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Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  261 ratings  ·  78 reviews
The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalcu
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by Crown (first published March 25th 2014)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book is packed with stories and recounting of the travels of Meriwether Lewis and George Rogers Clark. These were known as some of Jefferson’s men and they were actively engaged in discovering cities and towns all across the country. There are snippets of letters included in the book.

So fascinating to see that President Jefferson spelled knowledge as “knoledge”. There are stories of women and children that lived harsh lives because of these early explorers and tradesmen. There is so much i
Sharon Huether
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I won this Free Book through Goodreads First-Reads. Thank you for choosing me to win this book.
I loved this book.
When we think about Thomas Jefferson, sending Lewis and Clark out to explore the West, we never hear about the other men that went out too. This book tells about Lewis and Clark, plus men as Wilkenson and Pike, Freeman and Curtis, Dunbar and Hunter.
Jefferson wanted the rivers explored to their source, he didn't know they were not like the Hudson and Potomac rivers.
I really shouldn't
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a truly interesting read. I really enjoyed learning about the Louisiana Purchase and the explorers whose job it was to map the new territory and find out as much they could about it. The Louisiana Purchase was very unpopular in the 1800s. They could not believe the president bought a chunk of useless land that was not even defined with borders. In order to save face, Jefferson sent out explorers throughout the nation to remind everyone (Spain included) that the newly acquired land would ...more
John Bicknell
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Non-Lewis and Clark exploration gets short shrift from popular historians, and it's nice to see the explorations of the Red, Arkansas, Ouachita and upper Mississippi rivers get their due. Fenster weaves the stories together well, with Jefferson's passion for exploration and expansion -- and desire to confront and counter the Spanish - as the unifying theme.

Lewis and Clark are not neglected here, but they serve as backdrop to the lesser known adventures of Pike, Hunter, Dunbar, Freeman and other
Fredrick Danysh
Mar 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: advance-read, history
The Louisiana Purchase was a major land acquisition for the fledgling United States of America. Thomas Jefferson sent several expeditions to explore the region and help stake American claims to the area. As well as the more commonly known expeditions of Lewis and Clark and Pike, many minor ventures are also discussed. This is a good look at these efforts. This was a free advance read copy through
Virginia Campbell
Lovers of American history, particularly the wild and woolly Frontier Era, will greatly enjoy "Jefferson's America". Author Julie M. Fenster writes with gusto and a real love of subject as she tells a true-life adventure tale that is more enthralling than fiction or film. Thomas Jefferson played a master's game of chess to block Britain, France, and Spain from gaining permanent control of the vast land to the West of the Continental States. His key chess pieces were an eclectic group of explorer ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jefferson's America: The President, The Purchase, and The Explorers Who Transformed a Nation is an interesting read. It tells the story about the discovery, exploration, and consequences of the Louisiana Purchase. I learned more about the Louisiana Purchase than I had known before. I had no idea that Thomas Jefferson and America were facing war with Spain because of this major purchase for our country in history. I was fascinated by the events. The information was a little overwhelming at times, ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shorter and less in-depth than I wanted, this was still a fascinating read on western exploration in America. Sometimes switching between the expidition's and what was going on politically was hard to follow, for an attempt at being linear without giving a full understanding of the figures.

Still, I'm glad I read this book, for it gave me a deeper understanding of the laborious hours the explorers went through, the pressures of their time, and how far we have both come and strayed since.
O. Gold
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
by Julie M. Fenster, 2016 [five stars out of five]
Currently Thomas Jefferson is experiencing a historical free fall. As an icon of the early republic, he has been replaced by Alexander Hamilton. The Broadway smash hit bearing his last name plus a best selling biography has established Hamilton's present fame. On the other hand, Jefferson is enduring a savaging by conservative historians, The author of t
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting history of the exploration of the Louisiana purchase during Jefferson’s administration. Fenster describes the goals of the various expeditions: map the area, make peace with the natives, survey sites for forts and settlements, make latitude/longitude measurements, and collect specimens of the land.

