Undaunted Courage

Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson And The Opening Of The American West

Undaunted Courage

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River, across the forbidding Rockies, and -- by way of the Snake and mighty Columbia -- down to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and his partner, Captain William Clark, endured incredible hardships and witnessed astounding sights. With great perseverance, they worked their way into an unexplored West and when they returned two years later, they had long since been given up for dead.
Lewis is supported by a variety of colorful characters: Jefferson and his vision of the West; Clark, the artist and map-maker; and Lewis -- the enigma, who led brilliantly but considered the mission a failure. After suffering several periods of depression -- and despite his status as national hero -- Lewis died mysteriously, apparently by his own hand.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9780743550956 | 
  • June 1996
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. In Undaunted Courage, Ambrose gives us an unbiased account of Meriwether Lewis. He presents Lewis as both a hero and a flawed man. How does Ambrose reconcile these two sides of Lewis's character?
  2. Discuss the ways in which Undaunted Courage shares a reading experience with that of a novel. Yet how is reading history unlike reading fiction?
  3. Compare and contrast the social conventions of Lewis's time with those of our own -- in particular the social standing and treatment of women, blacks, and Indians. How much did the harsh physical environment that people endured affect the attitudes of the time in the arena of racial and sexual equality?
  4. What small but significant role did women play in the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?
  5. Discuss the way in which Ambrose clearly depicts the difficulty and confusion that faced both the Americans and the Indians when their paths began to cross. They were different peoples with different ways, and their inability to fully comprehend the other was mutual. Does Ambrose give us a sense of the inevitability of American expansion at the expense of the Indians, or does he suggest and/or imply that there might have been another way?
  6. Ambrose brings to life the diversity of Indians in America in the early 1800s. Now, however, there is little trace of the many tribes that Ambrose described. We often consider what the
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About the Author

Stephen E. Ambrose
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Stephen E. Ambrose

Stephen E. Ambrose was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than thirty books. Among his New York Times bestsellers are Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944, and Undaunted Courage. Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History.

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