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2 Burnside Exploration- New World

A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America

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A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Prologue

The Pilgrims didnt think much of Cape Cod. “A hideous and desolate wilderness,” William Bradford called it. “Full of wild beasts and wild men.” Rather than stay, a small party from the Mayflower sailed ahead, searching for a winter haven. In December 1620, they reached Plymouth, a place “fit for situation,” Bradford wrote. “At least it was the best they could find.”

On a New England road trip a few summers ago, I washed up in Plymouth, too. It could have been Dedham or Braintree or some other pit stop on the highway near Boston. But a Red Sox game pulsed on the radio, so I drove until it ended at the Plymouth exit. Stopping for beer at Myles Standish Liquor, I was directed to the William Bradford Motor Inn, the best I could find in peak tourist season.

Early the next morning I went for a walk along the waterfront, past a chowder house, a saltwater taffy shop, a wax museum, and a replica Mayflower moored in the bay. Near the water stood a gray historic marker that was terse even by New England standards.

Plymouth Rock. Landing Place of the Pilgrims. 1620.

I looked around and couldnt see anything except asphalt and a few stones small enough for skipping. Then I spotted a lone speed-walker racing down the sidewalk. “Excuse me,” I said, chasing after him, “but wheres Plymouth Rock?”

Without breaking stride, he thrust a thumb over his shoulder. “You just passed it.”

Twenty yards back was a columned enclosure, between the sidewalk and shoreline. Stepping inside, I came to a rail overlooking a shallow pit. At the bottom sat a lump of granite, the wet sand around it strewn with cigarette butts and ticket stubs from the wax museum. The boulder, about five feet square, had a badly mended cleft in the middle. It looked like a fossilized potato.

A few minutes later a family arrived. As they entered the portico, the father intoned to his children, “This is where it all began.” Then they peered over the rail.

“Thats it?”

“Guess so.”

“Its, like, nothing.”

“Weve got rocks bigger than that in our yard.”

Before long, the portico was packed: tour bus groups, foreign sightseers, summer campers. Their response followed the same arc, from solemnity to shock to hilarity. But Plymouth Rock was an icon of American history. So visitors dutifully snapped pictures or pointed video cameras down at the static granite.

“Thats going to be one heckuva home movie.”

“Yeah. My Visit to Plymouth Pebble.”

“The Pilgrims must have had small feet.”

I went over to chat with a woman in green shorts and tan shirt standing outside the enclosure, counting visitors with a hand clicker. Claire Olsen was a veteran park ranger at Plymouth, accustomed to hearing tourists abuse the sacred stone. “A lot of people come here expecting the Rock of Gibraltar,” she said. “Maybe thats where they went on their last vacation.”

She was also accustomed to fielding odd questions. Was it true that the Mayflower crashed into Plymouth Rock? Did the Pilgrims serve Thanksgiving on top of it? The bronze, ten-foot-tall Indian on a hill overlooking the rock—was he life-sized?

The most common question, though, concerned the date etched into the rocks surface. Why did it say 1620, visitors wondered, rather than 1492? Wasnt that when Columbus arrived?

“Or they ask, ‘Is this where the three ships landed?” Claire said. “They mean the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María. People think Columbus dropped off the Pilgrims and sailed home.”

Claire had to patiently explain that Columbuss landing and the Pilgrims arrival occurred a thousand miles and 128 years apart. “Americans learn about 1492 and 1620 as kids and thats all they remember as adults,” she said. “The rest of the story is blank.”

As she returned to counting tourists, I returned to the Governor Bradford, chuckling over visitors questions. America, great land of idiocy! But Claires parting comment gave me pause. Back on the road, winding past cranberry bogs, I scanned the data stored in my own brain about Americas founding by Europeans. In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue . . . John Smith and Jamestown . . . the Mayflower Compact . . . Pilgrims in funny hats . . . Of the Indians who met the English, I of course knew Pocahontas, Squanto, and . . . Hiawatha?

That was the sum of what I dredged up. Scraps from elementary school and the Thanksgiving table. Plus some fuzzy, picture-book images of black-robed friars and armored conquistadors I couldnt identify. As for dates, Id mislaid an entire century, the one separating Columbuss sail in 1492 from Jamestowns founding in 16-0-something. Maybe nothing happened in the period between. Still, it was distressing not to know. Expensively educated at a private school and university—a history major, no less!—Id matriculated to middle age with a third graders grasp of early America.

Returning home to Virginia, I resolved to undertake some remedial study. At first, this proved deceptively easy: most of what I wanted to know was hiding in plain sight, at my local library. After skimming a few histories, I dug deeper, reading the letters and journals of early explorers. A cinch, really—except, an awful lot happened between Columbus and the Pilgrims. Incredible stories Id known nothing about. This wasnt a gap in my education; it was a chasm.

