Book review: “Undaunted Courage” by Steven Ambrose
In his book, Undaunted Courage, Steven Ambrose brings to our attention the life history of young Lewis before the expedition to the pacific coast. He gives us an impression that Lewis was an intelligent young boy, an attribute that saw him lead the expedition. According to the author, Lewis’ childhood was promising and his future was bright. He made good choices in his youthful life. The Lewis and Clark expedition was influenced by the relationship between Lewis and Thomas Jefferson, who was a family friend. The author comes up with a summary of the 2000-mile expedition in an amazing prose. During the exploration, Lewis wrote his characteristic voluminous journals expressing their two years joy as well as the mysteries they were experiencing.
President Thomas Jefferson chose Lewis to lead the expedition whose purpose was to explore and discover a northwest route to the Pacific Ocean and opening commercial ties with the inhabitants of the area. Lewis is a perfect choice to lead the expedition because of his military background where he was a captain. Again, it is indicated in numerous instances that he was very intelligent, something that began since he was a small boy. Lewis is presented by the author as a reasonable man with a natural gift in scientific observation. He is even said to have been a skilled and experienced naturalist. These are some of the qualities that made him catch the eye of the president of course considering the two were friends from home. In his troop, the second in command was Lieutenant William Clark, a friend to Lewis who still was a younger brother to an activist and a war general, George Rogers Clark.
The troop went by the name ‘corps of discovery’ and consisted of 30 other recruits. The expedition started in May 1804 and they sailed the river using canoes with others walking on foot along the banks. The leader had strict instructions from the president to keep a journal, which he wrote about the daily events taking place around them. This included daily measurement in latitude and longitude and his scientific observations. As the expedition goes on, a Canadian decided to join the ‘corps of discovery’ with his teenage wife who later on plays a big role in the survival of the voyage. Lewis is disappointed as there is no connection between the river Missouri leading to the pacific so the troop had to traverse through the great falls of the Missouri river and the Rocky Mountains. By this time, their food reserves were running low and were forced to trade their horses against foodstuff for survival.