Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West

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Overview

From the bestselling author of the definitive book on D-Day comes the definitive book on the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time.

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, and back. Lewis was the perfect choice. He endured incredible hardships and saw incredible sights, including vast herds of buffalo and Indian tribes that had had no previous contact with white men. He and his partner, Captain William Clark, made the first map of the trans-Mississippi West, provided invaluable scientific data on the flora and fauna of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and established the American claim to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Ambrose has pieced together previously unknown information about weather, terrain, and medical knowledge at the time to provide a colorful and realistic backdrop for the expedition. Lewis saw the North American continent before any other white man; Ambrose describes in detail native peoples, weather, landscape, science, everything the expedition encountered along the way, through Lewis's eyes.

Lewis is supported by a rich variety of colorful characters, first of all Jefferson himself, whose interest in exploring and acquiring the American West went back thirty years. Next comes Clark, a rugged frontiersman whose love for Lewis matched Jefferson's. There are numerous Indian chiefs, and Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the expedition, along with the French-Indian hunter Drouillard, the great naturalists of Philadelphia, the French and Spanish fur traders of St. Louis, John Quincy Adams, and many more leading political, scientific, and military figures of the turn of the century.

This is a book about a hero. This is a book about national unity. But it is also a tragedy. When Lewis returned to Washington in the fall of 1806, he was a national hero. But for Lewis, the expedition was a failure. Jefferson had hoped to find an all-water route to the Pacific with a short hop over the Rockies-Lewis discovered there was no such passage. Jefferson hoped the Louisiana Purchase would provide endless land to support farming-but Lewis discovered that the Great Plains were too dry. Jefferson hoped there was a river flowing from Canada into the Missouri-but Lewis reported there was no such river, and thus no U.S. claim to the Canadian prairie. Lewis discovered the Plains Indians were hostile and would block settlement and trade up the Missouri. Lewis took to drink, engaged in land speculation, piled up debts he could not pay, made jealous political enemies, and suffered severe depression.

High adventure, high politics, suspense, drama, and diplomacy combine with high romance and personal tragedy to make this outstanding work of scholarship as readable as a novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613022170
Publisher: San Val
Publication date: 06/28/1997
Pages: 521
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.56(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Stephen E. Ambrose was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than thirty books. Among his New York Times bestsellers are Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944, and Undaunted Courage. Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History.

Date of Birth:

January 10, 1936

Date of Death:

October 13, 2002

Place of Birth:

Whitewater, Wisconsin

Place of Death:

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Education:

B.A., University of Wisconsin; M.A., Louisiana State University, 1958; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1963

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Youth 1774-1792

From the west-facing window of the room in which Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774, one could look out at Rockfish Gap, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an opening to the West that invited exploration. The Virginia Piedmont of 1774 was not the frontier -- that had extended beyond the Allegheny chain of mountains, and a cultured plantation life was nearly a generation old -- but it wasn't far removed. Traces of the old buffalo trail that led up Rockfish River to the Gap still remained. Deer were exceedingly plentiful, black bear common. An exterminating war was being waged against wolves. Beaver were on every stream. Flocks of turkeys thronged the woods. In the fall and spring, ducks and geese darkened the rivers.

Lewis was born in a place where the West invited exploration but the East could provide education and knowledge, where the hunting was magnificent but plantation society provided refinement and enlightenment, where he could learn wilderness skills while sharpening his wits about such matters as surveying, politics, natural history, and geography.

The West was very much on Virginians' minds in 1774, even though the big news that year was the Boston Tea Party, the introduction of resolutions in the House of Burgesses in support of Massachusetts, the dissolution of the Burgesses by the Royal Governor Lord Dunmore, and a subsequent meeting at Raleigh Tavern of the dissolved Burgesses, whose Committee of Correspondence sent out letters calling for a general congress of the American colonies. In September, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and revolution was under way.

Lord Dunmorewas a villain in the eyes of the revolutionaries. He was eventually forced to flee Virginia and take up residence on a British warship. But in January 1774, he had done Virginia a big favor by organizing an offensive into the Ohio country by Virginia militia. The Virginians goaded Shawnee, Ottawa, and other tribes into what became Lord Dunmore's War, which ended with the Indians defeated. They ceded hunting rights in Kentucky to the Virginians and agreed to unhindered access to and navigation on the Ohio River. Within six months, the Transylvania Company sent out Daniel Boone to blaze a trail through the Cumberland Gap to the bluegrass country of Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the British government, in the Quebec Act of 1774, moved to stem the flow of Virginians across the mountains, by extending the boundary of Canada south to the Ohio River. This cut off Virginia's western claims, threatened to spoil the hopes and schemes of innumerable land speculators, including George Washington, and established a highly centralized crown-controlled government with special privileges for the Catholic Church, provoking fear that French Canadians, rather than Protestant Virginians, would rule in the Ohio Valley. This was one of the so-called Intolerable Acts that spurred the revolution.

Meriwether Lewis was born on the eve of revolution into a world of conflict between Americans and the British government for control of the trans-Appalachian West in a colony whose western ambitions were limitless, a colony that was leading the surge of Americans over the mountains, and in a county that was a nursery of explorers.

