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

Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
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Aug 09, 10

I own a copy, read count: 2

A wonderful book by a gifted historian, the first book by Ambrose that I had read (but not the last). For many people the Lewis & Clark expedition is just a unit in 8th grade history class, but Ambrose provides adults with a sophisticated and engaging study. More than just a biography of Meriwether Lewis, this is a window into an important era of American history, a time just prior to culture-changing inventions such as railroads and the telegraph. In Lewis & Clark's time, no human or piece of information had ever traveled overland faster than a horse could run. We now know more about the surface of the moon than was known about much of the territory into which the Corps of Discovery was heading. Ambrose's descriptions of the hardships the men endured are astonishing. Even more astonishing is the fact that only one man died on the entire journey (of appendicitis!). I live in Oregon and have traveled in Lewis & Clark territory many times. I have often wondered what the Columbia River Gorge looked like to them as they passed by its basalt cliffs and navigated its rapids. This book helps one imagine that journey as well as anything I have ever read.

Ambrose's prose is quite engaging for a straight historical book. For those who might prefer an even more readable approach, I would recommend "From Sea to Shining Sea," by James Alexander Thom. This is a well-researched, very engagingly written historical novel tracing the history and influence of the Clark family of Virginia. The second half of the book covers the Lewis & Clark expedition, and, as with Ambrose, provides an incredible look into a unique event and period of time in our nation's history.
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