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Undaunted Courage Book Essay

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Westward expansion was the main goal of the early 1800’s. Thomas Jefferson, the president at the time, tried to achieve this goal by sending Meriwether Lewis on an expedition west into the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, to find a river route to the Pacific Ocean. In the book Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, the author gives a spectacular and biographical description of the voyage, and the struggles Lewis and Clark both faced along the way. The Lewis and Clark expedition opened many new opportunities for the early United States, not limited to Indian relations and westward expansion, but also helped discover many new species of plants and animals never before seen by the colonists.

Although Meriwether Lewis was a hero of his time, he had demons that plagued him. Jefferson’s perception of Lewis was that of a extraordinary man, much like he viewed himself, but Lewis had many issues from his childhood that were unknown to the public. In chapter forty of Undaunted Courage named the Aftermath, the more negative part of Lewis’s life is explained. Meriwether Lewis grew up in a very abusive, neglectful home. His father was an alcoholic and, like many children with alcoholic parents, Lewis himself turned toward drinking as a vice. Even though Ambrose presents the heroic side of Lewis, he also does a fantastic job at providing an unbiased representation of him as a whole. He explains all of the highs and lows throughout Lewis’s life and describes the downfall of his life that led to his eventual suicide.

The expedition of Lewis and Clark did not have many women involved. At this specific time in history women were not given the opportunity to do much in society besides raise children,and take care of a home. In the off chance that a women was even given the chance to make an accomplishment, outside homemaking, she would never be recognized for it. However, one woman had a very big hand in how the Lewis and Clark voyage to the Pacific Ocean played out, and her name was Sacagawea. Sacagawea was a native american woman who belonged to the Shoshone Tribe. She helped guided the explorers through the Pacific Northwest, because even though it was unknown to them, she had been living there her whole life. She assisted Lewis and Clark through the rest of their journey to the Ocean and they helped her located her people, for she had been separated from them for quite some time. Lewis and Clark both described Sacagawea in the journal entries they wrote often calling her “Janey” or squaw, which was non-derogatory and during this period. They gave her credit for helping them along the way, and being a key element in their expedition being a success.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose is a uniquely written novel. He directly refers to most of the journal entries written by Lewis and Clark themselves for subsistence for his own novel. Ambrose includes many of the journal entries in his novel, so the book itself reads as though it was written by Lewis and Clark themselves. “The Enlightenment taught that observation unrecorded was knowledge lost.” Ambrose lived by this quote and it cleared showed in his book. He recorded all of Lewis and Clark’s travels and encounters. However, this novel shares a few resemblances with that of a normal book, seeing as how it is written in a chapter format and also includes description not described in the journal entries. Ambrose himself stated that he has a sort of “obsession” with the Lewis and Clark expedition which explains why he would choose to write such an extensive novel over the subject.

In Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose gave a beautifully executed, unbiased account of Meriwether Lewis. Ambrose portrays Lewis as both a hero and a flawed man. After the expedition lewis was viewed as an american hero, but to him the trip was a failure, the job of the explorers was to find a river route that led west all the way to the Pacific ocean, and they did not complete this task. For there is no river way that leads all the way to the Pacific. Even though Lewis and Clark had done an amazing dead for early America, Lewis was still not please.

He blamed himself for not being able to follow the president’s instructions exactly, he had not found an all water route, and therefore in his own mind he had failed. Meriwether Lewis was particularly hard on himself and was never satisfied with the outcome of the expedition. The grief he felt after the voyage led him to become an alcoholic, like his father has been before him. After the drinking started, Lewis’ life as a whole began to decline. Eventually Lewis’ grief got the best of him, and led him to an early grave. Meriwether Lewis, the “American Hero” in the eyes of many at this time in history, committed suicide because he felt that he had failed at his most importantly assigned task in life.

The conflict between English settlers and American Indians started long before the expedition of Lewis and Clark. When setting out for this voyage the explorers knew that facing Indians would be apart of it, and it would make the trip much more difficult and dangerous. Being that English settlers and American Indians did not speak the same language, Lewis and Clark had a very difficult time explaining that they were not there to hurt them and had come peacefully to explore.Without the help of Sacagawea, any relations with the Native Americans would have been virtually impossible.

Since she was along with the expedition, Sacagawea was able to converse with the tribes that Lewis and Clark encountered and explained to them that the explorers meant no harm. With her help, the indians even sometimes offer aid to the explorers and offered to let them camp in their villages, providing them with shelter and nourishment. Lewis and Clark often described the indians in their journals stating that they were some of the “ most gigantic men they had ever seen” The Native Americans and Settlers however were very different people, who had different ways and came from a different culture.

They did not fully understand one another, or their opposing ways. The nature of the settlers was very invasive and undoubtedly settlers would have eventually taken the land that once belonged to the indians, as their own. Even if the Lewis and Clark expedition west had failed, America would have eventually pushed westward, to explore the uncharted territory. Removing indians from land that had been theirs for centuries on end, and forcing them to assimilate into the English ways or be placed on small reservation which would never reflect the size of the land they had once been able to live on and cultivate.

In the era of the Lewis and Clark expedition, women, blacks and indians were not viewed very highly in society. White women were treated better than black and indians, but did not have many rights and often were expected to submit to their husbands and be nothing but homemakers and mothers. Blacks were slaves, seen as nothing more than another animal on the farm at this time. Thinking about this today it is hard to understand the barbaric social structure of the past, but that was the way back then. Indians were viewed as savages that needed to either assimilate into English ways and Christianity, or be pushed out of their homeland and onto reservations.

Since women, blacks, and indians were treated so harshly, their attitudes towards their oppressors were very angry and hostile. Indians were not looking to negotiate they were furious that a white man that had just arrived in this country was trying to take land that had been theirs for many years. Today, thankfully, treatment of these people has changed dramatically. Although there is still work to be done, America is working toward a more equal society, where everyone is offered the same opportunity no matter their sex, race, or religion.

In conclusion, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose clearly describes the struggles and accomplishments of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The voyage was tough and although they did not find an all water route to the Pacific, they opened the gates of westward expansion for early America.

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