His family had been a part of the western movement from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson described Lewis's forebears as "one of the distinguished families" of Virginia, and among the earliest. The first Lewis to come to America had been Robert, a Welshman and an officer in the British army. The family coat of arms was "Omne Solum Forti Patria Est," or "All Earth Is to a Brave Man His Country." (An alternate translation is "Everything the Brave Man Does Is for His Country.") Robert arrived in 1635 with a grant from the king for 33,333 1/3 acres of Virginia land. He had numerous progeny, including Colonel Robert Lewis, who was wonderfully successful on the Virginia frontier of the eighteenth century, in Albemarle County. On his death, Colonel Lewis was wealthy enough to leave all nine of his children with substantial plantations. His fifth son, William, inherited 1,896 acres, and slaves, and a house, Locust Hill, a rather rustic log home, but very comfortable and filled with things of value, including much table silver. It was just seven miles west of Charlottesville, within sight of Monticello.

One of the Lewis men, an uncle of Meriwether Lewis's father, was a member of the king's council; another, Fielding Lewis, married a sister of George Washington. Still another relative, Thomas Lewis, accompanied Jefferson's father, Peter, on an expedition in 1746 into the Northern Neck, between the Potomac and the Rappahannock. Thomas was the first Lewis to keep a journal of exploration. He had a gift for vivid descriptions, of horses "tumbling over Rocks and precipices," of cold, rain, and near-starvation. He wrote of exultation over killing "one old Bair & three Cubs." He described a mountain area where they were so "often in the outmoust Danger this tirable place was Calld Purgatory." One river was so treacherous they named it Styx, "from the Dismal appearance of the place Being Sufficen to Strick terror in any human Creature."

In 1769, William Lewis, then thirty-one years old, married his cousin, twenty-two-year-old Lucy Meriwether. The Meriwether family was also Welsh and also land-rich -- by 1730, the family held a tract near Charlottesville of 17,952 acres. The coat of arms was "Vi et Consilio," or "Force and Counsel." George R. Gilmer, later a governor of Georgia, wrote of the family, "None ever looked at or talked with a Meriwether but he heard something which made him look or listen again." Jefferson said of Colonel Nicholas Meriwether, Lucy's father, "He was the most sensible man I ever knew." He had served as commander of a Virginia regiment in Braddock's disastrous campaign of 1755.

The Lewis and Meriwether families had long been close-knit and interrelated. Indeed, there were eleven marriages joining Lewises and Meriwethers between 1725 and 1774. Nicholas Meriwether II, 1667-1744, was the great-grandfather of Lucy Meriwether and the grandfather of William Lewis. The marriage of Lucy and William combined two bloodlines of unusual strength -- and some weaknesses. According to Jefferson, the family was "subject to hypocondriac affections. It was a constitutional disposition in all the nearer branches of the family."

Despite William Lewis's tendency toward hypochondria -- or what Jefferson at other times called melancholy and would later be called depression -- Jefferson described his neighbor and friend as a man of "good sense, integrity, bravery, enterprize & remarkable bodily powers."

A year after their marriage, William and Lucy Lewis had their first child, a daughter they named Jane. Meriwether Lewis was born in 1774. Three years later, a second son, Reuben, was born.

In 1775, war broke out. Jefferson noted that, when it came, William Lewis was "happily situated at home with a wife and young family, & a fortune placed him at ease." Nevertheless, "he left all to aid in the liberation of his country from foreign usurpations." Like General Washington, he served without pay; going Washington one better, he bore his own expenses, as his patriotic contribution to his country.

Meriwether Lewis scarcely knew his father, for Lieutenant Lewis was away making war for most of the first five years of his son's life. He served as commander of one of the first regiments raised in Virginia, enlisting in July 1775. By September, he was a first lieutenant in the Albemarle County militia. When the unit integrated with the Continental Line, he became a lieutenant in the regulars.

In November 1779, Lieutenant Lewis spent a short leave with his family at Cloverfields, a Meriwether family plantation where his wife, Lucy, had grown

