Book Review: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
View all my reviews
I woke up this morning to the news that Meriwether Lewis had committed suicide, and I could scarcely take it in.
This was the man who had led the Corps of Discovery--30 other men and himself--across the hitherto uncharted North American continent west of Missouri with little more than some gunpowder, dried soup, and some rudimentary navigation equipment now lying dead on the floor after being challenged over a few receipts and a few management decisions as the governor of the Louisiana Purchase.
That's what you get for making walking across a continent with little more than the clothes on your back look easy. That's what you get when the class nerd is also an excellent political sniper.
As a public school student decades ago, I learned that Meriwether Lewis and his buddy William Clark mapped the land that since became the Western United States. End of story.
However, Stephen Ambrose's book Undaunted Courage took this fleeting fact and gave it life and color in wonderfully readable prose that left me feeling I, too, had discovered the American West and named the flora and fauna of that beautiful, challenging, dynamic landscape.
President Thomas Jefferson chose Meriwether Lewis for the expedition after educating him in the arts of botany and celestial navigation--after realizing he was the right military mind for such a task.
What neither Lewis nor Jefferson fully understood was how difficult it is for a romantic and poetic yet no-nonsense decision-maker to navigate the intrigues and layered details of political life. Lewis was a solider and explorer; he was not a bureaucrat.
I never knew.
The challenges that Lewis could not surmount coupled with his tendency toward depression cost him his life. However, these facts are mere details that do nothing to dim his contribution to the natural world that is the western United States and to our confidence in our ability to dream big and pursue our dreams—barefoot, if need be.
View all my reviews