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Undaunted Courage

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  36,653 Ratings  ·  1,924 Reviews
From Stephen Ambrose comes a book on the most momentous expedition in American history & one of the great adventure stories of all time. In 1803 Pres. Th Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Cpt. Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri R. to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia R. to the Pacific Ocean & back. Lewis was a perfect choic ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1996)
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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
Feb 05, 2008 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: learnin-books
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
The oddest little historical fact that has stayed with me from reading this book is the squirrel migration. At the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, there were apparently so many squirrels in this country, that the squirrels migrated seasonally like birds. Lewis and Clark witnessed them in large numbers swimming south across the river on which they were traveling. It was such a surprising and delightful little piece of information I had never known about before. It gives the reader a windo ...more
Bob Mayer
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 i
Feb 22, 2014 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 far more interesting in its discussion of the context of their mission - Jefferson's vision of America and i ...more
SJ Loria
Mar 30, 2008 SJ Loria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2007 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves history and the courage displayed those who explored this great land, America
I have really enjoyed reading the notes made by Merriweather Lewis, and his relationship with his partner, William Clark. These were two men who really had "undaunted courage" and faced new challenges unknown to all others as they daily across this vast continent and to the Pacific Ocean and back again. This book tells about the relationship of these two men, apparently without conflict, or little, if any in the course of their exploration. In reading this book you can also learn about the many ...more
Oct 24, 2008 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Undaunted Courage gets 4.5 Stars. Stephen Ambrose brings a special passion to this tale of exploration. Ambrose relates in the foreword, his lifelong fascination and exploration of the Lewis and Clark adventure. I like how he brings all the characters, Lewis, Clark, Jefferson, various Indian chiefs, members of the “Corps of Exploration” and many other participants to life. Perhaps Ambrose exaggerates some events but he tells a riveting tale. The Lewis and Clark expedition was as significant to t ...more
Jun 27, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history lovers
I'm almost done with the book. Great. New insights. Learned about who Sakajewea (sp?) was and actually think she is a bit over rated. But that is beside the point. I learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson, the politics of the time, the trip to the Pacific and back (naturally), and the way this country was.

Interesting factoids contained in the book:
Squirril migration
Eating Dogs, Horses, roots and enjoying them

Enjoy. It is a great book!
Feb 17, 2015 Arminius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If I could give President Jefferson one plank his party was good for it has been American expansionism. Thomas Jefferson was a neighbor and good friends with Merriweather Lewis’s father. When Jefferson became President one of the first things he wanted to do was discover what lay west of the original colonies. With this he wanted to find a water route to the pacific, collect species for science, to extend commerce and to make an American claim to the Oregon country. After Napoleon sold the Louis ...more
Apr 24, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs and Ambrose admirers
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
Jason Pettus
I've always had a particular fascination with the Lewis & Clark Expedition, because of being born in raised in St. Charles, Missouri, the town where the expedition technically launched; so I'm glad I've finally had a chance to read this influential overlook at the trip by famed historian Stephen E. Ambrose. This is pretty much what you would expect from such a book, so I don't have too many analytical things to say about it; it's well-researched and well-written, especially when it comes to ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
A grand adventure and Ambrose’s narrative invites the reader to join in. As we turn the pages we become part of Lewis and Clark’s journey into the unknown. What will the next turn of the river bring: violently cascading waters, pensive Indians eyeing their first white man, a foreboding mountain, a snarling beast. This book was fun because the reader, at least this reader, did not know what to expect any more than they did.

That these were brave, confident and resourceful men one has no doubt. As
Randy Lowe
Jun 05, 2012 Randy Lowe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a nagging feeling during most of my reading of this book, that Stephen Ambrose was annoying to me. I can't quite articulate why, and the story itself was so interesting that it didn't become a real problem. I also never quite felt oriented properly - this was for a lack of detailed maps and poor synchronization of the maps which were included to the specific geographical references in the book. You were constantly going back and forth to try and find a river or a region, which often was mi ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Janeal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very surprised that I found this book as interesting as I did. I have started other non-fiction, historical accounts before and could never get into them because you already know what happens, right? But lately, I have become much more interested in learning more history. It may be learning Idaho history with my fourth-grader or a recent trip to Boston where I tried to learn more about the Revolutionary War so I could teach my kids about it as we were seeing the sights. What I realized is ...more
Even though practically everyone I know read this book when it was first published in 1996, I didn't give it a glance because "I already knew the story!" Oh me of little consequence and great ignorance.

I grew up in Fort Benton, Montana, and as a youngster had spent countless hours in the children's room of the Carnegie Library under the statue of Sacajawea, choosing books, dawdling, daydreaming; I stood at Decision Point (in a tiny patch of poison ivy - argh!) where Lewis and Clark had to determ
Even if you think you know about the Lewis and Clark expedition, trust me, if you haven't read Undaunted Courage, you probably know very little. My idea about the expedition was so narrow before reading this book. There is so much that we just don't think about.