Table of Contents

Contents

INTRODUCTION

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

1 Youth 1774-1792

2 Planter 1792-1794

3 Soldier 1794-1800

4 Thomas Jefferson's America 1801

5 The President's Secretary 1801-1802

6 The Origins of the Expedition 1750-1802

7 Preparing for the Expedition

January-June 1803

8 Washington to Pittsburgh

June-August 1803

9 Down the Ohio

September-November 1803

10 Up the Mississippi to Winter Camp

November 1803-March 1804

11 Ready to Depart

April-May 21, 1804

12 Up the Missouri

May-July 1804

13 Entering Indian Country

August 1804

14 Encounter with the Sioux

September 1804

15 To the Mandans

Fall 1804

16 Winter at Fort Mandan

December 21, 1804-March 21, 1805

17 Report from Fort Mandan

March 22-April 6, 1805

18 From Fort Mandan to Marias River

April 7-June 2, 1805

19 From Marias River to the Great Falls

June 3-June 20, 1805

20 The Great Portage

June 16-July 14, 805

21 Looking for the Shoshones

July 15-August 12, 1805

22 Over the Continental Divide

August 13-August 31, 1805

23 Lewis as Ethnographer: The Shoshones

24 Over the Bitterroots

September 1-October 6, 1805

25 Down the Columbia

October 8-December 7, 1805

26 Fort Clatsop

December 8, 1805-March 23, 1806

27 Lewis as Ethnographer: The

Clatsops and the Chinooks

28 Jefferson and the West

1804-1806

29 Return to the Nez Percé

March 23-June 9, 1806

30 The Lolo Trail

June I O-July 2, 1806

31 The Marias Exploration

July 3-July 28, 1806

32 The Last Leg

July 29-September 22, 1806

33 Reporting to the President

September 23-December 31, 1806

34 Washington

January-March 1807

35 Philadelphia

April-July 1807

36 Virginia

August 1806-March 1807

37 St. Louis

March-December 1808

38 St. Louis

January-August 1809

39 Last Voyage

September 3-October 11, 1809

40 Aftermath

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

MAPS

The Lewis and Clark Expedition

Up the Missouri

Headwaters of the Missouri

Crossing the Bitterroot Mountains

Exploring the Mouth of the Columbia

f0 Traveler's Rest

Reading Group Guide

1. In Undaunted Courage, Ambrose gives us an unbiased account of Meriwether Lewis. He presents Lewis as both a hero and a flawed man. How does Ambrose reconcile these two sides of Lewis's character?

2. Discuss the ways in which Undaunted Courage shares a reading experience with that of a novel. Yet how is reading history unlike reading fiction?

3. Compare and contrast the social conventions of Lewis's time with those of our own -- in particular the social standing and treatment of women, blacks, and Indians. How much did the harsh physical environment that people endured affect the attitudes of the time in the arena of racial and sexual equality?

4. What small but significant role did women play in the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

5. Discuss the way in which Ambrose clearly depicts the difficulty and confusion that faced both the Americans and the Indians when their paths began to cross. They were different peoples with different ways, and their inability to fully comprehend the other was mutual. Does Ambrose give us a sense of the inevitability of American expansion at the expense of the Indians, or does he suggest and/or imply that there might have been another way?

6. Ambrose brings to life the diversity of Indians in America in the early 1800s. Now, however, there is little trace of the many tribes that Ambrose described. We often consider what the Indians themselves lost, but what does the world lose when a whole culture of people becomes extinct'. Do you think the Indians gained anything from their assimilation?

7. At the end of the book, Lewis commits suicide. What does Lewis's suicide leave the living -- both in his own time and ours?Discuss the apparent irony of a man who has endured the hardships, terrors, and rigors of a cross-country expedition, returning a hero, only to commit suicide later?

8. There were many firsts in Undaunted Courage. Lewis was the first white man to explore territory west of the Rockies. York was the first black man these Indians had ever seen. It was the first scientific discovery of many of the floral and fauna specimens Lewis came across during the expedition. What are some other firsts this book reveals?

9. Discuss the importance of Lewis's expedition. Speculate as to why the story of Lewis and Clark has previously been treated rather superficially? Has Undaunted Courage altered your perspective on American history? Why was Ambrose so tempted to go back and reexamine Meriwether Lewis?

10. Beyond its historical significance, Undaunted Courage is a story of a great and exciting adventure. Discuss the various hardships that the expedition endured, as well as the truly wondrous and spectacular sights they encountered. Speculate as to what would be encountered now if one were to follow the same voyage as Lewis and Clark.

Interviews

On Tuesday, July 1st, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Stephen E. Ambrose to discuss UNDAUNTED COURAGE.


Moderator: Hello, and welcome to the Auditorium. This evening we are proud to welcome Stephen E. Ambrose, the author of the New York Times bestseller UNDAUNTED COURAGE: MERIWETHER LEWIS, THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN WEST. The perfect author to put you in the mood to celebrate the Fourth of July, Ambrose can answer any of your questions regarding the greatest journey in the history of the United States. Thanks for joining us this evening.

James Gara from home: What is the significance of the title?

Stephen E Ambrose: It comes from Thomas Jefferson, who, in a tribute to Lewis, began "of courage undaunted," and I just turned it around.


Jeff from St. Paul: Hi, Dr. Ambrose. Were Lewis's battles with depression and alcoholism pure speculation, or were they documented? Thanks.

Stephen E Ambrose: The alcohol problem is heavily documented. The bouts of depression are conjecture on my part. Although Jefferson spoke to Lewis's tendency toward melancholia.


Gary Knowles from Towson, MD: You write at one point that Lewis and Clark had one of the greatest friendships in American history. What do you think was at the foundation of this friendship?

Stephen E Ambrose: Trust in each other's abilities and character. They had no secrets from each other. They were terribly ambitious but would never have dreamed of cheating the other of credit that he was due. They never lied to one another.


Dan Barnett from Paradise, California: How much did Meriwether Lewis lend toward the establishment or further development of the myth of rugged Western individualism? How much of "courage" -- willingness to go it alone against all odds -- is tied to this myth?

Stephen E Ambrose: I think what Lewis and Clark showed was the opposite of the myth of the lone cowboy or rugged individualist. They demonstrated that it takes a team to challenge the wilderness.


Amanda from Rochester, MN: Was Jefferson or the U.S. government disappointed in Lewis when he returned with the information that there was no easy Northwest Passage?

Stephen E Ambrose: No. They were men of the Enlightenment. Facts were facts. And they greeted Lewis as a hero. Lewis himself apparently felt he had let the boss down.


