Granny's Country Store > Wilderness Survival Supplies > Lewis & Clark Books | Search | View Cart

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Search for a Northwest Passage
Book Reviews by Thomas J. Elpel

     Little was known about North America west of the Mississippi river at the beginning of the 1800s. It was known that the Missouri River flowed east, merging with the Mississippi en-route to the Gulf of Mexico, while the Columbia flowed west from a similar latitude as the Missouri and spilled into the Pacific Ocean. It was hoped that there might be a navigable water route with a low portage connecting these two rivers to facilitate commerce across the continent. It was believed that any mountains at the headwaters between the two rivers would be gentle mountains like the Appalachians of the east, easy to portage across. It was also believed that there might be mastodons roaming the west, or perhaps a tribe of Indians of Welch descent, based on English mythology. In short, nobody knew what was out west two hundred years ago, except the Native Americans who lived there.

     From 1804 to 1805 the Corps of Discovery, commanded by co-captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled more than 4,000 miles by foot, canoe, and horseback, traveling from Saint Louis up the Missouri River, across the Rocky Mountains, and down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Then they had to come back. It was an eclectic group, with the two captains, plus thirty-one other men, including soldiers, hunters, boatmen, French trappers, Clark's slave York, a teenage girl with her infant child, plus Lewis' dog Seaman. Their story became one of the world's greatest exploration adventure stories, documented in great detail in the journals of Lewis and Clark and their men.

     Today there are literally hundreds of books and videos documenting the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Individuals retracing their story can dive as deeply as desired with their multi-volume journals, but might instead choose a more friendly novel to tell the tale, or may just want a summary of the highlights along the way, accompanied by scenic pictures from the route. For those with special interests, there are Lewis and Clark books covering specific topics, such as the medicine, clothing, or plants of the expedition. Our favorite titles are listed here for convenience and comparison, or click on this link to read my complete narrative of Lewis and Clark on the Jefferson River.

Undaunted Courage
Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson,
and the Opening of the American West

A #1 New York Times Bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose

     Stephen Ambrose has a way of telling a story. He doesn't embellish anything, but brings together the facts in a way that brings a story to life. Undaunted Courage isn't exactly the kind of story you would read to your kids, but for the adult reader it is immensely captivating and hard to put down.

     Ambrose dives into the background behind the expedition, illustrating Thomas Jefferson's lifelong desire to explore the West, as well as the circumstances that led to the Louisiana Purchase. He also covers the story of Meriwether Lewis in detail from birth until death, giving less coverage to William Clark, whom Lewis invited along to co-captain the trip.

     The main emphasis of the book is on the act of preparing for, and then journeying across the continent and back. Ambrose shows how the expedition repeatedly encountered obstacles of nearly insurmountable size, then overcame them, only to encounter even greater obstacles farther along the trail. He reveals the personalities behind the men and their ups and downs along the way, as well as their day to day story and the near disasters that could have put an end to the expedition. Undaunted Courage is a must-read for anyone with even a mild to moderate interest in the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Undaunted Courage     $17.00     Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Lewis & Clark
A Photographic Journey
by Bill and Jan Moeller

     Lewis and Clark: A Photographic Journey is a nicely abbreviated version of the Lewis and Clark experience, covering the highlights of the adventure in short paragraphs and quotes, accompanied by great pictures taken from along the trail. The book is sectioned into chapters based on major events, and then dated on each page for the minor events, sometimes covering only a day, sometimes several days or a few weeks, according to what happened along the way. For the light-reader who isn't ready for the in-depth Lewis and Clark experience, this little book gives a fast and enjoyable overview of the whole story.

Lewis & Clark: A Photographic Journey     $18.00     Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Day-By-Day with the Lewis & Clark Expedition
1804 to 1806
Compiled by Barbara Fifer

     Day by Day with the Lewis & Clark Expedition is a calendar, but not today's calendar. It is a calendar of twenty-eight months, covering May 1804 through September 1806, detailing the events of each day in a concise paragraph within each calendar square. Photos, illustrations and captions accompany this beautifully formatted calendar. Hang it on your wall and look at it every day. The daily events of Lewis and Clark are probably a lot more interesting than your own day to day life! With the calendar you can join them in your imagination, while reminding yourself that it is still possible to break free from ordinary reality to live out the adventures of your own making.

Day--By-Day with the Lewis & Clark Expedition     $13.00     Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Feasting and Fasting with Lewis & Clark
A Food and Social History of the Early 1800s
by Leandra Zim Holland

     What did the Lewis and Clark Expedition live on?-fresh bison on the High Plains, dried salmon in Columbia River country, dog and horse when necessary, vegetables offered by Indian hosts, portable soup, and salt pork carried from Philadelphia. Leandra Holland's narrative about what the expedition members ate on their journey makes this book a rich treat as well as a solid reference for historians, researchers, and re-enactors. Extensive illustrations and a sprinkling of authentic recipes help to trace the expedition's daily life, their food preparation, and their preservation and storage methods. A detailed index, separate recipe and menu index, and item-by-item appendices of food groups further assist food lovers and Lewis and Clark buffs. 288 pages.

