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Publisher's Summary

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 Columbia rivers - 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. When they returned two years later, they had long since been given up for dead.

Undaunted Courage is supported by a variety of colorful characters: Jefferson and his vision of the West; Clark, the artist and mapmaker; 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.

©1996 Ambrose-Tubbs Inc. (P)1996 Books on Tape Inc., All Rights Reserved

Critic Reviews

"... a swiftly moving, full-dress treatment of the expedition." (The New York Times Book Review) "Ambrose's epic, a combination of rhapsody and reality, feels like a final glimpse at a pristine Eden before the crowd of trappers and settlers altered it forever." ( Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Great detail about this historical event...

Undaunted Courage brought alive many details about the Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery". I gained a better understanding of the political mind of Jefferson and political thought of the time; specifically from the colonists' perspective but with plenty of opportunity to see things from the natives' perspective. I also gained a better understanding of the logistics involved and what the expedition encountered.

I was taken in by the story and even looked forward to my commute.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Amazing journey

Ambrose makes you feel you are part of this journey. The story telling is fascinating, the achievements are grand, the task at hand for these folks (all of them) is mind numbing to comprehend but this book brings it all together in a complete and exciting way. This is Ambrose's best book.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Undaunted Courage

A must read. This is a wonderful read with larger than life characters. If you love history or Indian Culture this is a must read. This is the best history book I have read this year. Compatriot Ambrose has to have rated this among his best works. He truly lets us see the strong character of Clark and the fascinating complexity of Lewis. If you read only one book this year, this is the one.

37 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Narration kills a great book

I read this great book many years ago when it was first published and found it facinating. Ambrose's skill really broadened my reading experience and I have read many many historical books since because of it. I purchaed the audio version because I was planning to drive to Montana from Florida and I thought this book would be a fantastic counterpoint to my lengthy journey. Sad to say that the flat, droning, expressionless, uninspired (I could go on) narration ruined the book for me. Mr. Whitener is a reader from the very early days of "books-on-tape" and maybe I have been spoiled by the performances of Jim Dale, but I just couldn't listen to this book. Please try the sample before you buy this audiobook and know that what you hear is what you get - the same nasal tone and lack of emphasis throughout. If a better performer was to do this book over, I would buy it in a minute. I gave this one star because the book is really really great.

43 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Could not stand to finish the book

I usually love Stephen Ambrose, but this book reads too much like a date and time history book. To make matters worse, the narration is so bad that at times it sounds like computer generated text-to-speech/

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Another Great book

Another great book by Stephen Ambrose we will miss him as a writer and historian. I found the book insightful and entertaining Ambrose opened this land up for all of us to see as Lewis and Clark saw it. Makes me want to go out and follow the trail they blazed. I live in the Northern Plains and I couldn't imagine living as they did at Ft. Mandan in the winter and have a longing to go back there. They must have been exceptional men.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Simi Valley, CA, USA
  • 05-17-09

A Great Adventure

I genuinely enjoyed this book and learned a great deal. The author is very talented at bringing together the many side-stories that contributed to this great adventure. The focus is on Lewis but all participants are well represented. I knew essentially nothing about what Lewis and Clark achieved before I listened to this book. I now feel very knowledgeable about the topic.

I would have rated this book a 5 if it were not for the unequal emphasis placed on the return trip. The preparation and outgoing leg of the journey were described in appropriate detail. The return portion was covered so briefly I was left craving more details.

Regardless, I consider this book to be a must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about American history. It was well worth the time and was very enjoyable.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Ambrose's Masterwork!

Ambrose's passion for history and study of leadership fueled this masterwork: the best and most definitive-to-date examination and interpretation of the Corps of Discovery, their extraordinary co-Captains, and the first expedition of the Louisiana Purchase and the Oregon Country up the Missouri, across the Rockies, and down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.

Ken Burns called it "grade school history you forgot." Ambrose's passion for detail reveals far more than that, especially Sacajawea's true importance in the success of the expedition.

Ambrose called Lewis "as fine a company commander as the U.S. Army ever produced." The decisions he had to make while out of touch with civilization proved President Thomas Jefferson's wisdom in selecting and grooming him to lead this expedition.

Ambrose also recounts what happened after the expedition's end, including Lewis's unfortunate early demise.

The only thing missing from this unabridged audio version are the foreword and afterword Ambrose recorded for the abridged version, which captured Ambrose's passion about this expedition and how often he and his family camped along the Lewis & Clark Trail.

Recommended reading/listening: the audio abridged version with Ambrose's foreword and afterword.

Recommended viewing: The Ken Burns/Dayton Duncan film, _Lewis & Clark: The Journey of The Corps of Discovery_ (1997), featuring commentary from Ambrose and many of the experts who contributed to this book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Castro Valley, CA, USA
  • 05-25-04

Great Story about a Crucial Moment in US History

What an amazing story! We all think we know Lewis & Clark, because their very names are part of the vernacular. But it boggles the mind to hear how technologically primitive these explorers were. In terms of raw human effort, the Corps of Discovery was a more amazing achievement than the Apollo mission.

It is equally fascinating to find out how culturally distant this journey was. Can you imagine a member of a modern-day military unit pulling out a violin (fiddle, if you must), and playing while his comrades dance and sing with one another?

The crucial timing of the Louisiana Purchase and its relationship to Napoleon's conquest of Europe, Lewis' achievements as a naturalist and much more, all compellingly told and well read. Enjoy!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Awesome! But...

Awesome piece of work! But what in the world were they thinking hiring a robot as narrator?!?

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • sarahmoose2000
  • 02-12-11

Travels with Lewis and Clarke

This started off a bit too much like a schoolbook and I felt my mind wandering; but if you stick with it, you are brought into the trip and it's great. I found it very sad towards the end, as we are left to watch how Lewis suffers from being a great leader, to an ill shell of a man. Hankies at the ready!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful