From Stephen Ambrose comes a book on the most momentous expedition in American history & one of the great adventure stories of all time. In 1803 Pres. Th Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Cpt. Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up theMoreFrom Stephen Ambrose comes a book on the most momentous expedition in American history & one of the great adventure stories of all time.
In 1803 Pres. Th Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Cpt. Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri R. to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia R. to the Pacific Ocean & back. Lewis was a perfect choice. He endured great hardships & saw incredible sights, including vast herds of buffalo & Indian tribes with no previous contact with whites. He & his partner, Cpt. Wm Clark, made the 1st map of the trans-Mississippi West, provided scientific data on the flora & fauna of the Louisiana Purchase territory, & established the American claim to Oregon, Washington & Idaho.
Ambrose has pieced together new information about weather, terrain & medical knowledge at the time to provide a colorfully realistic backdrop for the expedition. Lewis saw the N. American continent before any other white. Ambrose details native peoples, weather, landscape, science, everything the expedition encountered, thru Lewis eyes.
Lewis is supported by a host of colorful characters, 1st of all Jefferson himself, whose interest in exploring & acquiring the American West went back 30 years. Next comes Clark, a frontiersman whose love for Lewis matched Jeffersons. There are numerous Indian chiefs, & Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the expedition, along with the French-Indian hunter Drouillard, the great naturalists of Philadelphia, the French & Spanish fur traders of St Louis, John Quincy Adams & other leading political, scientific & military figures of the turn of the century.
This is a book about a hero, about national unity. Its also a tragedy. When Lewis returned to Washington in the fall of 1806, he was a national hero. But for Lewis, the expedition was a failure. Jefferson had hoped to find an all-water route to the Pacific with a short hop over the Rockies.
Lewis discovered no such passage. Jefferson hoped the Louisiana Purchase would provide endless farm land. Lewis discovered that the Great Plains were too dry. Jefferson hoped there was a river flowing from Canada into the Missouri. Lewis reported no such river, thus no claim to the Canadian prairie.
Lewis discovered the Plains Indians were hostile & would block settlement & trade up the Missouri. Lewis took to drink, engaged in land speculation, piled up debts he couldnt pay, made political enemies & suffered depression. High adventure, high politics, suspense, drama & diplomacy combine with romance & tragedy to make this work of scholarship as readable as a novel.