Mitchell Dale from Louisville: While Lewis and Clark were incommunicado for those years, what was Thomas Jefferson thinking? Did he ever think that Lewis and Clark and his men could have been killed by the Indians?

Stephen E Ambrose: Jefferson is the only man in the country who never gave up on him. He consistently said he expected them to make it when everyone else had given up.


Rollins from Iowa City: Hi, Mr. Ambrose! What happened to Sacajawea? Did she receive any sort of remuneration from Lewis, Clark, or the American government for her vital role in the exploration? Thank you.

Stephen E Ambrose: No. She got nothing. Her husband got $500 for the use of his teepee, which she had built, and for his services as an interpreter, and she was the one who was doing the interpreting.


Marley37 from @AOL: What's your opinion, Dr. Ambrose -- why do you think Lewis never hired an editor and published his journal? He certainly was not a man who didn't follow through with intentions, and I would imagine that his journals were written in a way so that they could easily have been published, which would have certainly taken him out of debt. Thanks.

Stephen E Ambrose: I don't know the answer to that question. I wish I did. This is the all-time case of writer's block. He had the material in front of him and it was priceless, but he never prepared one line for the printer.


LizzieZ from Jones Beach: Why do you think that Lewis and Clark don't get the attention they deserve as explorers, and Lewis especially as a scientist? Only a brief paragraph in a history book certainly isn't enough considering what these men did.

Stephen E Ambrose: I think it's because of Lewis's suicide. It's just very hard to make a national hero out of a man who committed suicide. Then there was a hundred-year delay in the publishing of the journals, so for all that time, nobody knew about Lewis's scientific work.


Shane McCarrol from Berkeley, CA: What do you think were in those "Thunderclapper" pills that Lewis took with him on his journey? They seemed to be quite a cure-all.

Stephen E Ambrose: They were various laxatives of legendary proportions and the combination was just awesome. It certainly cleaned a person out.


David from Boston, MA: I loved UNDAUNTED COURAGE...I was just curious if you had any suggestions for somebody interested in hiking a couple of days on the Lewis and Clark route. I only have a couple of days -- where would you recommend starting at?

Stephen E Ambrose: The best hikes are on the parts of the trail that have been the least disturbed. The best of these are: Lemhi Pass on the Idaho/Montana border; along the Lolo trail in Idaho; and a particular favorite is over what is called Lewis & Clark Pass in Montana, just off Highway 200, up Alice Creek. Drive to the trailhead and you have a two-mile hike to get over the pass, and in the process you are walking in the travois path that the Nez Perce crossed for hundreds of years. Canoeing anywhere on the upper Missouri River is a treat.


Carter from Boston: What struck me as unusual was the chain of command of the expedition. Lewis shared command with Clark even though Clark was at a lower station than he was. What insight do you have on this arrangement?

Stephen E Ambrose: It was Lewis who offered a co-command. It was his idea. He didn't have to do it. It was based on what he knew about Clark, and felt for him. I also think that Lewis may have feared that Clark would not come along as his subordinate since these guys were Virginians and very rank-conscious. But that's a guess on my part. What I know is that it was Lewis's decision to offer co-command and it was Lewis who first used the words "The Lewis and Clark Expedition."


Erin from New York City: I read UNDAUNTED COURAGE in hardcover and thoroughly enjoyed it. What struck me was that it seemed that everyone survived the journey. Although there were horrible bouts of various sicknesses, no one died. Am I right with that impression (I read the book about a year ago)?

Stephen E Ambrose: One man died. Sgt. Floyd died of an appendicitis rupture. He was the first American soldier to die west of the Mississippi River.


Sarah Jane from Saratoga Springs: I thought it was interesting that Lewis and Jefferson shared the same view about Indians versus black slaves -- that Indians were higher beings than slaves and that although they would allow Indians to vote, they couldn't conceive of slaves ever voting. Was this the prevailing attitude during the early 1800s?

Stephen E Ambrose: There was a lot of romanticism about the Indians at the beginning of the 19th century, based on Jean Jacques Rousseau's ideas about the Noble Savage. As to attitudes about African Americans, Jefferson and his contemporaries had to regard them as inferior or else they would have had no justification for holding them as slaves.


Jeff Wright from San Antonio, TX: Dear Steve, a big fan of all your work from way back. You did the preface for PANZER GENERAL. Is Von Luck still with us? Another fascinating read by someone who was ringside for momentous events. -Jeff Wright, nualjeff@smart1.net

Stephen E Ambrose: Yes, Hans Von Luck is very much alive, living in Hamburg, Germany.


J. Ruhl from Philadelphia: Would you mind telling me about the additional new chapters that are included in the paperback of UNDAUNTED COURAGE? That information would be much appreciated -- thank you.

Stephen E Ambrose: They are chapters on Lewis as an ethnographer. One of them is his description of the Shoshone Indians -- their economy, dress, weapons, politics, morals. The other is on the Clatsops, covering the same subjects. I took them out of the hardcover edition because my editor said they interrupted the flow of the narrative. When the book made the bestseller list, I told my editor those chapters had to go back into the paperback.


Margaret from Chicago: How about the bond between Jefferson and Lewis -- where did that stem from? There were a few decades separating these men, weren't there?