By the time the first English settled, other Europeans had already reached half of the forty-eight states that today make up the continental United States. One of the earliest arrivals was Giovanni da Verrazzano, who toured the Eastern Seaboard in 1524, almost a full century before the Pilgrims arrived. Verrazzano, an Italian in command of a French ship, smelled America before he saw it: “A sweet fragrance,” he wrote, wafted out to sea from the dense cedar forests of the Carolinas.

Reaching the coast, Verrazzano dispatched one of his men to swim ashore and greet some people gathered on the dunes. The natives promptly carried the Frenchman to a fire on the beach and stripped off his clothes—not to “roast him for food,” as his shipmates feared, but to warm the sailor while “looking at the whiteness of his flesh and examining him from head to toe.”

Coasting north, Verrazzano was favorably impressed by a wide bay he called Santa Margarita, better known today as New York harbor. “A very agreeable place,” he wrote, presciently observing that its well-populated shore “was not without some properties of value.” Only at the end of his east coast cruise was Verrazzano disappointed. Natives bared their buttocks at sailors and lowered trade goods onto “rocks where the breakers were most violent.” Verrazzano called this “Land of Bad People,” a name since changed to Maine.

In 1528, on a return voyage to America, Verrazzano went ashore on a Caribbean island that appeared deserted. He was quickly seized by natives, then “cut into pieces and eaten down to the smallest bone.” Or so claims the only surviving account of his landing, which concludes: “Such a sad death had the seeker of new lands.”

History has been cruel to Verrazzano, too. In his own time, the navigator was so renowned that his name appeared on an early globe, spanning the east coast of North America. Today, he is forgotten, except as the namesake of a New York bridge that arcs over the narrows he sailed through in 1524.

Even less remembered are the Portuguese pilots who steered Spanish ships along both coasts of the continent in the sixteenth century, probing upriver to Bangor, Maine, and all the way to Oregon. En route, in 1542, one diarist wrote of California, “The country appears to be very fine,” but its inhabitants “live very swinishly.” That same year, Spanish conquistadors completed a reconnaissance of the continents interior: scaling the Appalachians, rafting the Mississippi, peering down the Grand Canyon, and galloping as far inland as central Kansas (much to the surprise of the Plains Indians, who had never seen horses).

The Spanish didnt just explore: they settled, from the Rio Grande to the Atlantic. Upon founding St. Augustine, the first permanent European city on U.S. soil, the Spanish gave thanks and dined with Indians—fifty-six years before the Pilgrim Thanksgiving at Plymouth. The Spanish also established a Jesuit mission in Virginia, a few miles from the future Jamestown. Nor were Spaniards the only Europeans on the premises. French Protestants, fleeing persecution at home, founded a Florida colony in 1564, before all but two of the Pilgrims were born.

The more I read about pre-Mayflower America, the more I wondered why Id learned so little of it before. This wasnt a clot of esoteric names and dates Id dozed through in high school history, like the Habsburg Succession or the War of Jenkinss Ear. This was the forgotten first chapter of my own countrys founding by Europeans, a chapter mysteriously redacted from the textbooks of my youth—and, as far as I knew, from national memory.

Anglo bias seemed the obvious culprit, but it didnt altogether explain Americans amnesia. Jamestown preceded Plymouth by thirteen years as the first permanent English colony on the continent. Yet, like most Americans, I was ignorant of the Jamestown story, even though Id spent much of my life in Virginia. Almost everyone knows the Mayflower, even new immigrants; the Pilgrim ship features prominently in citizenship tests. How many Americans can name the three ships that brought the first English to Jamestown? Or recall anything about the colony, except perhaps Pocahontas and John Smith?

Plymouth, it turned out, wasnt even the first English colony in New England. That distinction belonged to Fort St. George, in Popham, Maine—a place Id never heard of. Nor were Pilgrims the first to settle Massachusetts. In 1602, a band of English built a fort on the island of Cuttyhunk. They came, not for religious freedom, but to get rich from digging sassafras, a commodity prized in Europe as a cure for the clap.

History isnt sport, where coming first means everything. The outposts at Popham and Cuttyhunk were quickly abandoned, as were most of the early French and Spanish settlements. Plymouth endured, the English prevailed in the contest for the continent, and Anglo-American Protestants—New Englanders, in particular—molded the new nations memory. And so a creation myth arose, of Pilgrim Fathers seeding a new land with their piety and work ethic. The winners wrote the history.

But losers matter, especially in the history of early America. It was Spanish, French, and Portuguese voyages that spurred the English across the Atlantic in the first place, and that determined where they settled. Early Europeans also introduced horses, pigs, weeds, swords, guns—and, most lethally, diseases to which Indians had no resistance.

