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 years later, thanks to Ambrose, it still does. The journey across the country is told in such a readable style that one forgets they are reading about history.
Ambrose makes much use of their journals, and inserts his own analysis on why certain decisions were made, both intelligently and not, over others. Ambrose points to the exceptional leadership of 'the captains', but he is aware to their mistakes. Similarly in his descriptions of the different Native American tribes: both dignified and undignified practices are linked. The overall effect of the author's style is to tell a tale of bravery and discovery, without much feeling.
There are many moving descriptions of events like the suicide of Lewis, who probable suffered from bi-polar, years after the expedition itself and the beautiful imagery of the assorted settings, by means of which he is extremely familiar, make it easy to understand why people today retrace long Lewis's and Clark's journey. The wide use of the actual diaries of the journey members gives effervescence to the descriptions of the diverse tribes of, the wildlife, Indians, and natural difficulty encountered. The diaries also offer a peek into the characters of these famed figures and their troop. The gaps left by the diaries and Ambrose dexterously fills in other documents.
He additionally colors the characters, settings, and situations with well-grounded conjectures. Undaunted Courage was a delight to read. Who knew that history could be such an adventure. Stephen Ambrose, once and for all has put Lewis and Clark's adventure in infamy.
The story was so true to the real expedition. Ambrose amazingly crafted a seamless story although there were many gaps in Lewis and Clark's journals and documentation. The style was readable and simple. It tells of a remarkable story and amazing bravery that not many can match. This book is a jewel in history and really conveys the history of our country, for if it wasn't for Lewis and Clark, The United States of America could be half the size.