 how cool is that In the years following the revolution, life on the Virginia plantation had much to recommend it There was the reality of political independence There were the balls and dinner, the entertainment There was freedom of religion The political talk, about the nature of man and the role of government, has not been surpassed at any time or any place since, and at its best the talk could stand compared to the level in ancient Athens 33In addition, it seemed unlikely that one nation could govern an entire contient The distances were just too great A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat, no side of beef, no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster Nothing ever had moved any faster, and, as far as Jefferson s contemporaries were able to tell, nothing ever would 52Jefferson believed in what he called an empire of liberty Our confederacy must be viewed as the nest from which all America, North or South, is to be peopled, he wrote even before the Constitution was adopted, and as president he said that he awaited with impatience the day when the continent would be settled by a people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, and by similar laws.In an age of imperialism, he was the greatest empire builder of all His mind encompassed the continent From the beginning of the revolution, he thought of the United States as a nation stretching from sea to sea More than any other man, he made that happen Thanks to Thomas Jefferson the United States would be an empire without colonies, an empire of equals 56Henry Adams described the American of 1801 in these words Stripped for the hardest work, every muscle firm and elastic, every ounce of brain ready for use and not a trace of superfluous flesh on his nervous and supple body, the American stood in the world a new order of man 58It was a favorite saying of one of President Johnson s twentieth century success, Dwight Eisenhower, that in war, before the battle is joined, plans are everything, but once the shooting begins, plans are worthless The same aphorism can be said about exploration 81Napoleon on the Louisiana purchase The sale assures forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a rival who, sooner or later, will humble her pride 101His intense curiosity compelled him to study the world around him and the sky above him 120These young heroes were in great shape, strong as bulls, eager to get going, full of energy and testosterone and bored So they fought, and drank and drank, and fought 130Lewis objectives, as given to him by Jefferson, were to establish American sovereignty, peace, and a trading empire in which the warriors would put down their weapons and take up traps Relations with the Indians were important, establishing commercial ties with them was desirable, but the sin qua quo of the expedition was to return with as much information as possible Putbluntly, Lewis first objective was to get through, and whatever he had to sacrifice to do it would be sacrificed 154Their blood was up They were Virginia gentlemen who had been challenged They were ready to fight 171The soldiers meanwhile, enjoyed the favors of the Arikara women, often encouraged to do so by the husbands, who believed that they would catch some of the power of the white men from such intercourse, transmitted to them through their wives One warrior invited York Clark s black servant to his lodge, offered him his wife, and guarded the entrance during the act York was said to be the big Medison Whether the Indians got white or black powers from the intercourse cannot be said, but what they had gotten for sure from their hospitality to previous white traders was venereal disease, which was rampant in the villages and passed on the men of the expedition this happened in a few Indian villages 180He was ready, intensely alive Every nerve ending was sensitive to the slightest change, whether what the eye saw or the skin felt or the ears heard or the tongue tasted or the fingers touched He had the endearing sense of wonder and awe at the marvels of nature that made him the nearly perfect man to be the first to describe the glories of the American West 216Grizzly story Chapter 18, 219Lewis describing the White Cliffs in Montana vast ranges of walls of tolerable workmanship, so perfect indeed that I should have thought that nature had attempted here to rival the human art of masonry had I not recollected that she had first began her work 228Well led men working together can do farthan they ever thought they could Especially if they re in life threatening situations which was exactly where Lewis intended to lead them He dared to do so because he knew that they hadin them than they thought, and he knew how to bring out the best in them 273Lewis journal upon turning 31 This day I completed my thirty first year I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information for the succeeding generation I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now sorely feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended In the future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself 280Chapter 22 Shoshones, Spaniards and the lack of guns read this part if you want to see why guns are a tool of independence and with holding them makes the people better slaves, weaker individuals First I want to thank Michael for suggesting I read this book I really did like it A definite four star read Who doesn t know about the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803 1806, and of Sacajawea Years ago I had read Sacajawea, which I loved Yeah, it is a door stopper, but you don t want it to ever end The two books did tell the same story about the expedition, but they focus on different people Anna Lee Waldo s book is historical fiction It focuses primarily on Sacajawea and the expediti First I want to thank Michael for suggesting I read this book I really did like it A definite four star read Who doesn t know