Before Lewis and Clark, Huck Finn, or Ishmael, there was John Ledyard, the first and greatest American traveler. A veteran of Captain Cook's final voyage, Ledyard walked across nearly all of Russia and suggested to his friend Thomas Jefferson that traversing the American continent was feasible--inspiring the Lewis and Clark expedition. When he died in 1789, he was preparing to venture into Africa. Once as famous as the Founding Fathers whom he had befriended and beguiled, the 'American traveler,' as Ledyard was called, fell into obscurity over the years, reduced to becoming a foot-noted reference in 'Moby Dick.' Bill Gifford reenacted Ledyard's 1773 escape from Dartmouth College in a canoe and followed Ledyard's trail down the length of the Lena River in Siberia. In 'Ledyard' he reveals the fascinating man in the legend, bringing back an American original and giving us a story that until now has not been fully told. For decades after his death in 1789 at the age of thirty-seven, John Ledyard was celebrated as the greatest explorer America had ever produced. Blonde, athletic, a fabulous raconteur, 'the Celebrated Traveller' participated in the greatest expeditions of his day. A veteran of Captain Cook's final voyage, he helped pioneer the fur trade on the West Coast. Later, with his friend Thomas Jefferson, he hatched plans for a grand expedition across North America. Two decades before Lewis and Clark, Ledyard set off on the journey himself. He made it nearly all the way across Russia -- en route to Alaska -- before he was arrested as a spy. He died in Cairo, while preparing to venture into Africa. Once as famous as the Founding Fathers whom he had befriended and beguiled, Ledyard even appears in' Moby Dick.'Although Ledyard faded into obscurity in the last century, he almost single-handedly established the archetype of the restless American wanderer that would live on from Ishmael to Huck and Jim to Kerouac. Like them, Ledyard embodies that uniquely American urge to pull up stakes and go, taking to the river of the sea or the road. No matter how settled we may be, a part of us longs to follow his path. And so Bill Gifford did: He pursued Ledyard's ghost from the Connecticut River to the Atlantic Ocean, from the streets of Paris to the length of the Lena River, deep in Siberia. In' Ledyard' he reveals the man in the legend, bringing back an American original and giving us a story that until now has not been fully told. BEFORE LEWIS AND CLARK, HUCK FINN, OR ISHMAEL CAME JOHN LEDYARD, THE FIRST AND GREATEST AMERICAN TRAVELER Praise for LEDYARD: 'John Ledyard is probably the most fascinating historical figure you've never heard of. As I raced through the pages of Bill Gifford's enormously entertaining portrait of this astounding character, I found myself wanting to cheer.' Ledyard' is a terrific book.' --Jon Krakauer, author of' Under the Banner of Heaven'