Stephen E Ambrose: Jefferson was a great friend of Lewis's father and a contemporary and neighbor. Lewis's father was an officer in the Revolutionary War and died in the war when Lewis was 6. Jefferson had no sons. Something close to a father-son relationship developed between Jefferson and Lewis.


Evan from Metaire, LA: I haven't read the book yet, but it's my next beach read. I basically wanted to know your opinion as to the best Lewis and Clark exhibit in the United States. Also, I have a son about to attend UNO. Are you still a professor at UNO? If so, I know who I want teaching history to my son!

Stephen E Ambrose: No, I've retired. There is not a single best Lewis & Clark exhibit. But there are many outstanding museums,including: The Arch in St. Louis, The Charles Russel Museum and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, MT; Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon; and all of the state historical societies along the route.


Honeybee from Sugerloaf Mountain: From what I know, the Indians during that time could have been savage to the expedition. What do you think prevented this -- Lewis's social skills or that the Indians had never seen white men before?

Stephen E Ambrose: Well, some of these Indians had seen white men before. The principle reason why the Indians never tried to overwhelm the expedition was that they were so much better armed then the Indians were. Without doubt, many of the tribes could have overwhelmed the expedition, but without doubt they would have suffered very heavy casualties. So none of them ever tried.


Benedict from Natick, MA: After the journey was completed, why were there charges against Lewis for misusing federal funds? Who brought them up? I look forward to reading UNDAUNTED COURAGE this summer!

Stephen E Ambrose: It wasn't that charges were brought, it was that notes that he had signed were not honored and this is a complex story, but basically what happened was there was a new administration and as far as President Madison was concerned, the Lewis & Clark Expedition: that was yesterday. So Madison refused to honor chits that Lewis had written at Jefferson's authorization.


Lawrence from Valley Forge, PA: What were some of the major contributions Lewis made to science?

Stephen E Ambrose: Over 200 new species of plants and animals, including the coyote, the prairie dog, the western meadowlark, the sitka spruce, and so many other plants and animals that represent the essence of the western United States. He introduced us to these plants and animals.


Jerry from Athens, GA: I learned so much from reading UNDAUNTED COURAGE! Would you mind telling us what CITIZEN SOLDIERS is about and when it will come out?

Stephen E Ambrose: CITIZEN SOLDIERS is a sequel to my book D-DAY. It covers the war in Northwest Europe from dawn on June 7, 1944, to the end of the war on May 7, 1945, primarily from the point of view of the junior officers and enlisted men. It will be published in October and will be in stores in November.


Sherman from Manhattan: Why did you decide to concentrate on Meriwether Lewis in this book, as opposed to Clark?

Stephen E Ambrose: Actually I first wanted to do Clark. But a friend and a noted scholar James Ronda was already writing a Clark biography. So, I yielded and decided to do Lewis. It's a funny thing, in a lot of ways, Clark is still to me the more appealing of the two, but Lewis was the better subject because of the two years he lived with Jefferson in the White House, which just added a depth to Lewis that Clark did not have.


Randy from Bastrop, LA: Hello, Dr. Ambrose, I read D-DAY and loved it!! Just curious about the different research methods used in writing a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition... Did you primarily research text or did you do any real-life interviews with relatives of those participating in the expedition?

Stephen E Ambrose: No, I did no interviews. It was a very different kind of research. My basic source was the journals of Lewis, Clark, Sgt. Ordway, the other sergeants, three of the enlisted men, and the Jefferson correspondence. But it's funny, I always dream about my subjects, and I feel that I know the men of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as I know the men of D-Day, although I never met any of the men of the Corps of Discovery and have met hundreds and hundreds of D-Day veterans. But it is all storytelling and in the journals, Lewis and Clark and their men tell their stories and I'm not there to interview them. I would like to be. There are questions I would surely have for them. But it is a privilege and so helpful to have their journals, which are damn near as good as an interview -- in some ways better. In an interview it's me who decides what's important to talk about, but I can't interject myself into the journals. So what I get as a source is what they thought was important, and it could be that they were right.


Rory from Florida: Stephen, two questions (again): What do you think was Lewis and Clark's greatest accomplishment? Also, I just had a funny thought. Do you think the TV show's name Lois and Clark was created from Lewis and Clark? (You know, the show about Superman.)

Stephen E Ambrose: To do it. To cross the continent. To be the first to do so. To bring back so much information that had immediate practical consequences. But even more, there is this about the Lewis and Clark Expedition: This is our Iliad and our Odyssey. This is our national epic. The journals of Lewis and Clark are our national poem.


Moderator: Thanks again, Dr. Ambrose, for joining us this evening. Any closing comments?

Stephen E Ambrose: Get out on the trail. It is accessible. It starts in Pittsburgh and ends in Astoria. There are sights all along the way. Do a bit of it, do a long stretch, do it all. But bring the journals of Lewis and Clark along with you and make camp at their campsites and sit around the campfire and read aloud from the journals of Lewis and Clark about what they did at that place 197 years ago. I guarantee you, it is just magical.


Introduction

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. In Undaunted Courage, Ambrose gives us an unbiased account of Meriwether Lewis. He presents Lewis as both a hero and a flawed man. How does Ambrose reconcile these two sides of Lewis's character?

