BOOK REVIEW: History comes alive in this entertaining account of Thomas Jefferson's unrivaled age of American exploration. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, war between any of these four powers was expected at any moment. To preserve America's foothold in the West, Jefferson played a game of strategy---putting into the field the only Americans he could: an eccentric cadre of explorers who finally annexed the land through courageous investigation.
Jefferson most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, but there were others who did the same work in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike---all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier, and each helped to unite the fast-growing nation.
Told with great narrative verve, Jefferson's America rediscovers these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president's vision for a continental America.
MY REVIEW: While I enjoyed reading this book, it was one of those that never ended. It took me a bit to get into it as well. Finally, around the middle of the book I started remembering what was happening and looking forward to what was ahead. If I hadn't been in a hurry to finish the book I think I would have enjoyed it more.
I can't imagine what life was like for those explorers---traveling and mapping a land that no other American had ever visited, without the tools and such we have today. It seems a dauntless and difficult task. And yet, for king and country (well, President and country) they faced the unknown and went were no American ever had.
Some of the adventures these explorers had were quite interesting. Lewis and Clark heard of the great, indomitable grizzly bears, and decided to see one for themselves. They tracked them and searched for them but never saw anything but tracks. Finally after killing a young cub, they were rather unipressed with how easily it succumbed to them. Their disappointment, however, was short lived, and as they encountered full-grown bears that seemed impervious to rifle shots, a healthy fear set in. :)
Other adventures were William Dunbar and George Hunter as they spent months trying to sail a heavy boat through shallow water; Zebulon Pike marching for days to reach a mountain, but being forced to turn back---such was the infamous Pike's Peak; and of course, the Red River trip, which, while failing its original objective, managed to set a definate western border to the Lousianna Purchase.
I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS per their blogger program, and was not required to write a positive review.