American Traveler: The Life and Adventures of John Ledyard, the Man Who Dreamed of Walking The World

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9780465094059: American Traveler: The Life and Adventures of John Ledyard, the Man Who Dreamed of Walking The World
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Called a "man of genius" by his close friend Thomas Jefferson, John Ledyard lived, by any standard, a remarkable life. In his thirty-eight years, he accompanied Captain Cook on his last voyage; befriended Jefferson, Lafayette, and Tom Paine in Paris; was the first American citizen to see Alaska, Hawaii, and the west coast of America; and set out to find the source of the Niger by traveling from Cairo across the Sahara. His greatest dream, concocted with Jefferson, was to travel alone around the world and cross the American continent from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic. Catherine the Great dashed that dream when she had him arrested in deepest Siberia and escorted back to the Polish border. Ledyard wrote the definitive account of Cook's last voyage and his death at the hands of Hawaiian islanders, and formed a company with John Paul Jones that launched the American fur trade in the Pacific Northwest.Before the Revolution, Americans by and large didn't travel great distances, rarely venturing west of the Appalachians. Ledyard, with his boundless enthusiasm and wide-ranging intellect, changed all that. In lively prose, journalist James Zug tells the riveting story of this immensely influential character -a Ben Franklin with wanderlust-a uniquely American pioneer.

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About the Author:

James Zug has written for The Atlantic Monthly and Outside, and is the author of Squash: A History of the Game. He attended Dartmouth College, where he first became acquainted with legendary alum John Ledyard. Zug lives in Washington, D.C.

From Publishers Weekly:

By the time he was 37, Ledyard (1751–1788) had sailed across the South Pacific, befriended Thomas Jefferson, challenged a Russian governor to a duel in Siberia and become the first U.S. citizen to touch North America's western coast. Zug (Squash: A History of the Game) vividly renders Ledyard's remarkable life in this brisk, exciting book. After failing as a divinity student at Dartmouth, Ledyard fled to the sea, eventually volunteering to serve on what would be the legendary Captain Cook's final voyage. It was an eventful trip: Ledyard got a tattoo in Tonga and venereal disease in Tahiti, and helped slaughter natives in Hawaii. Later, still poor, Ledyard drifted to Paris and socialized with Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette. They encouraged Ledyard's wildest scheme: to walk across the world, from Europe to America. The failure of this quest—ended by czarist police in Siberia—prompted Ledyard to volunteer for an even more quixotic expedition, into Africa. It was there that he met a "bleak, anonymous ending" in Cairo, dogged by disease and, Zug suggests, a life of disappointment and hardship. Zug draws on many primary sources, including Ledyard's journals and letters. A shameless self-promoter, an enterprising and original American, Ledyard is superbly resurrected in this stirring, tragic tale. Photos. Agent, Joe Regal. (Apr.)
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