Undaunted Courage. Stephen E. Ambrose.

I had to read the story of Lewis and Clark, after paddling across most of the state of Missouri in the MR340, and finishing at the Lewis and Clark Museum in St. Charles.  I bought this book right at the museum, paying full list price which is probably twice as much as it would cost at Amazon, but I did want to support the museum.  It was a lot of fun to walk through the exhibits and read everything there was to read.

This was a very well written biography of Lewis, not just the expedition years, though that is where the focus is, but really is whole life.  I had not recalled from when I learned of the trip back in grade school the relationship had with Jefferson, which was refreshing.  As far as biographies, many of which can be quite dull, this book read more like a novel.  I wouldn’t put it in quite the class of John Adams, but it was close, and my 2nd favorite biography.

If you have any interest in the history of America, in expeditions and exploring, you should read this book.  As an endurance athlete who has races up to 3 days in the woods, I’m amazed at what these guys were able to accomplish.  Granted, they had a lot of help from the Indians a long the way — mores o than their journals may portray, but what they accomplished is still quite impressive.  There were times they were averaging over 30 miles on foot in the mountains.  I know from my recent 1/2 SCAR attempt what 42 miles feels like, so I know the Corp of Discovery men were in excellent shape!

Only a few quotes…

“This day I complete my thirty first year, he [Lewis] began.  He figured he was halfway through life’s journey.  “I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the hapiness [sic] of the human race, or to advance information of succeeding generation.  I viewed with great regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now soarly [sic] feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended.”

“To victory over the wilderness, which is more interesting than that over man!”  – Barlow

And finally, what Jefferson himself route in 1813:

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 enterprize to him.

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