Here is the American adventure. This extraordinary book reveals the intrepid spirit of Americans through-out their history -- from William Bradford's account of the Mayflower landing to the hardship of a pioneer settler, from little-known stories of great figures to harrowing tales from the Wild West, the World Wars, and September 11, 2001. Told with striking eloquence, these are great American stories, tales of daring, adventure, and bravery told by the people who lived them.


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American Courage

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Here is the American adventure. This extraordinary book reveals the intrepid spirit of Americans through-out their history -- from William Bradford's account of the Mayflower landing to the hardship of a pioneer settler, from little-known stories of great figures to harrowing tales from the Wild West, the World Wars, and September 11, 2001. Told with striking eloquence, these are great American stories, tales of daring, adventure, and bravery told by the people who lived them.

Drawn from firsthand and historical writings, American Courage gives voice to the pilgrims, founding fathers, revolutionaries, pioneers, '49ers, cowboys, soldiers, pilots, and the many other heroes who have built the nation. Herbert W. Warden III has made the whole of American history fresh and palpably alive, revealing the national character through the growth of precarious "New World" settlements to the formation and defense of the United States of America. Warden has gathered amazing true stories of both everyday Americans and our most beloved national figures, including Ben Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, in a collection that will astound and inspire generations of readers.

In these pages, a Plymouth colonist recounts her abduction by Indians, Ben Franklin recalls his arrival in Philadelphia as a penniless runaway, Daniel Boone explores Kentucky, and George Washington is sent on a perilous winter mission through the wilderness as a twenty-one-year-old soldier. During the Revolutionary period we hear from participants in the Boston Tea Party, about the fates of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and lesser-known tales of courage from the battlefield. From the War of 1812, a privateer writes of battling the British navy. Davy Crockett reports from inside the Alamo. Andrew Jackson survives a duel to the death. From the Civil War era, a slave mother escapes to the North to be with her children and General James Longstreet gives a harrowing account of Pickett's Charge. Some of the book's most exciting stories come from the western frontier. Here are unbelievable stories of wrestling grizzly bears, Indian warfare, the Pony Express, and gold-rush prospectors. In the twentieth century, Charles Lindbergh recounts his transatlantic flight, soldiers do battle on D-Day and at Okinawa, civil rights pioneers risk their lives, Americans land on the moon, heroes emerge from the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

American Courage could not be more timely. Collecting the most daring and exciting reports of American bravery, these are stories of the heart and soul of the country, personal accounts that prove that when the United States is challenged, from the frontier to the Civil War to the space missions to terrorism, individual Americans reveal their true, courageous selves. Highly readable, American Courage is an inspiring chorus of bravery and daring from the men and women whose actions formed a nation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061868658
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,300,241
  • File size: 689 KB

Meet the Author

Herbert Warden III is the editor of In Praise of Sailors: A Nautical Anthology of Art, Poetry, and Prose. A graduate of Princeton University, Warden served in the Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War.

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Read an Excerpt

American Courage

Chapter One

The Pilgrims' Farewell

(from William Bradford,
Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647)

Henry VIII, king of England, broke with the Roman Catholic pope in 1532-33 over his divorce. He stopped all types of payments and appeals to Rome, claimed jurisdiction over all spiritual matters, and required from the clergy an oath of allegiance to the Crown. In 1549, under Queen Elizabeth I, an Act of Supremacy was passed declaring that the sovereign was the supreme head of the Anglican Church and The Book of Common Prayer was the proper guidebook to the Almighty.

During the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and James I (1603-1625), small independent bands of breakaway worshippers sprang up. Those called Puritans distinguished themselves from the Anglicans in matters of organization and independence. They held that each individual could communicate directly with God without an intermediary hierarchy of bishop, pope, or king. They believed that each congregation had the right to choose its own leaders, hold simple services in simple places, and eschew the vestments, hauteur, pageantry, and protocols of the Anglican church. However, under the Acts of Uniformity, such religious independence by the Puritans constituted disobedience to the Crown.