Plymouth was “fit for situation,” as William Bradford put it, because an “extraordinary plague” had recently wiped out coastal natives. This left the shoreline undefended and fields conveniently cleared for corn. In the South and the Mississippi Valley, the devastation was even greater. Sixteenth-century conquistadors cut a swath through ancient civilizations that had once rivaled those of the Aztec and Inca. The Pilgrims, and later, the Americans who pushed west from the Atlantic, didnt pioneer a virgin wilderness. They occupied a land long since transformed by European contact.

There was another side to the story, just as dramatic and not so depressing. To early Europeans, America seemed a world truly new, and their words give voice to the strangeness and wonder of discovery. What to make of luminous insects that seemed at night a “flame of fire”? Or of “hump-backed cows” with goatlike beards that pounded across the Plains? Even the endless prairie, derided today as “flyover country,” astonished those who first rode across it. “If a man lay down on his back he lost sight of the ground,” one Spanish horseman marveled of the flatness.

Most exotic of all were Americas people, whom Columbus named los Indios, Verrazzano called la genta de la terra, and the early English referred to as the Naturals. To the filthy, malnourished, and overdressed Europeans, natives seemed shockingly large, clean, and bare. Indians were likewise astounded by Europeans. Natives fingered the strangers beards, patted flat the wrinkles on their garments (perhaps thinking the cloth was skin), and wondered at their trade goods. When given hand mirrors, Verrazzano wrote, “They would look at them quickly, and then refuse them, laughing.” Exchanges of food were also bewildering. “They misliked nothing but our mustard,” an Englishman wrote of Cuttyhunk islanders in 1602, “whereat they made many a sowre face.”

The Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts eighteen years later had a very different experience. Samoset, the first Indian they met at Plymouth, greeted the settlers in English. The first thing he asked for was beer.

If the drama of first contact was denied the late-arriving Pilgrims, it is even less available to travelers today. Encounters between alien cultures dont occur anymore, outside of science fiction. All thats needed to explore other hemispheres is a search engine.

But roaming the annals of early America, Id discovered a world that was new and strange to me. What would it be like to explore this New World, not only in books but on the ground? To take a pre-Pilgrimage through early America that ended at Plymouth Rock instead of beginning there? To make landfall where the first Europeans had, meet the Naturals, mine the past, and map its memory in the present? To rediscover my native land, the U.S. continent?

I had no idea where this would lead, or what Id find. But Id read enough to know thered be detours outside modern boundaries and textbook timelines. Columbus, for starters, was yet another latecomer. To begin at the beginning, I had to go back, way back, to the first Europeans who crossed the ocean blue, long before fourteen hundred and ninety-two.

Copyright © 2008 by Tony Horwitz. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312428327
Author:
Horwitz, Tony
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Expeditions & Discoveries
Subject:
North American
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Travel
Subject:
Americas (North Central South West Indies)
Subject:
Expeditions.
Subject:
Discoveries
Subject:
World History-General
Subject:
United States - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20090431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes black-and-white photographs thr
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America Used Trade Paper
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Product details 464 pages Picador USA - English 9780312428327 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Entertaining, insightful...Rich with reading pleasure."
"Review" by , "Wonderfully written, and heroically researched...Horwitz unearths whole chapters of American history that have been ignored."
"Review" by , "Poignant and hilarious...Riveting."
"Review" by , "History of the most accessible sort...[F]ull of vivid characters and wild detail."
"Synopsis" by ,

W hat happened in North America between Columbus's sail in 1492 and the Pilgrims' arrival in 1620?

On a visit to Plymouth Rock, Tony Horwitz realizes he doesn't have a clue, nor do most Americans. So he sets off across the continent to rediscover the wild era when Europeans first roamed the New World in quest of gold, glory, converts, and eternal youth. Horwitz tells the story of these brave and often crazed explorers while retracing their steps on his own epic trek--an odyssey that takes him inside an Indian sweat lodge in subarctic Canada, down the Mississippi in a canoe, on a road trip fueled by buffalo meat, and into sixty pounds of armor as a conquistador reenactor in Florida.

A Voyage Long and Strange is a rich mix of scholarship and modern-day adventure that brings the forgotten first chapter of America's history vividly to life.

Tony Horwitz is the bestselling author of Blue Latitudes, Confederates in the Attic, and Baghdad without a Map. He is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their two sons.

A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

A San Francisco Chronicle 50 Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

On a chance visit to Plymouth Rock, Tony Horwitz realizes hes mislaid more than a century of American history, from Columbuss sail in 1492 to Jamestowns founding in 16-oh-something. Determined to find out what happened in between, he embarks on a journey of rediscovery, following in the footsteps of the many Europeans who preceded the Pilgrims to America.

Blending history, myth, and misadventure, A Voyage Long and Strange captures the awe and drama of first contact. Vikings, conquistadors, and French voyageurs are among those who roamed an unknown continent in quest of grapes, gold, converts, even a cure for syphilis. Though most failed, their exploits left an enduring mark on the land and people encountered by late-arriving English settlers.

