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Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America's Wild Frontier

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  32,599 Ratings  ·  1,734 Reviews
'This was much more than a bunch of guys out on an exploring and collecting expedition. This was a military expedition into hostile territory'. In 1803 President 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 ...more
Paperback, Later Printing, 592 pages
Published October 6th 2003 by Simon & Schuster (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
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
Apr 23, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 16, 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
SJ Loria
Jan 15, 2012 SJ Loria rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2008 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
Jun 01, 2012 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
Jul 25, 2007 David rated it really liked it
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!
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
Mar 20, 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
Jun 17, 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
Sep 06, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 17, 2013 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
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
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
Mar 16, 2012 Becky rated it liked it
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
Jan 23, 2008 Alan rated it really liked it
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
Aug 12, 2008 Tonia rated it really liked it
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
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.
Feb 01, 2009 Milbratz rated it really liked it
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
Apr 29, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2012 gabrielle rated it really liked it
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
Dec 24, 2014 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, westerns
Undaunted Courage is dense but enjoyable and fully realized. Ambrose says in his Introduction that he wrote this as a labor of love, and it shows. His affection for his subjects (obviously Meriwether Lewis, but also President Jefferson and the expedition co-commander, William Clark) reminds me of the passion that drove the late, great Peter deNeeve, who made American history come alive for me in junior high school more than three decades ago.

Special mention should be made of the judicious way th
Scott Middleton
Oct 29, 2012 Scott Middleton rated it it was ok
"Undaunted Courage" tells an unforgettable tale with a degree of minute detail that reduces the journey of Lewis & Clark to a level of excitement on par with the user manual and warranty for a fiberglass canoe. Indian fights, harrowing escapes, sexual misconduct, and hilarious misspellings occasionally lighten the mood, but more often than not I found myself wading waist-deep through pages of botanical observations, astronomical measurements, and repetitive schoolgirl adoration of Thomas Jef ...more
Beth Gastineau
Aug 04, 2015 Beth Gastineau rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Always wanted to learn more and the Lewis and Clark exploration and glad I did!
Karen Langs
Oct 25, 2007 Karen Langs rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History Lovers
If only history were taught this way. Undaunted Courage puts the reader in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark as they search for an east-west route to the Pacific, and, at the same time explore the flora and fauna of the Louisiana Purchase.

It's really an amazing true-life adventure when you consider the terrain, the Indians, the climate, the time, the distance and all the other perils of nature. Only one man from the expedition was lost and that was due to appendicitis. A great read for history l
Nov 12, 2015 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the way Ambrose writes. I have read a few of his books and this one is one of his best. The book provides a clear depiction of life in Washington DC in 1800. Lewis and Jefferson had an excellent relationship and it is made very clear to the reader the respect and admiration they had for each other. My favorite part of the book is the documentation Lewis provides of the Native American depiction of Grizzly Bears and how formidable they are in the wild. Lewis, with a degree of hubris dismis ...more
Nov 19, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
What these men did was amazing. Still, this book takes longer to read than it did for Lewis and Clark to reach the pacific ocean.
Nov 13, 2015 Peter rated it really liked it
This is a book that should be on the curriculum of all schools in America or at least an abbreviated version as it describes the country and the native Americans as they existed two hundred years ago. It is an amazing real adventure story with the successful completion very much dependant on the cooperation of Sacawegea a young indian girl, the only woman in the party, who liaised and translated with the various tribes which were encountered and also when the expedition was on the point of starv ...more
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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.

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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
“The Enlightenment taught that observation unrecorded was knowledge lost.” 2 likes
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