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Ledyard: In Search of the First American Explorer
For decades after his death in 1789, John Ledyard was celebrated as the greatest explorer America had ever produced. A veteran of Captain Cook’s final voyage, he walked across nearly all of Russia and suggested to his friend Thomas Jefferson that traversing the American continent was feasible—inspiring the Lewis and Clark expedition. When he died he was preparing to ventur ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 5th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(first published 2007)
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John Leyard was an amazing if not wholly admirable personality. Born on Long Island, he was fascinated by native American cultures and a vigorous self-promoter. He sailed on Cook's third, final, and fatal voyage, exploring the west coast of North America. His dream was to travel alone from the west coast back to New York. When he couldn't get backing, he went to Europe and traveled alone across most of Siberia, trying to get back to the west coast, but was arrested as a spy and sent back to Euro ...more
John Ledyard tried to be the first person to circumambulate the world, and died trying. What a colorful character! He had to flee the US due to some undisclosed problems just at the brink of the Revolutionary War, and ended up on a ship with the famous Captain Cook. He was there at Cook's slaughter. He tried to set up a fur trading station on the west coast (failed), was friends with Thomas Jefferson and panhandled his way across Europe and Siberia. That trip nearly killed him when he was arrest ...more
This interesting biography of "probably the most fascinating historical figure you've never heard of" is quite skimpy when covering his early life simply because very few primary sources remain (or were ever available). With Ledyard's appearance in the documentable world and in many parts of that world, the threads of his life can be richly laid out...and a rich life it was. Gifford writes in admirably non-judgmental fashion, breathing life and vitality into the story of a wanderlust who roamed ...more
I thought this book was really funny. This guy Ledyard was a real clown. Supposively Thomas Jefferson tried to get this guy to do the east coast to west coast thing before Lewis and Clark, but Ledyard wanted to do it from Connecticut through Europe and Asia and over the pacific, and he went through a lot of Russia by foot! What an awesome idiot!