Tracing this legacy with his own epic trekfrom Floridas Fountain of Youth to Plymouths sacred Rock, from desert pueblos to subarctic sweat lodgesTony Horwitz explores the revealing gap between what is enshrined and what is forgotten. Displaying his trademark talent for humor, narrative, and historical insight, A Voyage Long and Strange allows readers to rediscover the New World.

"Never mind his Pulitzer, the best-selling books, the writing jobs at The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker: Tony Horwitz is a dope. Really, he'll tell you so himself, and often does, though not in so many words, in his funny and lively new travelogue, A Voyage Long and Strange. Horwitz is probably best known as the author of Confederates in the Attic, an exploration of how the American Civil War and its cultural backwash still move otherwise semi-normal Americans to do crazy things, like sleep outdoors in 19th-century-style long johns while pretending to be Abner Doubleday. In that book as in this one, Horwitz assumes the pose of a baby-boomer Everyman, overschooled but undereducated. He is chagrined at the basic historical facts he was once taught but can no longer remember or, worse, never knew to begin with. Like so many of us, he is the incarnation of Father Guido Sarduccis Five Minute University, where degrees are awarded for reciting the two or three things the average liberal-arts graduate remembers from four years of college. In A Voyage Long and Strange, Horwitz is surprised to learn how little he knows about the Europeans who 'discovered' America. (One thing he does remember from college is to wrap those scare-quote marks around politically contentious words like 'discover.') His astonishing ignorance dawned on him during a visit to Plymouth Rock. 'I'd mislaid an entire century, the one separating Columbus's sail in 1492 from Jamestowns founding in 16-0-something,' he writes. 'Expensively educated at a private school and universitya history major, no less!I'd matriculated to middle age with a third grader's grasp of early America.' Horwitz resolves to remedy his ignorance by embarking on an intensive self-tutorial mixed with lots of reporting and running around. He looks for Columbus's remains in the Dominican Republic; tracks Coronado through Mexico, Texas and even Kansas; sifts evidence of the Vikings' landing in Newfoundland; and gives the Anglos their due in tidewater Virginia. The result is popular history of the most accessible sort. The pace never flags, even for easily distracted readers, because Horwitz knows how to quick-cut between historical narrative and a breezy account of his own travels. It's the same method he used in Confederates, deployed with the same success, and unlike many other, less journalistic histories, in which the material is displayed at a curator's remove, it has the immense value of injecting the past into the presentshowing us history as an element of contemporary life, something that still surrounds us and presses in on us, whether we know it or not. Usually not. The stories he tells are full of vivid characters and wild detail . . . He is an energetic debunker."Andrew Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review
 
"Horwitz traveled from Newfoundland to the Dominican Republic, throughout the American South and Southwest and up to New England, vastly different zones once equally uncharted, now distinct and unrelated. On the road, he spent part of his time reading historical books informing him of what happened in these spots, and then part of his time seeking out guides who led him to the sites, or shared the local lore as it has been handed down through the centuries. He has an ear for a good yarn and an instinct for the trail leading to an entertaining anecdote, and he deftly weaves his reportorial finds with his historical material."Nina Burleigh, The Washington Post
 
“Honest, wonderfully written, and heroically researched . . . Horwitz unearths whole chapters of American history that have been ignored.”The Boston Globe

"As a journalist, Horwitz is ever thorough, seeking out the most knowledgeable sources, asking all the important questions, and reporting facts in a manner that is clear and, for the most part, unbiased . . . Just the antidote for those of us who have clung helplessly to our shaky third-grade memories."The Miami Herald

"Horwitz is a very funny writer, especially of long set pieces, and there is no shortage of material on the forgotten margins of the New World, where it all began."Newsday

"Readers of Horwitz's 1998 classic about Civil War reenactors, Confederates in the Attic, won't need to be persuaded to pick up his latest work. Horwitz's turf stretches from the first Viking explorers to the landing of the Pilgrimsbut it wouldn't be Horwitzian if he didn't also engage with their contemporary avatars, from the Vinland Motel (on Newfoundland's Viking Trail) to the Greek Outhouse (a local term for the neoclassical canopy hovering over Plymouth Rock and its surrounding patch of sand). This is a work of history, but it's also about what Americans do with (and to) that history."Daniel Okrent, Fortune

"As always, Horwitz is a smart, hilarious, and informative guide."Outside

"When people refer to

"Synopsis" by ,

W hat happened in North America between Columbus's sail in 1492 and the Pilgrims' arrival in 1620?

On a visit to Plymouth Rock, Tony Horwitz realizes he doesn't have a clue, nor do most Americans. So he sets off across the continent to rediscover the wild era when Europeans first roamed the New World in quest of gold, glory, converts, and eternal youth. Horwitz tells the story of these brave and often crazed explorers while retracing their steps on his own epic trek--an odyssey that takes him inside an Indian sweat lodge in subarctic Canada, down the Mississippi in a canoe, on a road trip fueled by buffalo meat, and into sixty pounds of armor as a conquistador reenactor in Florida.

