The Way to the Western Sea: Lewis and Clark across the Continent

The Way to the Western Sea: Lewis and Clark across the Continent

The Way to the Western Sea: Lewis and Clark across the Continent

The Way to the Western Sea: Lewis and Clark across the Continent

Synopsis

Critics have called David Lavender a "master storyteller" ( Library Journal), his prose "virile, disciplined, yet personal" ( New York Times), and his book "a balanced, learned, and lively history of an epochal human exploit" ( Choice). Lavender sets the stage with a lucid account of the imperial rivalries between England, Spain, France, and the United States, and their role in Thomas Jefferson's decision to sponsor an expedition that might strengthen the young country's claims to lands it had purchased but never seen. Lavender then takes us through the steps that led to the selection of Meriwether Lewis and the Corps of Discovery's leader with William Clark as coleader. From there, the great adventure story unfolds and we follow Lewis and Clark and their company on their journey through vast, uncharted territory as they seek a transcontinental route to the Pacific. From its inception to its conclusion- a triumph made bittersweet by Lewis's suicide only a few years later- we witness the trials, the surprises, the natural wonders, and the successes large and small that the expedition met with day by day over the course of two years and thousands of miles. The result is a true classic of adventure writing and a marvel of historical storytelling.

Excerpt

Luck! It began for Captain Meriwether Lewis, paymaster of the First Infantry Regiment, United States Army, when he reached his regimental headquarters in Pittsburgh on March 5, 1801, after a rough trip from Detroit, and found in his mail a letter from Thomas Jefferson, recently elected president of the United States.

His thin, long-nosed face must have shown his mingled delight and astonishment. Jefferson needed a private secretary with unusual qualifications. "Your knolege of the Western country," he wrote, "of the army and of all it's interests and relations have rendered it desirable for public as well as private purposes that you should be engaged in that office."

Pay would be five hundred dollars a year. Not much even then, but Lewis could retain his rank as job insurance and save living expenses as a member of the president's household. Now, that was exciting! Lewis, who was given to quick exhilarations and, balancing them, occasional deep depressions, dashed off a boastful note to an army friend—he would now be in a position to "inform you of the most important political occurrences of our government or such of them as I may feel myself at liberty to give" —and then wrote a more circumspect letter to Jefferson accepting the appointment. After settling his accounts, he requisitioned three fresh horses, one for riding and two for packing, and shortly after March 10 started for the new federal city of Washington. It was a miserable trip. Flat gray skies, leafless trees, the plop-suck, plop-suck of . . .

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