Critical Review of Undaunted Courage Essay

This essay has a total of 876 words and 4 pages.

Critical Review of Undaunted Courage

Critical Review of Undaunted Courage


Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage is a remarkable piece of nonfiction literature. His
work is so thorough that one wonders how he has time to do much more. Yet he has created
time in his life to go west and go camping and hiking and canoeing in the summers with his
family. Which possibly shows that anything can be raw material to the open mind, for it
was on those trips that he developed a great fascination with the Lewis and Clark
expedition that explored the West when the country was twenty-five years old. Ambrose
creates a precise and true story of the expedition in witch most readers would be
enthralled. His style is smooth, readable and enjoyable, unlike many historical nonfiction
of the day. Undaunted courage has succeeded and conveying the meaning of the book and the
significance of Lewis and Clark's expedition.

Ambrose's attraction to the west resulted in Undaunted Courage, a splendidly thorough,
exciting description of a happening that has achieved infamous status. Very much like the
expedition itself, the book is slow in the beginning, being worried with topics like
family sayings and "begats" but after 40 to 50 pages o it takes off. The expedition
started chiefly through the labors of President Thomas Jefferson. Amongst his chief
objectives were to find an all-water route to the Pacific and to keep the West from
seceding away under Aaron Burr. Being Jefferson, there was also the pure intellectual joy
of discovery involved in the trip. The men who made the trip, on the other hand, it was
something other than pure intellectual delight. From November 1803 to September 1806, it
was nearly three years of rough, tough work over land that no American had ever seen
before. The men were poorly prepared from the start. They were frequently ill fed and
dressed. The soldiers worked for pay of about $5 per month and a land grant of 320 acres.

They were led well though. The author holds Meriwether Lewis in high esteem. Jefferson
took Meriwether under his wing and into his President's House to be his secretary. Their
father-son relationship became a deep friendship, and Jefferson chose Lewis to head the
expedition. Lewis chose an associate, William Clark, to join him in command. Though
Clark's official Army rank was lieutenant, theirs was a true co-captaincy. Most people's
perception of early builders of America is with a purity of reason and purpose, while,
Ambrose shows that they are just as greedy then as they are now. Also in the way of the
book Ambrose wipes out the belief that Indians were innocent harmless humans. They were
filthy, dishonest, and belligerent, and awful to their women, not totally unlike the mass
of mankind.

In the end, not many of the goals were achieved. There was no all-water route to the
pacific. Nearly all of Lewis and Clark's findings and accomplishments went unaccredited to
them because of Lewis's failure to print his journals, which Ambrose calls a "treasure of
American literature". And three years after their return, Lewis committed suicide.
Nonetheless, at its conclusion the expedition seemed an impressive enterprise. Two hundred
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