Although Lewis and Clark are the most famous explorers of Jeffersonian America, Fenster describes all of the other explorers and nations who had designs on the territory. And while Franc
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This account of Jeffersonian exploration in the very beginning of the 19th century draws on several narratives already produced by historians, so the research isn't necessarily novel. Fenster's main accomplishment, however, is her ability to create an incredibly balanced and nuanced story of the ambiguity and tenuousness of the Louisiana Territory when Jefferson actually made the purchase (blindly it turns out). I was incredibly impressed to see how well she used dry wit and humor to augment the ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent coverage of the explorers Jefferson sent out to help the US establish its ownership of the lands within the Louisiana Purchase. As with the labors of the explorers, a little hard going in the beginning, what with all sorts of unfamiliar names, but I became inured to it, and things became easier as the pages went on. Could use a few more maps to aid understanding. Nevertheless, a really valuable addition to my Jeffersonian knowledge, especially regarding the almost unbelievable Zebulon ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Exploration fans
Recommended to Skjam! by: Blogging for Books
In 1803, many people in the fledgling United States expected a Louisiana War, as the Spanish had forbidden American shipping from passing down the Mississippi and through the port of New Orleans. That didn’t happen, as the Spanish were induced to yield the Louisiana Territory to their allies the French. France’s then-leader, Emperor Napoleon, said he would “never relinquish” the territory. But when European troubles drew his attention, the French offered to sell Louisiana to the Americans for a ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing

It is such a great treat to come across a history book that covers a subject you are quite familiar with then commences to unveil new information on it. This is such a book.

I have read three major books on the Lewis and Clark Expedition but had no idea it was only one of several expeditions Jefferson commissioned.

In addition to Lewis and Clark there was William Dunbar and George Hunter who explored the Ouachita River and the hot springs in what is today Arkansas followed by an exploration of pa
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best history books I've ever read; it almost reads like a novel, or maybe I was just that fascinated to be pulled into this book so hard. It was really interesting to learn about all the politics and intrigue surrounding the Louisiana Purchase, historical texture completely missing from our school books where it glosses it over by saying, basically, "The US bought the Louisiana territory from France and then sent Lewis and Clark to explore it."

In actuality, France had a pretty small r
Haley Keller
May 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
Honestly, my feelings towards this book are rather neutral. Essentially, it recounts the stories of several expeditions during Thomas Jefferson's presidency in what would become the American West, including that of Lewis and Clark. Jefferson organized these expeditions largely as a way to stake a claim to the land.

In the book, you get some politics, which I admit to not being that informed about before reading the book. I'd known that both Spain and France had claimed New Orleans at various poin
Tex Reader
3.5 of 5 stars – Informative Story of Birth of "America's" "West."

I love histories about early "America" (or more specifically, the U.S.), and found this to be an interesting account of a part of post-revolutionary period that I had not read much about, our early western expansion. While the details bogged it down at times, it made me feel like I traveled back in time and I learned a lot in the process.

I like how Julie Fenster filled this with how simple moments and bold, courageous acts could d
Kenneth Barber
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book deals with the exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. Al are familiar with Lewis&Clark whose trip is touched upon in the book, but is not the main focus. There were other people commissioned by Jefferson to explore and document the new addition to the United States. The Hunter-Dunbar expedition that originally was supposed to find the source of the Red River, but due to conflict with Spain, ended up following the Ouachita River as far as the Hot Springs in present day Arkansas. The exp ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I first started the blog, a blog that I've allowed to languish for far too long, I wasn't reading that much nonfiction. I would pick up the occasional political or history book, but it was only one or two a year, and that may be stretching it a bit. If blogging has made a lasting positive change in my reading life, it's in an ever expanding appreciation for nonfiction. The types of books I'm now reading covers a vaster expanse of interests, and I now have a greater appreciation for American ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jefferson's America, follows the path of expansion into the American west. Its full of tales and adventures undertaken by well know explorers, such as Lewis and Clark as well as others that were unfamiliar to me. It also covers Jefferson's desire to stake a claim to territory west of the Mississippi river and his need to gain control over New Orleans, as a gateway to trade. While this is a well written book, that goes into a lot of detail, it did at times seem a bit dry. I would have appreciated ...more
Tony Parsons
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
History was 1 of my many undergrad degrees.
In PS; another undergrad degree we did not learn a whole lot what this era of President went through in the infrastructure.