The Anglican clergy pressed the authorities to enforce the law on religious conformity. Puritan meetings were sporadically spied upon, forcing them underground. In 1571 and in 1586 two Puritan groups were arrested, but members continued to hold their services in prison. On one occasion, sixteen out of fifty who wereimprisoned died of jail fever. Two Puritan leaders, John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe, were imprisoned in 1587 and later sentenced to death for "devising and circulating seditious books." They were hung in 1593. The situation left the Puritans with but three options--to stay underground, to conform to the Anglican religion, or to emigrate from England.

Seeking freedom of worship in Holland, the first band of Pilgrims, as we now know the Puritans, sold their homes and possessions. Since it was then illegal to emigrate, they secretly chartered and boarded a sailing ship. The treacherous captain trapped them belowdecks, stole their goods and money, and betrayed them to the authorities, who seized and imprisoned them. The second contingent, secretly organized by William Brewster, rowed only the men out to their chartered ship to inspect it for safety and avoid another case of chicanery. Left ashore, the women and children with their baggage were discovered, intercepted by "horse and foot," and rounded up, leaving only the men to sail, forlorn and destitute, across the sea to Holland. These women and children were shifted from one inadequate prison to another for months on end, without trial, sufficient food, or shelter. Their final, successful exodus took place in 1608.

A group of about one hundred Pilgrims landed in Amsterdam and soon migrated to Leyden, where they lived and worked. After twelve years, the congregation, having increased to three hundred, found the work hard and their incomes small. They also feared that they lacked sufficient civil autonomy and were apprehensive of their children being "Dutchified." In the winter of 1616-17 they decided that America would be a freer, more secluded place to independently lead their lives and practice their beliefs.

Selected from his Of Plymouth Plantation, here is William Bradford's story of the Pilgrims' farewell as they boarded the ship Speedwell for England. The Speedwell sailed them across the English Channel, to England, but once it left England, in company with the larger Mayflower, leaks in the hull forced it to turn back. Only the Mayflower made it to America.

At length, the provisions were collected and everything was ready. A small ship [the Speedwell ] was brought to Holland to help in transportation, and to stay in the New World for fishing and such other affairs as might be for the good and benefit of the colony. Another vessel, the Mayflower, was hired at London.

So being ready to depart from Leyden, the day was spent in solemn humiliation, their pastor taking his text, from Ezra vii.21: "And there at the river, by Ahava, I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our God, and seek of Him a right way for us, and for our children, and for all our substance." The rest of the time was spent in pouring out prayers to the Lord with great fervency, mixed with an abundance of tears. And the time of being come that they must depart, they were accompanied with most of their brethren out of the city, unto a town sundry miles off called Delftshaven, where the ship lay ready to receive them. So they left the goodly and pleasant city of Leyden which had been their resting place for nearly twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things, but lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delftshaven they found the ship and all things ready. Their friends who could not come with them followed after them, and sundry also came from Amsterdam to see them board ship and take leave of them. That night was spent with little sleep by the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse and other expressions of true Christian love. The next day (the wind being fair) they went aboard and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting to see what sighs and sobs did sound amongst them, what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the quay as spectators could not refrain from tears. Yet comfortable and sweet it was to see such lively and true expressions of dear and unfeigned love.

But the tide, which stays for no man, calling them away that were thus loath to depart, their reverend pastor falling down on his knees (and they all with him) with watery cheeks commended them with most fervent prayers to the Lord and His blessing. And then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

American Courage. Copyright © by Herbert Warden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2010

    A MUST READ!!!

    I was taken with the first hand accounts of the men and women that have made the United States a great nation. Without these courageous people putting their lives on the line, just where would we be today? The individual accounts of their stories make one wonder if you would have the same courage these people possessed to help the country and save lives. Each story is but a few pages. I have learned so much about things I thought I already knew from history.

    The book makes me want to pick up the books from which these excerpts were taken.
    Extremely intriguing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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