How many times has a history book kept you on the edge of your seat or brought you to tears?
Here’s the thing; I didn’t know much about the Lewis & Clark expedition when I picked up this book. I have been to the Three Forks, Montana area, about fifteen years ago, on a camping trip with my family. We went to some exhibitions, museums, and historical sites, mostly by lucky accident, planning to return some day and check it out more thoroughly. It hasn’t happened yet, and now my children are grown and on their own. Maybe they’ll take their families there some day and build on what we learned when they were kids.
That reminds me of the quote from Nietzsche that I shared on Instagram this morning.
Thinking back on the book, I can see that some of first chapters and pieces along the way, hinted at what the author believed I already knew, but didn’t. Lewis abruptly ended his life a few years after returning from the Pacific Coast. My heart broke reading it, like I’d just heard the news of an old friends’ demise.
So much work to get the expedition on its way, so much planning and sacrifice. All that he, along with Clark and the Corp of Discovery, went through to gather and document along the trail. They lost no one along the way. And only got into one fatal skirmish with tribe on the way back. So much to gain from all that knowledge. And there he was struggling in his mind at the end.
Undaunted Courage is an amazing history book. I’ve never read anything like it. It reads more like a novel so that every day I read I don’t want to put it down and look forward to picking it up again. Every page was wonderful, insightful, and honest.
Honest! Yes, our views have changed 200 years later. He’s honest about how they dealt with native tribes, women, and slavery. The politics of our nation are not whitewashed, but neither are the triumphs and discoveries diminished.
This is Lewis’ story and it’s beautiful. I didn’t realize how much was going on and what it meant. I closed the book thinking, “Oh, Lewis. If you could only have held on for another year or two.” And “Jefferson, did you not know? Did you regret your inadvertent roll?” If you never read another history book about the late 18th and early 19th century, read this one. You won’t be disappointed.
PS Bring some tissue for the last few chapters.
Return to my first post, “Undaunted Courage: New Read” to find more posts about this inspiring book.