Captain Courageous Meriwether Lewis Is a Hero Who Merits Worshipping, Says Historian Stephen E. Ambrose

By Harry Levins Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 27, 1996 | Go to article overview

Captain Courageous Meriwether Lewis Is a Hero Who Merits Worshipping, Says Historian Stephen E. Ambrose


Harry Levins Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


HISTORIAN Stephen E. Ambrose makes no bones about it: "I'm a hero-worshipper, and Meriwether Lewis is one of my heroes."

Ambrose has put his hero worship between the covers of a book titled "Undaunted Courage" (Simon & Schuster, $27.50). It's a departure for Ambrose.

After all, he's best-known for his work with 20th-century military heroes - as the leading biographer of Dwight Eisenhower, for example, and as a leader in the push to put Colin Powell in this year's presidential race.

But Ambrose has nursed an obsession with Lewis for two decades, ever since an aunt gave him a copy of the journals written by Lewis and William Clark, his partner on the expedition across the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific.

And last fall, when Powell called Ambrose on the day after the general decided against an uphill charge in politics, the historian responded by citing his 19th-century hero and a predicament that occurred in June 1805.

"I told him about the day Lewis and Clark arrived at the point where the Marias joins the Missouri (near Great Falls, Mont.), and they weren't sure which river was which.

"Lewis had strict orders from Thomas Jefferson to follow the Missouri, but the Marias was in flood, and all the men except Lewis thought the Marias was the Missouri. They all said, `It's the right-hand fork.' But the captain said, `No, it's the left-hand fork.'

"The men replied, `We think you're wrong - but we'll follow you wherever you choose to lead us.'

"General Powell loved that story. And I think that in the year 2000, we're going to get him as president."

In a recent book-tour interview here (he also spoke at the Missouri Historical Society), Ambrose said that like the Missouri River itself, public interest in Lewis and Clark tended to rise and fall.

"Today, I don't think many Americans have any idea of the significance of their discoveries. But the farther west you go, the more people know. I was in Washington and New York last week. It was sad." He shook his head and repeated himself: "Sad."

Things have always been happier here. After all, Lewis and Clark set out from Wood River on May 22, 1804, and they considered their journey ended only when they stepped ashore in St. Louis on Sept. 22, 1806.

Ambrose said that Lewis would recognize nothing in today's St. Louis - "nothing except the Mississippi River, of course. It's still big, and it still has a lot of floating logs in it."

In his book, Ambrose describes the St. Louis of that era as a town on the make. In the interview, he said, "St. Louis was the most entrepreneurial city in America, or at least in the American interior.

"If people like Bill Gates had been around back then, they would have come to St. Louis. It was the Seattle of its time - a place where you could get rich quick.

"With $500 and a lot of luck in fur trading, you were looking at a profit of 400 to 1,000 percent.

"And remember - when Lewis left St. Louis in 1804, it had about 1,000 whites. When he returned in 1806, it had about 5,000. The place was just bursting with energy and get-go."

The Renaissance Man

Ambrose writes - and speaks - of Meriwether Lewis with something approaching awe. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Captain Courageous Meriwether Lewis Is a Hero Who Merits Worshipping, Says Historian Stephen E. Ambrose
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.