about the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803 1806, and of Sacajawea Years ago I had read Sacajawea, which I loved Yeah, it is a door stopper, but you don t want it to ever end The two books did tell the same story about the expedition, but they focus on different people Anna Lee Waldo s book is historical fiction It focuses primarily on Sacajawea and the expedition, Ambrose s focuses on Lewis and the expedition I put off reading Ambrose s book since I thought I would learn nothing new Wrong, wrong, wrong You have to read this book even if you know about the expedition, because you have to get the full picture What happened to Lewis AFTER the completion of the expedition This is just as fascinating as the expedition itself, and it is not in the other book Maybe you think Ambrose s will be boring because it is non fiction No, no, no It isn t It reads like fiction, just as Michael promised me Undaunted Courage is stuffed with facts, but interesting facts, particularly if you like natural science History too All the birds and animals they identified for the first time The book is a compilation of so many other earlier books on the topic, but it is written with talent so it is never dry Except that I grew tired of hearing about how many words Lewis or Clark or another used to describe an incident or a discovery Tell me, is 50 or 350 or 500 a lot of words I don t know You definitely come to know the personality of Meriwether Lewis I don t want to give any spoilers He is the central focus of the book him and the expedition Both I wish there had beentime spent on Sacajawea and on Lewis black slave who followed him on the trip Some things are simply not known some of the journals are lost, but I feelwords could have been spent on these topics 50 100 Ha ha I am joking Also I wanton the whys of what happened afterwards, but I still think this is a marvelous book I listened to the audiobook narrated by Barrett Whitener He reads the book in a way to increase the listener s excitement I didn t like this, but the author s words are exciting so how can I complain The narrator kept the tone of the writing, and I didn t want a dry recitation of facts, so maybe I am simply too hard to please Don t get me wrong the narration isn t bad It just could have been a teeny bit better.You must have a good map if you listen to the audiobook With a map you can find exactly where they are all along the whole trip Maybe the paper book has maps and pictures of the nature specimens encountered Pictures would be good, but I don t know if the paper book has them Of course you can also turn to Google and Wiki Have you seen a black Lewis Woodpecker Take a peak Or Sitka Spruce or the Native American dress of the tribes encountered As I said, the details are fascinating There is so muchI should tell you about this book Jefferson s role was primary What was the goal of the expedition Purchase of the Louisiana Territory, what significance did thishave What was achieved and what failed How were Native Americans viewed in comparison to Blacks The Republicans and the Federalists, how did their views differ Please, read the book EVEN if you already know about the expedition This biography of Meriwether Lewis must have been a daunting task and Stephen Ambrose was certainly up to it.The sections of the book covering the Lewis and Clark Expedition are as well written as anything Ambrose has done I felt like I was there with the Corps of Discovery , as they were named, seeing the incredible plains and mountains of the unexplored American West for the first time.I am familiar with some of the country and have actually stood at Three Forks in Montana where the Missouri This biography of Meriwether Lewis must have been a daunting task and Stephen Ambrose was certainly up to it.The sections of the book covering the Lewis and Clark Expedition are as well written as anything Ambrose has done I felt like I was there with the Corps of Discovery , as they were named, seeing the incredible plains and mountains of the unexplored American West for the first time.I am familiar with some of the country and have actually stood at Three Forks in Montana where the Missouri River is first formed and I can only imagine what it must have felt like and looked like for the explorers.The book is, of course, not only a biography of Meriwether Lewis but also a view into the thinking and attitudes of Thomas Jefferson, in particular, and other luminaries of the time vis a vis the West, American Indians, the future of the U.S and its eventual spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific.The story of Lewis life is a glorious and sad chronicle as we share both his triumphs and his disappointments The last chapter of the book, titled Aftermath is as beautifully written a eulogy as I have ever read Ambrose must have taken Meriwether Lewis into his heart and shared that love with the rest of us As he pointed out in his Introduction, he and his family fell in love with the country Lewis and Clark explored which helped provide him with the motivation to write Lewis story This fascination and familiarity with the geography of the plains and the mountains is obvious as Ambrose describes the land the explorers traveled through.Some may find the detail Ambrose provides boring or unnecessary but I found that it enhanced my sense of immediacy and identification with people who had endured what they went through 200 years ago Undaunted Courage is a great bit of historiography and a great bit of writing also


About the Author: Stephen E. Ambrose

Stephen Edward Ambrose was an American historian and biographer of U.S Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard M Nixon He received his Ph.D in 1960 from the University of Wisconsin Madison In his final years he faced charges of plagiarism for his books, with subsequent concerns about his research emerging after his death.


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