A Voyage Long and Strange is a rich mix of scholarship and modern-day adventure that brings the forgotten first chapter of America's history vividly to life.

Tony Horwitz is the bestselling author of Blue Latitudes, Confederates in the Attic, and Baghdad without a Map. He is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their two sons.

A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

A San Francisco Chronicle 50 Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

On a chance visit to Plymouth Rock, Tony Horwitz realizes hes mislaid more than a century of American history, from Columbuss sail in 1492 to Jamestowns founding in 16-oh-something. Determined to find out what happened in between, he embarks on a journey of rediscovery, following in the footsteps of the many Europeans who preceded the Pilgrims to America.

Blending history, myth, and misadventure, A Voyage Long and Strange captures the awe and drama of first contact. Vikings, conquistadors, and French voyageurs are among those who roamed an unknown continent in quest of grapes, gold, converts, even a cure for syphilis. Though most failed, their exploits left an enduring mark on the land and people encountered by late-arriving English settlers.

Tracing this legacy with his own epic trek—from Floridas Fountain of Youth to Plymouths sacred Rock, from desert pueblos to subarctic sweat lodges—Tony Horwitz explores the revealing gap between what is enshrined and what is forgotten. Displaying his trademark talent for humor, narrative, and historical insight, A Voyage Long and Strange allows readers to rediscover the New World.

"Never mind his Pulitzer, the best-selling books, the writing jobs at The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker: Tony Horwitz is a dope. Really, he'll tell you so himself, and often does, though not in so many words, in his funny and lively new travelogue, A Voyage Long and Strange. Horwitz is probably best known as the author of Confederates in the Attic, an exploration of how the American Civil War and its cultural backwash still move otherwise semi-normal Americans to do crazy things, like sleep outdoors in 19th-century-style long johns while pretending to be Abner Doubleday. In that book as in this one, Horwitz assumes the pose of a baby-boomer Everyman, overschooled but undereducated. He is chagrined at the basic historical facts he was once taught but can no longer remember or, worse, never knew to begin with. Like so many of us, he is the incarnation of Father Guido Sarduccis Five Minute University, where degrees are awarded for reciting the two or three things the average liberal-arts graduate remembers from four years of college. In A Voyage Long and Strange, Horwitz is surprised to learn how little he knows about the Europeans who 'discovered' America. (One thing he does remember from college is to wrap those scare-quote marks around politically contentious words like 'discover.') His astonishing ignorance dawned on him during a visit to Plymouth Rock. 'I'd mislaid an entire century, the one separating Columbus's sail in 1492 from Jamestowns founding in 16-0-something,' he writes. 'Expensively educated at a private school and university—a history major, no less!—I'd matriculated to middle age with a third grader's grasp of early America.' Horwitz resolves to remedy his ignorance by embarking on an intensive self-tutorial mixed with lots of reporting and running around. He looks for Columbus's remains in the Dominican Republic; tracks Coronado through Mexico, Texas and even Kansas; sifts evidence of the Vikings' landing in Newfoundland; and gives the Anglos their due in tidewater Virginia. The result is popular history of the most accessible sort. The pace never flags, even for easily distracted readers, because Horwitz knows how to quick-cut between historical narrative and a breezy account of his own travels. It's the same method he used in Confederates, deployed with the same success, and unlike many other, less journalistic histories, in which the material is displayed at a curator's remove, it has the immense value of injecting the past into the present—showing us history as an element of contemporary life, something that still surrounds us and presses in on us, whether we know it or not. Usually not. The stories he tells are full of vivid characters and wild detail . . . He is an energetic debunker."—Andrew Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review
 
"Horwitz traveled from Newfoundland to the Dominican Republic, throughout the American South and Southwest and up to New England, vastly different zones once equally uncharted, now distinct and unrelated. On the road, he spent part of his time reading historical books informing him of what happened in these spots, and then part of his time seeking out guides who led him to the sites, or shared the local lore as it has been handed down through the centuries. He has an ear for a good yarn and an instinct for the trail leading to an entertaining anecdote, and he deftly weaves his reportorial finds with his historical material."—Nina Burleigh, The Washington Post
 
“Honest, wonderfully written, and heroically researched . . . Horwitz unearths whole chapters of American history that have been ignored.”—The Boston Globe

"As a journalist, Horwitz is ever thorough, seeking out the most knowledgeable sources, asking all the important questions, and reporting facts in a manner that is clear and, for the most part, unbiased . . . Just the antidote for those of us who have clung helplessly to our shaky third-grade memories."—The Miami Herald

"Horwitz is a very funny writer, especially of long set pieces, and there is no shortage of material on the forgotten margins of the New World, where it all began."—Newsday

