The Journals of Lewis and Clark

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

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by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark
     
 

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In 1803, when the United States purchased Louisiana from France, the great expanse of this new American territory was a blank—not only on the map but in our knowledge. President Thomas Jefferson keenly understood that the course of the nation's destiny lay westward and that a national "Voyage of Discovery" must be mounted to determine the nature and

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Overview

In 1803, when the United States purchased Louisiana from France, the great expanse of this new American territory was a blank—not only on the map but in our knowledge. President Thomas Jefferson keenly understood that the course of the nation's destiny lay westward and that a national "Voyage of Discovery" must be mounted to determine the nature and accessibility of the frontier. He commissioned his young secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to lead an intelligence-gathering expedition from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and back. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis, accompanied by co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone guide Sacajawea, and thirty-two men, made the first trek across the Louisiana Purchase, mapping the rivers as he went, tracing the principal waterways to the sea, and establishing the American claim to the territories of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. together the captains kept a journal, a richly detailed record of the flora and fauna they sighted, the Indian tribes they encountered, and the awe-inspiring landscape they traversed, from their base camp near present-day St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River. In keeping this record they made an incomparable contribution to the literature of exploration and the writing of natural history. The Journals of Lewis and Clark, writes Bernard DeVoto, was "the first report on the West, on the United States over the hill and beyond the sunset, on the province of the American future. There has never been another so excellent or so influential...It satisfied desire and created desire: the desire of the westering nation."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The epic Lewis and Clark Expedition comes to life on a human scale in this engrossing abridgment of the explorers' journals. The travelers spent more than two years traveling up the Missouri, across the Rockies to the Pacific and back, and these accounts leave no doubt that it was a very hard slog. Page after page details the drudgery of paddling and hauling the boats upstream, the maddening mosquitoes and the enervating damp of the Pacific Northwest; virtually every entry includes an anxious tally of the game killed that day to feed the party. But the sober, soldierly tone of the journals often gives way to lyrical descriptions of the terrain and wildlife of the magnificent landscapes through which the expedition passed (hair-raising encounters with grizzlies are a persistent refrain). Particularly intriguing are the portraits of the Indian peoples the explorers encountered, with whom they maintained mostly friendly relations. Although burdened by the prejudices of the age, Lewis and Clark recognized the complexity of the attitudes and motivations of the Indians, who wavered between wariness of white men and eagerness to trade with them and enlist their support in the convoluted inter-tribal politics of the West. The editor's assiduous untangling of the explorers' notoriously bad spelling, punctuation and grammar, helpful notes and maps and fluent synopses of the duller stretches of the narrative make the journals accessible to a general readership. In the words of Smithsonian Institution curator emeritus Herman J. Viola, who contributes an afterword, these journals are "an American classic in the truest sense." (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
A new edition using the Thwaites text of 1904-1905. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395859964
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/28/1997
Pages:
576
Sales rank:
132,381
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.31(d)

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