Cover image for The Mississippi and the making of a nation : from the Louisiana purchase to today
The Mississippi and the making of a nation : from the Louisiana purchase to today
Ambrose, Stephen E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, [2002]

Physical Description:
273 pages : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
"An official publication of the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial"-- Jacket.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F351 .A533 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
F351 .A533 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



On a map, the Mississippi River cuts America neatly in half coursing from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and separating East from West. But the Mississippi is in fact the "spine of our nation," says Stephen Ambrose. It knits the nation together and connects the heartland to the world. It is our great natural wonder, a priceless treasure bought for a fledgling America by the visionary Thomas Jefferson just 200 years ago.

Distinguished historians Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley, with acclaimed National Geographic photographer Sam Abell, explore the length of the Mississippi--from its mouth at Delacroix Island, Louisiana, to its source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. The result is this lavish, entertaining, engrossing chronicle of the "father of the waters," which has shaped the history, the culture, and the very landscape of America.

Highlighted by Sam Abell's evocative contemporary photographs and wonderful period illustrations, artwork, documents, and maps, this extraordinary panorama of America's heartland offers a lively, informative journey through the history and the landscape carved by the mighty Mississippi.

Author Notes

Historian Stephen E. Ambrose grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin and the University of Louisiana.

Ambrose is considered to be one of the foremost historical scholars of recent times and has been a professor for over three decades. He is also the founder and president of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.

His works include D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945, Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest and Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West. Abrose served historical consultant on the motion picture Saving Private Ryan.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Two widely known historians buddied up to ascend Old Man River and produce this profusely illustrated album. Inspired by the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase, Ambrose and Brinkley offer innumerable insights about the river's significance--socially, militarily, economically, and culturally--in American history. Their work is not history of the river per se; it is akin to a homes-and-haunts tour, not for novice tourists such as Natchez offers but for history-aware readers curious about signal people who lived along the river. Between James Eads, who made navigable the mouth of the Mississippi, and Henry Schoolcraft, who discovered its true source in Lake Itasca, Ambrose and Brinkley present a gallery of figures, introducing each as they reach the town with which the person is associated. Not all are famous: one expects regaling about Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, but a bonus is Jordan Bankston Noble, a 14-year-old free black drummer in the battle. Indeed, black history is prominent much of the authors' way northward as they visit stations on the Underground Railroad, Civil War battlefields, or places where Louis Armstrong, Leadbelly, or Richard Wright grew up. Variegated and ruminative about the Mississippi's physical and literary centrality to American history, Ambrose and Brinkley's exploration will justly attract great attention. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The Mississippi River alone represents more than 2,350 miles of America's lifeblood," write Ambrose and Brinkley of the waterway known as Old Man River and America's River. This lively narrative is built around the authors' trip up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Minnesota on the 19th-century steamboat Delta Queen in celebration of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Ambrose, bestselling author of Nothing Like It in the World, and noted historian Brinkley (The Unfinished Presidency), weave regional history with their personal account of the sights, from the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 near Clarksdale, Miss., where legend has it that musician Robert Johnson "sold his... soul to the devil to play the meanest blues guitar in the region," to their encounter with a domesticated bald eagle at a sanctuary near the Twin Cities. They stress the economic and cultural importance of the river valley to the nation, recount quirky regional "firsts" (such as the debut of peanut butter at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair) and focus above all on the machinations that led to Jefferson's 1803 purchase of the territory from France. Combining an impressively broad overview of the region with a detailed account of the Louisiana Purchase, this absorbing book should please any lay enthusiast of American history. 150 pages of photos and maps. (Oct.) Forecast: Given the eminence of the authors, the beauty of the photos, and the coming bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition, this should see very handsome sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The Mississippi River valley and the enormous region that drains into it form much of the American heartland. The history of this region is the history of much of our country, and its presence is prominent in much of our literature and culture. National Geographic's last book on this important area was published in 1971, and this update by popular historians Ambrose and Brinkley (who both traveled the river's 2,353 miles for the project) is a welcome addition to the literature on the region. This title is well illustrated in the tradition of National Geographic publications, and yet the text is informative and substantial enough to make this more than another coffee-table book. This work, which tells the river's story from the time of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase onward, promises to appeal to a wide range of readers and would be an excellent addition to the collections of most public libraries and many academic libraries as well.-Charlie Cowling, Drake Memorial Lib., SUNY at Brockport (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.