Feasting and Fasting with Lewis & Clark     $25.00     Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Plants of the Lewis & Clark Expedition
by H. Wayne Phillips

     The purpose of the Lewis and Clark expedition wasn't merely to search for a northwest passage, but also to record for science the new plant and animal species the Corps discovered along the way. Thomas Jefferson was a botanist and helped train Meriwether Lewis in the science of collecting and documenting new species. Although the botany aspect of the story is usually overlooked in narratives of the expedition, the reality is that Lewis spent a very large portion of his time out collecting and recording samples, even writing in the boats while the men worked hard to tow the expedition forward. He collected and described hundreds of plants that were new to science, which have been brought back to light in Wayne Phillips' book, Plants of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

     The book has excellent color photos of the plants Lewis recorded, along with descriptive text to identify the plants, plus tidbits from the journals detailing where they encountered each species, how the plants were used, and other events that were happening at the same time. I would not suggest it as a first book for learning plants, but more as a useful perspective on the botanical aspect of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Plants of the Lewis & Clark Expedition     $20.00     Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Lewis & Clark
Tailor Made, Trail Worn
Army Life, Clothing, & Weapons of the Corps of Discovery
by Robert J. Moore, Jr and Michael Haynes

     Our ideas about the clothing worn by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition consists of stereotypes fabricated by artists and playwrights in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Erroneous images are so pervasive in the literature that the silhouhette of Lewis and Clark used by the National Park Service shows Lewis wearing a tricorn hat and Clark wearing a coonskin cap, neither of which they had, and this image is posted on most of the official Lewis and Clark literature as well as along thousands of miles of roads marking the Lewis and Clark Trail!

     Fortunately, the truth about what the Corps of Discovery wore on the expedition has been revealed in the meticulously researched, beautifully illustrated Tailor Made, Trail Worn.

     The authors point out that the Corps of Discovery was an army expedition with military law, military discipline, military clothes, and military standards for dress and hair styles. Lewis and Clark made little note of such things in their journals, because nobody writes about the mundane things in their journals, that everybody knows already. They wrote about the new things they saw and did. But the clothing and equipment they started out with is well-documented, and there are plenty of journal entries covering the switch from army clothes to more and more buckskin clothes and moccasins along the way, while saving their dress uniforms for ceremonies with the Indians. There are also clues from the journals suggesting that the Corps kept their hair cut and their faces shaven to army standards, at least as often as circumstances permitted.

     In addition to the reprints of historical drawings and paintings, much of the best art work throughout the book, including the cover image, is the original work of co-author Michael Haynes.

Tailor Made, Trail Worn     $40.00     Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Or Perish in the Attempt
Wilderness Medicine in the Lewis & Clark Expedition
by David J. Peck, D.O.

     Lewis and Clark lived in a time before it was known that bacteria and viruses existed and could cause disease. Western medicine was based on philosophy rather than science, and the prevailing philosophies of the day called for lots of bloodletting as well as purging with cathartics (powerful laxatives)--treatments which often did the patient more harm than good. Those who survived the treatment were said to have been "cured", when in fact they often recovered in spite of their care, rather than because of it.

     In his book Or Perish in the Attempt doctor David J. Peck focusses on the medical aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He suggests possible diagnosis based on modern medicine for injuries and ailments described in the Lewis and Clark journals, contrasting how those problems were cared for on the expedition with how the same kinds of problems would be cared for by modern medicine. In each case he points out how the care administered by the expedition would have either helped, harmed, or had no effect on the well-being of the patient. More than anything, the Expedition was blessed with an immense amount of luck, according to Peck. Along with the medical insights, the book provides a conscise, easily readable overview of the entire Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Coast and back.

     One criticizm I have of the book is that Doctor Peck seems overly impressed with the quality of modern medicine in comparison to the medicine of two hundred years ago. It was commonly--and correctly--believed back then that the doctors were worse than the diseases. However, the majority of people I know share the same belief today, and with good reason. Up to 300,000 Americans die each year from diseases contracted in hospitals, while probably hundreds of thousands more die from complications of prescription-happy doctors who give patients pills for many ailments that could be better treated with improved diet and excercise. The point is simply that our medicine will probably look as archaic two hundred years from now as the medicine of the Lewis and Clark expedition appears to us now. Nevertheless, I thought the book was a delightful read, and I could hardly put it down. Or Perish in the Attempt. ISBN: 1-58685-234-5. 2003. 214 pages. $17.00.

Or Perish in the Attempt     $17.00     Quantity:

Related Links
John Colter Books
Lewis and Clark on the Jefferson River
The Lewis and Clark Jefferson River Canoe Trail

Return to Granny's Country Store Home Page


PO Box 684
Silver Star, MT 59751

How to Place Retail Orders

      Order On-Line: Order on-line with your Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express. Simply click on the links to learn more about each product and enter the quantity you want in the little white boxes, then click the "Add to Order" button. You will be transferred to our secure payment service for the final check-out. We also accept PayPal payments. Please Click Here for PayPal instructions.

      Order by mail or telephone: We accept checks and money orders payable in US dollars. Please use the on-line shopping basket to tally your order. Click the "Pay for Order On-line" button to calculate the postage, then print or copy the information and call or send it to us at the address above.

Shipping Options
USA Customers
We ship all USA orders via USPS Priority Mail, except as otherwise noted on the website. Express Mail shipping is available by special request.

Customers outside the USA
please click here for additional
shipping information.

Granny's Country Store
Home-Building Resources | Holistic/Sustainable Living
Wilderness Survival | Resources for Educators
Native Skills & Culture | Nature, Wildlife, Tracking
Wildflowers and Edibles