Climb aboard the historic canoes of this country’s two greatest explorers and experience their journey up the Missouri River, over the Great Divide and to the Pacific Ocean. Stephen Ambrose has written a wonderful book—Undaunted Courage—about the journeys of Lewis and Clark. Although you can download the Lewis and Clark Journals for free, Ambrose nicely fills in the gaps, expounding on the bigger, historical picture of those times.
Ambrose references the journals quite frequently, and they actually form the basis for his book. He unveils President Jefferson’s early goals and ambitions for our country and the ultimate mission of the Corps of Discovery. Jefferson eagerly sought to expand our nation westward, hoping to set up an important trade route along the way. Maps would need to be drawn and the ways of the American Indian chronicled. At that time, they did not know if an all water route to the Pacific existed or not. If America didn’t claim the land, the British would. Jefferson could only entrust such an important undertaking to one man, Meriwether Lewis.
Both Captains Lewis and Clark displayed great character and fortitude. The book captures their times of courage and despair and their historic friendship. Together, they endured bitter winters, pushed their boats up boulder infested streams, and hiked over massive, unforgiving mountains. At times, hunger drove them to kill their horses and dogs for food. Friendly and unfriendly Indians greeted them along the way. Through it all, they pressed on, leaving behind a legacy every American can cherish.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, go to Amazon: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West.
I conclude this post with some fitting words from Thomas Jefferson. His 1813 quote refers specifically to Meriwether Lewis.
“Of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness & perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from it’s direction, careful as a father of those committed to his charge, yet steady in the maintenance of order & discipline, intimate with the Indian character, customs & principles, habituated to the hunting life, guarded by exact observation of the vegetables & 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.”