My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stephen E. Ambrose’s recounting of the Corps of Discovery is largely a biography of Meriweather Lewis, with lots of excerpts from his and Clark’s journals and from the letters exchanged by Lewis and President Thomas Jefferson. The casual racism and colonial high-handedness are appalling, although they accurately reflect the attitudes of the times. I was also disappointed that there was so little on Sacajawea, the only woman in the party, who kept up with all the men and sometimes outpaced them, with a newborn on her back no less. However, seeing pristine, largely unexploited country through the eyes of Lewis and Clark is a treat.
The primary goal of the expedition was to find a route by water from the Atlantic to the Pacific, across the brand-new Louisiana Purchase and beyond, to give America a firm foothold in trade across the continent. The secondary goal was that of scientific exploration, and Lewis’ vast notes, drawings, and specimens of hundreds of species of plants and animals, along with his surveying ability, make you see how dedicated he was to the adventure of discovery and the acquisition of scientific knowledge. When you measure the lack of technology against the expedition’s requirements, the scope–almost audacity, really–of the undertaking is freaking impressive.
It’s not a fast read, though; my library loan expired before I could finish the e-copy. Fortunately, I was able to download an audio loan immediately so I didn’t lose traction. I am almost impossible to please when it comes to narrated dialogue, hence most novels, but nonfiction is okay for that and the narrator was good.
Recommended for anyone interested in American History beyond the schoolbooks.
Bookshelves: american-history, mother-nature-will-kill-you, americana, biography, non-fiction, adventure, man-vs-nature