"Readers of Horwitz's 1998 classic about Civil War reenactors, Confederates in the Attic, won't need to be persuaded to pick up his latest work. Horwitz's turf stretches from the first Viking explorers to the landing of the Pilgrims—but it wouldn't be Horwitzian if he didn't also engage with their contemporary avatars, from the Vinland Motel (on Newfoundland's Viking Trail) to the Greek Outhouse (a local term for the neoclassical canopy hovering over Plymouth Rock and its surrounding patch of sand). This is a work of history, but it's also about what Americans do with (and to) that history."—Daniel Okrent, Fortune

"As always, Horwitz is a smart, hilarious, and informative guide."—Outside

"When people refer to 'Western civilization,' Fernandez-Armesto contends, 'they mean, essentially, an Atlantic continuum comprising parts of western Europe and much or most of the Americas,' which involved a projection of people and beliefs and ways of life that ‘was strictly unprecedented when it began.' From that perspective, the Pilgrims hardly loom large, and were late to the table as well. That is roughly the point of embarkation for Tony Horwitz, too, in his rich cultural travelogue, A Voyage Long and Strange, in which he visits far-flung sites and retraces extensive exploration routes of this continent taken by Europeans long before the arrival of the Mayflower . . . Reading A Voyage Long and Strange will seem like one's own first contact, coming face to face with an America remote from the pages of the daily newspaper but vibrantly alive and refreshingly various. By balancing the deep history—often bloody and chilling—against today's inhabitants, the apparently gregarious and certainly witty Horwitz has taken what would otherwise be a miscellany of experiences and turned them into a road show well worth following."—Art Winslow, Chicago Tribune

“By turns history and travelogue, A Voyage Long and Strange is instructive and charming. Horwitz sure can spin a yarn. He re-creates the wonder—and the horror—of the explorers' encounters with exotic creatures. And his thumbnail sketches of the first-comers are tight and bright.”—Glenn C. Altschuler, The Baltimore Sun

"Plymouth Rock is iconic in a uniquely American way, which is to say that most Americans know it is historically significant but have little idea why. In his wry historical travelogue, A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, Tony Horwitz aims to fill that void and plenty of others between the year 1492, when Columbus sailed to the New World, and the early 1600s, when England established itself here. Horwitz colors those fuzzy years in the collective American memory with vivid characters and violent tales of early European exploits. He lends depth to stories that many Americans know, from disputed accounts of thanksgiving meals to the ravages of European conquest and disease on Native Americans, and he introduces many they do not. Like most Americans, Horwitz—a history major, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and acclaimed author best known for Confederates in the Attic—did not learn these things in school. He was disappointed by his first visit to Plymouth Rock, which 'looked like a fossilized potato.' Abashed at his ignorance, Horwitz pored over seldom-cracked history books, letters and journals chronicling early European excursions to America. Then, armed with wit and newfound wisdom, he traveled to many seminal places to find what remains. For the most part, they are not vacation spots, and Horwitz weaves his poignant and hilarious sufferings into this book as he did in Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before."—Melissa Allison, The Seattle Times

"[A] mordantly amusing . . . readable, often laughable, sometimes troubling description of what happened between 1492 and the first recognizably American beginnings a century later."—Winston-Salem Journal

"Horwitz was staring at Plymouth Rock, wondering why it looked so small, when it occurred to him that he knew very little about American history between Columbus' discovery and the arrival of the Pilgrims. So he set out on one of his inimitable journeys (Confederates in the Attic, Baghdad Without a Map) to fill in the gaps. Somehow, beneath the freeways and strip malls, he finds evidence of the early explorers. You'll remember these names from fifth grade—Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto—but you might not remember how brutal that time was. There's much to cringe about (and little to feel proud about), but Horwitz's humor, meticulous research and ability to tell engaging stories make it palatable."—Laurie Hertzel, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Entertaining, insightful . . . Rich with reading pleasure."—The Christian Science Monitor

"A Voyage Long and Strange was inspired by a trip Horwitz took to see Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts a few years ago. Like many other modern-day pilgrims of American history who visit the landmark, he was puzzled to find 'a boulder, five feet square,' with a 'badly mended cleft in the middle. It looked like a fossilized potato' . . . While A Voyage Long and Strange sheds light on and rectifies some misinformation about the exploration of America, Horwitz emphasizes he's not attempting to diminish historical myths and legends. Indeed, the story of the pilgrims and Thanksgiving, however factually incorrect, serves a purpose. 'Too often, the real story, as is the case here, is very messy,' Horwitz says. 'It's an evolutionary story, and it's not always a happy story. In fact, it's pretty terrible. That's a much harder type of material to draw inspiration and an uplifting message from. So we naturally create these myths, and then cling to them.'"—Regis Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“A fascinating story, filled with adventure, Vikings, French voyageurs and those Pilgrims.”—The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"A droll and debunking road warrior's view."—The Star-Ledger (Newark)