  2. Discuss the ways in which Undaunted Courage shares a reading experience with that of a novel. Yet how is reading history unlike reading fiction?

  3. Compare and contrast the social conventions of Lewis's time with those of our own—in particular the social standing and treatment of women, blacks, and Indians. How much did the harsh physical environment that people endured affect the attitudes of the time in the arena of racial and sexual equality?

  4. What small but significant role did women play in the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

  5. Discuss the way in which Ambrose clearly depicts the difficulty and confusion that faced both the Americans and the Indians when their paths began to cross. They were different peoples with different ways, and their inability to fully comprehend the other was mutual. Does Ambrose give us a sense of the inevitability of American expansion at the expense of the Indians, or does he suggest and/or imply that there might have been another way?

  6. Ambrose brings to life the diversity of Indians in America in the early 1800s. Now, however, there is little trace of the many tribes that Ambrose described. We often consider what the Indians themselves lost, but what does the world lose when a whole culture of people becomesextinct? Do you think the Indians gained anything from their assimilation?

  7. At the end of the book, Lewis commits suicide. What does Lewis's suicide leave the living—both in his own time and ours? Discuss the apparent irony of a man who has endured the hardships, terrors, and rigors of a cross-country expedition, returning a hero, only to commit suicide later?

  8. There were many firsts in Undaunted Courage. Lewis was the first white man to explore territory west of the Rockies. York was the first black man these Indians had ever seen. It was the first scientific discovery of many of the floral and fauna specimens Lewis came across during the expedition. What are some other firsts this book reveals?

  9. Discuss the importance of Lewis's expedition. Speculate as to why the story of Lewis and Clark has previously been treated rather superficially? Has Undaunted Courage altered your perspective on American history? Why was Ambrose so tempted to go back and reexamine Meriwether Lewis?

  10. Beyond its historical significance, Undaunted Courage is a story of a great and exciting adventure. Discuss the various hardships that the expedition endured, as well as the truly wondrous and spectacular sights they encountered. Speculate as to what would be encountered now if one were to follow the same voyage as Lewis and Clark.

Recommended Readings

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Dee Brown

History of the United States of America During

the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson

Henry Adams

The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Bernard DeVoto, ed.

Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

`Donald Jackson, ed.

Lewis & Clark: Partners in Discovery

John Bakeless

Lewis and Clark Among the Indians

James P. Ronda

Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River

William Dietrich

The Rediscovery of North America

Barry Lopez

Sacajawea of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Ella Clark and Margot Edmonds

Wilderness at Dawn

Ted Morgan

Dr. Stephen Ambrose was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than 30 books. Among his New York Times best-sellers are: Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944, and Undaunted Courage.

He was not only a great author, but also a captivating speaker, with the unique ability to provide insight into the future by employing his profound knowledge of the past. His stories demonstrate how leaders use trust, friendship and shared experiences to work together and thrive during conflict and change. His philosophy about keeping an audience engaged is put best in his own words:

As I sit at my computer, or stand at the podium, I think of myself as sitting around the campfire after a day on the trail, telling stories that I hope will have the members of the audience, or the readers, leaning forward just a bit, wanting to know what happens next.

Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans. He was the Director Emeritus of the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans, and the founder of the National D-Day Museum. He was also a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History, a member of the board of directors for American Rivers, and a member of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council Board.

His talents have not gone unnoticed by the film industry. Dr. Ambrose was the historical consultant for Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks purchased the film rights to his books Citizen Soldiers and Band of Brothers to make the 13-hour HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.

He has also participated in numerous national television programs, including ones for the History Channel and National Geographic.