I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. Only an honest one.

A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written true historical book. It was very easy for me to read
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Summary: An account of how Jefferson used the efforts of four teams of men comprising less than a hundred total to establish America's hold on the lands west of the Mississippi River.

Most of us, if we remember anything of early U. S. History remember the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the explorations, up the Missouri and to the Pacific coast, of Lewis and Clark. What I didn't realize was that while we had purchased these lands from France for $15 million, our grasp of these was tenuous, especia
Seth D Michaels
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, us-history
This was a little disappointing - interesting and at times pretty good but fell short in a few key ways. Gives the backstory of the Louisiana Purchase and then follows a number of explorers - including but not limited to Lewis and Clark - on grueling journeys of exploration (and tribal diplomacy) along the rivers leading into the new territory. Good at giving the international context; draws out the characters in interesting ways, and has some good passages, but doesn't grab the attention. I fou ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Just a dandy book for those who like American history. Everyone knows about Lewis and Clark's expedition after the Louisiana Purchase. But... did you know there were several other explorations at the same time? Searching for the source of the Mississippi, for the source of the Red River (possibly the dividing line between the purchased land and Spanish held territories), and a few others.

Jefferson is playing a variety of stealthy games to get funding from Congress, to reach out to Native America
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Most Americans are familiar with the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Before reading this book, I hadn't realized that Jefferson also sent out other expeditions such as one to find the headwaters of the Mississippi & another to explore the Red River into Texas. I also hadn't been aware of how much of a presence Spain still was in Louisiana Territory, and how much friction there was between the borders of the Spanish Empire & the US.

Fenster does a good job not only of setting the historical stage, but
John Deardurff
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some might consider this as the biography of The Louisiana Purchase which added 828,000 square miles to the United States, thereby doubling the size of the young republic. While we get the familiar stories of Lewis and Clark; we are also introduced to the lesser-known explorers Wilkenson, Pike, Freeman, Curtis, Dunbar, and Hunter. This is also the tale of Thomas Jefferson's quest of expanding the American empire all the way to the western coast of the continent; thereby preventing Britain, Franc ...more
Mary  Allen
I won this book thru Goodreads and I am proud to have read it. I am a huge fan of our history and a bigger fan of the framers, Jefferson being one of the best. When America was born after the revolution, people had a sense of exploring of wanting to make America GREAT, the first time. Jefferson set out to find what is out there, he did with help from such men as Dunbar and Hunter. They forged the nation. This is a good read and I highly recommend it for the history, good rear
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways-won
I won Jefferson's America as a giveaway and finally got to it. The book chronicles the exploration of more than Lewis and Clark. Fenster also details the missions of William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis and Zebulon Pike and their parts in the opening up America's frontier. If you didn't know your early American history then this book is a good one. ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Lots of great explorer stories in this volume. I especially enjoyed hearing (audiobook) about the wildlife, the Native Americans, and the story of how Lewis got shot in the backside but nobody wanted to own up about it. It's still strange to think of the midwest as the true west, but it was great to learn more detail of the famous and not-so-famous trips west to explore the Louisiana Purchase. ...more
Shane Schirmer
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title is a tad misleading, though not egregiously so. The book really centered far more on the explorers of the day, rather than Jefferson himself. Lewis and Clark, Pike, Hunter, and Freeman's explorations are looked at in good detail. I truly enjoyed the narrative, and was intrigued by the early explorers relations with the Native Americans along the Missouri, Red, and Arkansas rivers. ...more
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