First, what a tremendous undertaking this was. To know they would be gone for years and had to pack supplies for such a trip. They had no idea what would be available to them, and actually did find that there were times when there was ver
Jan 10, 2012 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
This was my first Ambrose work, and I have to say, he isn’t my favorite historian (ignoring the possible plagiarism controversy that I’m just going to ignore). He is a bit dry for my taste. I can handle dry when I think that something is rather fascinating, but he went on at a very slow pace in this novel and coupled with his plain narrative I just wasn’t gripped. That said, his presentation of the information was chronological, informative, easy to follow, and unpretentious. He inserts points t ...more
Nov 02, 2011 gabrielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to gabrielle by: farm boy
Shelves: adventure, history
This took me forever to read. Not because it's a bad book; quite the contrary. I loved it. It's well-written and has excellent footnotes and maps. There's just SO MUCH information in here, and I got frustrated with it and was like "OH FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE, LEWIS AND CLARK, WOULD YOU JUST GET HOME ALREADY?!" and then they get home, but there's still more story because there's the whole "what are we going to do with all these discoveries" thing. It really gives you some insight to how they must ha ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any American
Shelves: non-fiction
I recently moved from the midwest to Oregon. Shortly after arriving here I realized that I needed to know about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. You can't really understand any region without basic exposure to it's history. It would be naive to think that happened here 200 years ago no longer has an impact on our daily life as Oregonians.
With that in mind, I started to read the online version of the L&C journals that are published on a website maintained by The University of Nebraska. It wa
Mar 06, 2008 Tonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was extremely thorough and very good. He not only explains what happened but also Jefferson's mentality, Lewis' desire to please Jefferson, the complete naivety of the expedition toward the Indians they encountered and how much Sacajawea helped them but didn't get much recognition in the journals. I love the remedies for the men - amazing they lived through them. "Men woke up feeling poorly. We bled them, gave them some laxatives, bleed them some more, a good dose of mercury and we were on ...more
Jul 04, 2008 Tab rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. A detailed look into the minds of Jefferson, Lewis and Clark. Lewis hit the pinnacle of life on his journey, however his life was cut short with bouts of depression. Very sad. This book gives you the feel that you're there step by step on the expedition. You learn so much of what they experienced along the way.
Jul 06, 2017 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-our-trip
There is so much more to the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition than I ever imagined. As I read this book, I was constantly surprised by extremely interesting facts that gave me a whole new appreciation and understanding of their adventure. The book focuses more on Lewis and Jefferson than on Clark, so I sometimes found myself wanting to know more about him. Since we'll soon be visiting Oregon and their winter camp there, I intended to read only that section, but I quickly found myself turn ...more
Jul 07, 2017 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a history teacher, I really enjoyed this look at the Lewis & Clark expedition. It makes me want to go explore the areas that Lewis & Clark travelled through.
Aug 01, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Undaunted Courage is a superb American account of exploration, adventure, scientific observation, cultural interaction, and commerce in the Louisiana Territory and westward. This is one of the most deeply researched and well-written books that I've read about life in the West. Undaunted Courage is an important read and worthy of great praise.

President Thomas Jefferson is impassioned with an expedition that would discover a water route to the Pacific, establish trade with the Native American trib
Jan 25, 2010 PJ rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I would have liked this book better if I had known what to expect ahead of time. First and foremost, this book is not the fast-paced adventure story of the Lewis and Clark expedition that I was hoping to read. It is an academic biography of Meriwether Lewis, with particular focus on the expedition (likely because that is the best-documented part of his life).

Academic: The narrative is good in places, but lacks rhythm overall. Ambrose relies far too much on extended, direct quotes from th
Feb 01, 2009 Milbratz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book sat on my shelf for nearly a decade. As with the civil war and baseball, the "Ken Burns effect" extinguished any flicker of interest in the I had in the subject.

But yet, a brother-in-law had given it to me--and really liked it--so I couldn't throw it out. And my buddy Russell named his first born son after a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition. (You'll have to call him and ask. Hint:It's neither lewis nor clark nor Sacagawea). So I brought it with me on a trip, my sole reading
It's a good book. Historically this was a huge event in America. This was a grand adventure for Lewis and Clark and the men involved in this exploration. With that said... I will say even though it is a amazing feat... it was not an amazing read. The first few chapters covers Meriwether Lewis's life and his relationship with Thomas Jefferson. Not exactly what I was interested in. It does no real background on William Clark. Once the expedition gets under way it starts out fresh and I started to ...more
Apr 29, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Goodreads Librari...: Non-Librarian Observations for Librarians 5 35 May 14, 2017 08:48AM  
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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.

More about Stephen E. Ambrose...

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“Of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction, careful as a father of those committed to his charge, yet steady in the maintenance of order and discipline, intimate with the Indian character, customs, and principles; habituated to the hunting life, guarded by exact observation of the vegetables and animals of his own country against losing time in the description of objects already possessed; honest, disinterested, liberal, of sound understanding, and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves – with all these qualifications as if selected and implanted by nature in one body for this express purpose, I could have no hesitation in confiding the enterprise to him. To fill up the measure desired, he wanted nothing but a greater familiarity with the technical language of the natural sciences, and readiness in the astronomical observations necessary for the geography of his route. To acquire these he repaired immediately to Philadelphia, and placed himself under the tutorage of the distinguished professors of that place.” 4 likes
“No wrong will ever be done you by our nation.”3” 2 likes
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