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Undaunted Courage 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 103 reviews.
Jason_A_Greer More than 1 year ago
Perhaps no other journey, save the landings on the moon, has fired the American imagination like the expedition of Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean and back. It is the story of the opening of the American West, of an incredible tale of leadership and personal hardship, and it offers a first glimpse into an unknown native world that no longer exists. Undaunted Courage is Ambrose's attempt at placing the Lewis and Clark expedition within the context of the early years of the American republic, especially from the perspective of Captain Meriwether Lewis. Ambrose, who was a historian in New Orleans, had a great ability to focus on larger events, from the perspective of leaders, and especially leaders who had a hands-on experience with great events. His works in the later part of his career, like the famed Band of Brothers, focused on small military units, which faced unique circumstances, and exhibited great bravery through trying times. In a sense, the Lewis and Clark expedition was the first Band of Brothers: two officers and roughly thirty enlisted men, trekking over unknown territory, and out of touch with their command and the rest of civilization for over two years. This book is written partly as a biography of Captain Lewis, who was also the equivalent of today's White House Chief of Staff in the Jefferson administration. Ambrose presents Lewis as a trusted man, given to wandering, beset by personal demons and depression, driven to success, but often forgetful in critical moments of his task. Most of all, he wants the reader to understand that the expedition would have failed, as many other shorter ones did in this time period, were it not for the excellent junior officer leadership, and the real espirit de corps that the enlisted men developed; as their very survival depended on the type of teamwork they created. Ambrose loved this subject, probably as much as any other in his career. He spent a significant amount of personal time camping and traveling the route that Lewis & Clark took, for decades before this book came to print. His first hand knowledge of the difficult terrain traveled adds a sense of realism. This is more than a memoir of Lewis. It is a travel and nature description, particularly of the mountain and Pacific Northwest. The writing style reads aloud well, almost as if Ambrose would like the reader to take the book and read portions at a campfire, as he often read portions of the Lewis & Clark journal over campfires to his students. There are good maps, which make following the journey easier, but there are not many pictures. This is more than just a retelling of the Lewis & Clark journals, as it relies extensively on secondary sources, and his own personal historical judgments of the group's decision making processes. There are times when the writing could be tighter, when it would be better if Ambrose would not linger so long over a particular time period, as the group encountered an Indian tribe, or regarding the preparation for the expedition. Perhaps because Ambrose really loved this subject so much, that he does tend to gush over his subject, but that is a minor quibble. What the reader should find is a great tale of adventure, and a leadership study of two officers who complimented each other as well as any could.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stephen Ambrose writes more than a recounting of Lewis' and Clark's expedition of the Louisiana purchase. It is a full biography of Meriwether Lewis. It gives details of his youth and growing up and how Jefferson took him under his wing. It provides information on how Lewis was selected to lead this expedition and the intense training he received in preparing for this long trek. I did not know that Lewis completed what could almost be considered a Master's training in the sciences in several months to prepare him. I was unaware of all the discoveries that he made and I was also unaware that the expedition reached the Pacific Ocean. There are times when Ambrose does not have information from Lewis or very little from Clark that he does take license and extrapolate his own thoughts, which while reasonable are not necessarily factually based, but this is done very little and does not take away from the quality of the work presented. It is one that I highly enjoyed and recommend.
db-reader More than 1 year ago
I bought this book to learn more about the Lewis and Clark Trails as I live in Yankton, SD on the Missouri River. Great information on the various President's and the development of the various territories/states and how the land was purchased. I may have learned all of this in grade school but it didn't stick. Reading this book has made it stick. I found it informative, insightful, factual and just good reading. This is a book to read again a few years down the road.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good, reader friendly account of one of the most interesting times in American history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a high school junior and we're learning about the early colonial period now in American History. I thought I would read Undaunted Courage to give me a leg up and give me more detailed information about that time. It has done that and so much more. Ambrose makes it so fascinating as he recounts the thoughts and trials that Lewis and Clark must undergo. The descriptions of what they see, experience, discover, and observe is incredible. It has given me a new appreciation for what these men had to do to reach the Pacific. I strongly recommend this book. Don't let the subject matter stop you; it IS actually enjoyable and doesn't read out like a stuffy history lesson.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just truely amazing. Even if you don't like histroy you will enjoy this book. Makes you feel like an expert.
AJ_Wheat More than 1 year ago
It's so interesting that Thomas Jefferson, the champion of small government would be able to see the future so clearly in purchasing Louisiana from Napoleon and the French. But he saw it clearly and acted in a very federal government leveraging way to gain the land west of the Mississippi. It was also so interesting that this renaissance-man president would take such a personal interested and assume responsibility for not only selecting Meriwether Lewis, but also in conducting so much of his training. Can you imagine any modern president not delegating such a task? This is a book that paints the picture, not only of western scenes, Indians and amazing animals not seen before by most Americans; it paints lucid portraits of the main players in the Lewis and Clarke expedition. Stephen Ambrose tells the tale in such a way as to build suspense. And yet it's not just an action book - but one that ponders the meaning of people's lives and the events. All the while, we feel the sense of their awareness that they were making history and literally opening up the future of our nation. I prefer the unabridged version so as not to miss any details. I highly recommend this book. History does not always come packaged in such high adventure!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most intricate books I have ever read about a historical accomplishment. I am writing this review, as I am only half way through the book, because it is so riveting. This book brilliantly sets up the trek across the country, by giving us a deep, but brief accountance of Lewis's life, education, and relations to the figures who most effected his persona. Then continues on, while choosing important and fascinating facts from Lewis's journals, to re-create the journey across our great nation, with amazing granduer. The story slips in and out of the journal's passages with mesmerating prose, grabbing your attention and placing you deep into the novel. Eventually, with enough time to capture just a couple chapters, you find yourself on an amazing journey. Sometimes, I feel as though I am in a perouge with the men, or walking the plains with Mr. Lewis. If you are a journeyman yourself, or have ever dreamed of discovering something no one else has ever laid eyes on, this novel will deliver that adventure for you. It almost fulfills my dream of being able to live in a time, when the excitement of discovering something so natural and real is still possible. I, as an avid historian and adventurer, must be thankful for the opportunity to be taken on such a memorable and unfathomable journey across the greatest expanse of landscape our environment has ever known. It is filled with discovery, after discovery. What man on Earth....can deny the evangelical feeling of discovering something new? This book is a bargain, no matter the price.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ambrose, I believe to be one of the greatest literary historians of his decade. He chronicles the Lewis and Clark expedition from conception to treking their way to the Rocky Mountains. Based primarily on the Lewis and Clark journals that were scattered and often incomplete with gaps in days, and some of the journals were lost. Ambrose fills in the missing peices of the historical surveying trip. Two thumbs up to Ambrose on his views concerning Thomas Jefferson and his administration. To me this could be standard reading material for all students of history and govenment. Also, Ambrose is experienced enough in his own writing ability that it is a pleasure for the reader to endure. I found myself not being able to put it down. Thanks again Stephen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
