American Exploration and the Opening of the West
May 14, 1804 – Sep 23, 1806
Lewis and Clark are probably America’s most famous pairing. The Corps of Discovery traveled uncharted territory in search of a water route from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. What makes their story alluring today is the journals kept by the co-captains as well as a handful of members of the expedition. Their story reads like an epic adventure and paints a nearly clear picture of what the northwest was like in the early 1800s.
Original Journals Of The Lewis and Clark Expedition – edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites – This 14 volume was published in 1904, 100 years after the expedition. It provides one of the most readable versions of the journals and is definitely for the dedicated. But I found this to be essential reading in order to feel like you are with Lewis and Clark. Their words, feelings and interpretations cover the excitement and the mundane and are the reason we know so much about their journey.
“Few explorers who saw and did so much that was absolutely new have written of their deeds with such quiet absence of boastfulness, and have drawn their descriptions with such complete freedom from exaggeration.”Theodore Roosevelt
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West – by Stephen E. Ambrose – Undaunted Courage covers Lewis’s entire life in a highly readable book. In this you learn the events that led up to the Corp of Discovery as well as the hardships they expedition faced along their journey. Numerous facets are covered including new discoveries of wildlife as well as relations with Indians (which were more often than not helpful). A great book to read before diving deeper into the journals or more specific books about Lewis and Clark.
Lewis and Clark: Pioneering Naturalists – by Paul Russell Cutright – While not actual scientists, both Lewis and Clark acted like scientists on their way to discovering and documenting numerous species new to the United States. They studied birds, mammals, fish, trees, plants, and geographic features along their entire journey. This is definitely a great book to read for natural historians and birders.
Lewis and Clark Among the Indians – by James P. Ronda – Lewis and Clark essentially began the ethnological analysis of the Indians they encountered on their expedition. Rhonda expands on the journals to provide insight into these Indians, including correcting misunderstandings and flat out mistakes. Native Americans greatly assisted the Corps of Discovery, some more than others.
The Way to the Western Sea – by David Lavender
Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition – Donald Dean Jackson
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation – This non-profit is the place to go to find practically any information about Lewis and Clark. New information is being discovered and expert historians are perusing new angles all the time. Join to receive the quarterly journal, We Proceeded On. It is scholarly without being burdensome to read.