 
"It's one of the most quoted 20th-century lines about literature. 'Literature is news that stays news.' And Ezra Pound was right. That's why we keep repeating his line. History has a harder time of it. After all, it's stubbornly tied to aged or aging facts. Not to say it can't be made new, paraphrasing another famous phrase from Pound. Historians with the gifts of storytelling manage this feat. So does Tony Horwitz, a writer with a gift for merging past and present. His new book, A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, follows the template he devised for Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War and Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before. He intertwines history with travels to the places where history happened, including tales of the people he meets along the way. His is an immensely satisfying hybrid of history, journalism and social commentary . . . He has a knack for finding people who give his story flesh and blood, comedy and dignity—people like Walter Mares, editor of the local paper in Clifton, Ariz., who declares, 'Our whole sense of history is twisted. The Pilgrims, they were boat people. Johnny-come-latelies." So why, Horwitz keeps wondering, do some stories about the past endure, even when facts contradict them? A member of the Old Colony Club in Plymouth offers one memorable explanation: Myth is more important than history, History is arbitrary, a collection of facts.'"—Robert L. Pincus, The San Diego Union-Tribune

“A winning and eye-opening read . . . Horwitzs charm, smarts, impeccable research and curiosity make this a voyage worth taking.”—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“By conveying our past so heartily, handsomely and winsomely, Tony Horwitz does America proud.”—The Providence Journal

"I've long been a fan of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz's work. His style blends hard-nose reporting skills with savvy storytelling to create readable historical narrative. Frankly, I hate history. Not so much the concept, but the writing done on the subject thereof, which tends to be text-book dry. Horwitz has taught me about Civil War history (Confederates in the Attic), Captain Cook (Blue Latitudes) and the first Gulf War (Baghdad Without a Map). Now I'm about halfway through his mostly historically based work to date, A Voyage Long and Strange—the story of early explorers discovering the Americas. Ever astute to irony, Horwitz prevails upon readers to enhance their grade school knowledge of famous but glazed-over names such as Columbus (who never actually set foot on land that would become the United States) and De Coronado (an excellent example of dogged greed overcoming sanity). I wouldn't necessarily call it summer reading, but it will shed some new light on the tropical and coastal locations where you're vacationing."—Sarah Kucharski, Smokey Mountain News 

"Horwitz visits the Vikings sites in Newfoundland and Christopher Columbus alleged grave in the Dominican Republic, but the book really sings when he hits the heavy-metal conquistadors like Francisco de Coronado, who headed up from Mexico and worked his way through what is now New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, and Hernando de Soto, who came through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and eastern Texas. The meeting of Native Americans and the Spanish explorers was initially comic, then tragic, with massacres and epidemics . . . During his travels, Horwitz has comic meetings with park rangers and historical re-enactors at almost-forgotten historical sites, like the French Protestant settlement at Fort Caroline, Fla., where the settlers were slaughtered by the Spanish, and he addresses the mysteries of the disappearance of the Jamestown settlers. He explores the myths and legends of the founding of Florida and America itself. Like his best seller, Confederates in the Attic, where he chronicled the bizarre world of Civil War re-enactors, Horwitz strikes the perfect balance between history, black humor and his own odyssey of driving thousands of miles to find the few remaining buffalo or an old Spanish massacre site."—Dylan Foley, The Denver Post 

