The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.
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, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.
Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams 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 keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.
But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by Crown
(first published March 25th 2014)
Julie M. Fenster is the author of many works of American history, including The Case of Abraham Lincoln, Race of the Century, the award-winning Ether Day, and, with Douglas Brinkley, Parish Priest, which was a New York Times bestseller. She also cowrote the PBS documentary First Freedom, about the Founders and religious liberty. She lives in Upstate New York.
John James Audobon, the orinthologist and painter, left his family at home in Ohio in October of 1820 and traveled in a slight state of desperation to New Orleans, a well-worn city newly vibrant and very rich.A couple of years ago I read a fictional account of the life of Jefferson's oldest daughter Patsy, and it really piqued my interest about her father. So when the opportunity came to read this accounting of Jefferson and the exploration of The Louisiana Purchase I jumped at it.
Jefferson was rather forward thinking and was determined to "go west" and expand the US from sea to "shining sea". In pursuit of this dream, he made The Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803.
This book is made up of the tales of the infamous team of Lewis and Clark, as well as lesser known explorers like Pike, Freeman and Custis and Dunbar and Hunter, whom Jefferson sent to explore The Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark's main objective was to follow the Missouri River west and find whether it would offer a route to the Pacific. They were also expected to watch for opportunities of trade, resource availability, and document wildlife and native peoples encountered along the way, all of which was logged in detail in their diaries.
The book includes a handy map of the US in 1803-1804, pictures of the explorers, photos of things they encountered during their adventures, and excerpts from the explorer's diaries as well as editorial articles.
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My final word: Providing a good overview of both the expeditions and the politics of the time, I rather liked this book, although it could get a little too detailed at times for my tastes. Recommended for lovers of history.
The Cerebral Girl is a nearing-fifty blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.
I received a copy of this book to review through Blogging for Books, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.