HaroldTitus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an excellent book! If you have any interest in how our country expanded, this is a must read. Wonderful character studies of Lewis and Clark. Exciting detail of exploration. This is the book that caused me to discover the excellent historical fiction writer, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., and his outstanding novels, "The Big Sky" and "The Way West."
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Histgory of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Tremendous detail about events that are almost stranger than fiction. Long and involved but worth the ride. Amazing that the history would have been impossible without a huge amount of goodwill from Native Americans along the trip.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This piece of work is one which should be studied in every high school in the country. The bravery displayed and the adversity faced by the members of this expedition are not to be believed. It is easy in this day and time to downplay the significance of this journey, however by reading this account, a full appreciation of the hazards faced by the expedition can perhaps be attained. No maps, hostile Indian tribes, constant hunger, wild animals and constant insect infestation (clouds of mosquitoes drove some mad), bitter weather, etc. The picture painted by Ambrose is vivid. A fascinating story told by a less talented writer and historian would not have been nearly as effective.
morryb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stephen Ambrose writes more than a recounting of Lewis and Clark's expedition of the Louisiana Purchase. It is a bull biography of Meriwether Lewis. IThe book gives details of Lewis's youth and growing up and how Jefferson took Lewis under his wing. This history privides informaton regarding Lewis selctionas a leader to this expediton and the intense trining he underwnet in order to prepare for this long trek. It gives reference to the fact that Lewis received what would have been considered a Masters degree and completed it in several months. This volume references many of the discoveries Lewis made (or at least passed on to the western world). It also goes into detail about the long and difficult journey to the Pacific Coast. There are times when Ambrose does not have information form Lewis or very little from Clark, that he does take license and extrapolate his own thoughts. However, this does not really take away form the book and it is one I highly enjoyed and would recommend.
foof2you on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steven Ambrose makes the Lewis and Clark expedition come alive with a wonderful history. Using Meriwether Lewis journals the reader gets to explore the new territory together. An interesting and enjoyable read.
bfertig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a few attempts to get through the initial biography of Lewis growing up to get to the good stuff (the exciting tale of the expedition) in the middle. But this book tried to both be a biography of Lewis in addition to following the expedition, which IMHO, wasn't really necessary. Stephen Ambrose thoroughly examined the relationship between Lewis and Jefferson, and their friendship. The wrap-up analysis at the end was interesting, but again, was a bit of a slog to go through the depressing end of his life. Ambrose clearly has an appropriate sense of appreciation for their travails and of Lewis' original writings. He often gives us snippets from Lewis' journals, which left me wanting to hear more from that and less praise of them. But at other times Ambrose must have thought that the action wasn't exciting enough because he often indulged in 'What If...?' scenarios that I thought could have been cut.Some of the more interesting portions of the text were about the interplay between the expedition and the Sioux, Mandans, the Osage, Blackfoot, and other tribes, as well as the inter-tribal politics and war, most of which went right over Lewis' head. To me, its amazing they were able to communicate at all, given the number of people that had to be involved for translation of a single conversation! Talk about a game of Telephone!I listened to the unabridged audiobook, but it took me a while to get used to narration by Barrett Whitener. To be honest, at first I really didn't like the way he read - the ends of his sentences were somewhat breathy and clipped - and I felt pauses between sentences were oddly timed. I found that turning my iPod to the Faster setting made it easier. With enough time (the unabridged is nearly 22 hrs!) I got used to it and could turn it back to the Normal setting.
LiteraryLinda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Echo Burning¿ is a very good mystery featuring Jack Reacher. It takes place in southern Texas in an area that does not get much rain. Reacher is walking along a two-lane highway when Carmen Greer picks him up and tells him a story. She talks about her home town, her family, her husband and the ranch where they live. There is trouble brewing and Carmen asks Reacher to help her. He won¿t do what she asks but will go with her to see what¿s going on. This visit could cost them their lives. There are twists and turns, violence, and wonderful descriptions of the area. Lovers of good mysteries will love this book.
bkinetic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Many people learn of the Lewis and Clark expedition in school as a part of history, but the interesting parts of the journey are in the details including various encounters with native Americans along the way. Ambrose supplies these details, making it possible for the reading to get a safe taste of what it would have been like to be along for the trip.
wamser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mediocre writing, but a great tale nontheless.
hollysing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The quintessential account of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. No frills - not needed.
pdill8 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Boy, I usually have trouble finishing even the highest quality non-fiction, but this one was extremely readable and very interesting. It was a page turner for me.
pioniere on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good history of the famous journey across the continent. It was a different time and different place, and an era that is gone forever now.
beaurichly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved reading about the risk-taking of Lewis. Having grown up in Oregon, these early views by westerners of places I have spent endless time in was fun. Tidbits I remember -- fatty dog meat was a delicacy because the venison was so lean.
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Highlights the intense sacrifice of the men who first pioneered west to open the frontier. Remarkable what these men and Sacagawea endured!
bluesviola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
very thorough detailed account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Plenty of background, but not so much as to be overwhelming. Haven't finished yet.