Critical Review of Undaunted Courage Essay

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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.
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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…