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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  55,439 ratings  ·  2,583 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 February 15th 1996)
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AJ As with most historical non-fiction, the reader's enjoyment depends entirely on the level of interest he/she has in the subject matter. Does it get be…moreAs with most historical non-fiction, the reader's enjoyment depends entirely on the level of interest he/she has in the subject matter. Does it get better? Yes, insofar as the story reaches its goal of completing the tale of the Lewis and Clark expedition. As for the grammar and spelling errors, I believe you must be referring to the author's use of quotes from Lewis, Clark and other characters in the story, all of whom were terrible spellers by today's standards.(less)
Mt No, I would not call him a boot-licking swine. The author seemed to present the story in an unbiased from the point of view of Lewis mostly and it see…moreNo, I would not call him a boot-licking swine. The author seemed to present the story in an unbiased from the point of view of Lewis mostly and it seemed like he tried to show the good side and faults and failures of characters in the story. I thought it was a very interesting piece of history. It made me wish I could travel back in time and see what they saw! He painted some idealic scenes of the plains and the life that the Indians must have lead at that time. That did make me sad during parts of it knowing the injustice that westward colonization would bring upon the natives - I think we would be better off as a civilization by bringing some of their ways of life (being in nature/ with nature and with a tribe/family, etc...) back.(less)

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Apr 23, 2008 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
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 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
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Lewis and Clark expedition is one of the most fascinating aspects of American history. Ambrose does an impeccable job of chronicling the journey, as well as details before and after the adventure. This book can be a little hard to stick with, so I opted to switch off between audio and print. That seemed to harness my attention better. 12 years later, I continue to dwell on the historical knowledge I gained form this incredible story. Highly recommended.
Michael O'Brien
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books on exploration and great explorers I have ever read. As a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, there were numerous reminders via place names of these explorers named Lewis and Clark (Clark Fork, Lewiston, historical markers of their route, etc). Given the ruggedness of the terrain, I knew that these men must have been made of very tough stuff and resourcefulness then. And Ambrose clearly shows what Lewis and Clark were up against --- indeed, the mission to put a ...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 into
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 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
Feb 22, 2014 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
Apr 24, 2009 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
Barnabas Piper
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ambrose is as clear a historical writer as there is. The account of Lewis & Clark's preparation and then journey is outstanding. The lengthy description of what happened after was less so, but mainly because I was not interested in their publishing disputes and the like. Over all, this is a wonderful account of one of the most significant adventures in American history. ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best book I ever read. This book wet my appetite to enjoy more reading and I’ve been an avid reader since. Sorry I couldn’t have given it more stars.
Oct 24, 2008 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
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Whenever I travel, I like to read something related to the area I'm visiting. I took a trip down the Columbia River from Richland, WA to Astoria. A historian on board gave lectures about Lewis and Clark, so I picked this book up. Whenever I read history, I'm amazed at how unschooled I am. I had a vague notion of what these explorers did and where they went, but Ambrose provided the context and framework I needed. I've been reading a lot of Revolutionary War era history lately. After reading Hami ...more
Chris Gager
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently rescued/purchased at the local library summer book sale. Starting tonight?

I did indeed start last night and was reluctant to put it down. The author gives lots of history and background and there's plenty of quoting from the letters of many people. There's a lot about Jefferson and his friendship/alliance with Meriweather Lewis. Not much about Clark so far, but Lewis has indicated to TJ that there needed to be a co-leader and Clark has been introduced as a former well-thought-of colleag
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Dude, that was WAAAAY more detail than I needed to know.
Sep 01, 2015 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
Dec 21, 2007 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
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book probably made me a lifelong Lewis and Clark fan. Since reading this book shortly after it was published I have been inspired to more thoroughly study the history of this expedition and even to trace its paths. I am actually writing this review on the 200th anniversary of the expedition's crossing of the continental divide. For years I had planned to be on Lemhi Pass on this date to commemorate the event. But, as often occurs, events conspired against me, and instead I am home w ...more
Linda Hart
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's incredible trek West to discover an all water route to the Pacific Ocean is certainly one of the most American stories ever. Ambrose has written a detailed account of the courage, determination and resourceful self sufficiency displayed by these men and their companies to complete the expedition, giving great attention to the science, geography and their everyday life on the journey. This was a wonderful, informative and highly enjoyable read. ...more
Dec 12, 2008 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.
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Undaunted Courage
by Stephen E. Ambrose

As the men paddled the last few miles to St. Louis, Lewis had cause to feel deep satisfaction, and could be forgiven a sense of hubris. He had completed the epic voyage. By itself that was enough to place him and his partner-friend in the pantheon of explorers. (page 404)

Lewis had every reason to be proud at this moment. He had formed a company of men to accompany him to explore uncharted areas of the North American continent. He left the Mandan village wher
Ted Tyler
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This old Eagle Scout was captivated by every moment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Ambrose relies almost exclusively on the journals of L&C and their men as he makes this epic journey come to life. After completing the book, I can't help but feel that Captain Meriwether Lewis has become an old friend. You spend a lengthy amount of time immersed in his musings and reflections. I admire him for being both a skilled leader, an avid outdoorsman and a dedicated scientist. He truly is one of the m ...more
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 the ...more
Jun 27, 2007 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!
Feb 17, 2015 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
Sue Rice
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
While I really enjoyed this book, there seemed to be an over abundance of details. It got bogged down in many areas. That being said, I really enjoyed reading about their adventures and discoveries.
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
Erik Graff
Mar 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the western expansion of the USA
Recommended to Erik by: National Public Radio
Shelves: history
I read this, mostly up in NW Wisconsin, instead of reading the actual journals of Lewis and Clark because I was feeling lazy and thought a modern summary would serve as a better, lighter read. Indeed, it is a light read, part history, part travel.
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read. Perfect for the summer, a season during which my family has been hiking and camping in the Pacific Northwest. I often found myself considering how the members of the Corps of Discovery viewed this new region.
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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. In his final years he faced charges of plagiarism for his books, with subsequent concerns about his research emerging after his death.

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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.” 6 likes
“The Enlightenment taught that observation unrecorded was knowledge lost.” 5 likes
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