"For many readers hearing the words 'history' and 'book' in the same sentence invokes groans and nightmarish memories of high school. Tony Horwitz's A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World not only changes that, it also irrevocably changes the way you view the New World—past, present, and future. No small tasks, but this is no small author. Horwitz masterfully and gracefully steers us through the annals of early American history and his own travel narrative, keeping us fascinated all the while. And he even manages to make us laugh along the way. The prologue begins on a humorous note. Horwitz spends a night in Plymouth while on a road trip, having chosen the Plymouth exit only because he didn't want to pull off the interstate before a baseball game on the radio ended. The following day he goes to see Plymouth Rock, which he likens to 'a fossilized potato.' While at the site, he speaks with a park ranger who observes, 'Americans learn about 1492 and 1620 as kids and that's all they remember as adults . . . The rest of the story is blank.' Horwitz plumbs the depths of his own knowledge of early American history and finds only snippets. So he sets out to fill in the blanks, taking us along on his journey of rediscovery. The journey begins not with Columbus and the West Indies—though Horwitz gets there eventually—as some might expect, but rather with the Vikings and Newfoundland. Horwitz's precise use of anecdotes and quotes helps to illuminate these historical figures, rendering them round, memorable characters in the vibrant story of the New World rather than mere names. For example, we learn that the only problem Erik the Red encounters in Greenland is that his 'wife converted to Christianity and refused to sleep with her pagan husband, much to his displeasure.' The book is full of details like this—we also learn that, upon tasting iguana for the first time Columbus remarked, 'Tastes like chicken.' These colorfully depicted characters propel the reader through history. As do the colorful modern-day characters Horwitz encounters during his travels retracing the footsteps of the early explorers of the New World. It's A Voyage Long and Strange all right. Horwitz meets fascinating and sometimes hilarious people and finds himself in equally interesting and humorous situations, offering them up for the reader's delight. Take, for instance, his experience in an Indian sweat lodge. He hyperventilates. He writhes. He pokes fun at himself all the while. Not to misrepresent this book as overly light. Amid the fun, Horwitz takes many deeply and dearly held American myths to task and dispels them, one after another. He doesn't shy away from difficult and sensitive topics such as the treatment of the Indians at the hands of the European explorers and settlers. Further, Horwitz sheds light on the historical underpinnings of several contemporary issues, large and small, helping the reader to see the dynamic nature of history and illuminating the long line that is past, present and future. The chapter titled 'Dominican Republic: You think there are still Indians?' is particularly powerful. The lingering aftereffects of colonization resonate subtly throughout daily life in the Caribbean, and Horwitz portrays this perfectly. Sometimes the note of resentment about European conquest sounds loudly—one Dominican man Horwitz interviews curses Christopher Columbus and then explains, 'This was a rich island. He took away all the gold and other goods and ever since we've been poor.' However, Horwitz takes care to present multiple sides of even the most contentious historical and contemporary issues. You always get a sense of his cool, journalistic impartiality . . . A Voyage Long and Strange is a thought-provoking, thoroughly researched and, above all, engaging account of early American history, tightly woven with Horwitz's travels. The result is a rich tapestry teeming with vibrant characters, memorable facts and fascinating tidbits that reads like great fiction. History, after all, is a kind of story; shouldn't it read like one?"—Mya Guarnieri, The Jerusalem Post 

"Tony Horwitz is a master at charting the historical currents that still steer us. In his best-selling Confederates in the Attic and Blue Latitudes, he explored sites and events of momentous importance and plumbed the attitudes, opinions and sometimes goofy behavior of those shaped or haunted by what happened at these places. But despite his better than average knowledge of the past, during a recent visit to Plymouth Rock Horwitz was shocked by how little he knew of America's earliest explorers and conquerors. 'Expensively educated at a private school and university—a history major, no less!—I'd matriculated to middle age with a third grader's grasp of early America,' he writes in his latest book, A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. In an effort to correct this deficiency, Horwitz embarked on a months-long peregrination of North America and the Caribbean, following in the footsteps of a rogues' gallery of rough and ready men—Erik the Red, Columbus, Coronado, De Soto, Cabeza de Vaca, Sir Walter Raleigh and John Smith. As in his earlier books, A Voyage Long and Strange braids the stories of these past adventurers with his modern observations at the sites most notably associated with them. The most striking general themes to emerge are the underwhelming, if not miserable, aspects of many of these sites and the general public's indifference to the enormity of what happened there . . . A Voyage Long and Strange is less a celebration than a thoughtful meditation. It stands as an important and accessible book that should go far in redressing the general appalling lack of knowledge about America's earliest explorers and the peoples whose lives were so profoundly affected by their actions."—John Sledge, Press-Register (Mobile) 

"Irreverent, effervescent reexamination of early exploration in the Americas by peripatetic, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Horwitz. What do Americans really know about the discovery of their continent? Visiting the sadly puny Plymouth Rock prompted this energetic, likable author to delve into the historic record and sniff out the real story behind America's creation myth, from one section of the country to the other. The Vikings arrived first around 1000 CE, when Leif Eiriksson settled for a spell in Newfoundland, enjoying the grapes and mild weather before being run off by the native Skraelings. Horwitz sought out the probable descendants of these natives, the Micmac, who invited him to a cleansing ceremony in their sweat lodge. Next, the author studied the mixed-up voyages of Columbus, whose ignorance of the globe led him to believe that the eastern Bahamas, where he first landed, was the Orient. While the Spanish were claiming the Caribbean, Mexico and Peru, Ponce de León, a veteran of Columbus's second voyage, struck Daytona Beach in 1513 and named the land La Florida. Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca made inroads through Florida and Texas between 1528 and 1536, while ruthless Hernando de Soto cut throughout the South a pitiless swath of destruction and slaughter of natives. These voyages came long before Sir Walter Raleigh sent English colonists to settle on Roanoke Island, Virginia, in 1585. By 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado penetrated the Southwest from Mexico in search of fabled cities, and in Florida, a little-known Huguenot settlement established in 1564 at La Caroline was wiped out by Spanish invaders. The author revisited all of these sites to speak to the locals, who are often as colorful as the forgotten history he was tracking. Accessible to all ages, hands-on and immensely readable, this book invites readers to search out America's story for themselves."—Kirkus Reviews

"Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Horwitz has presented what could be described as a guide for those who are historically ignorant of the 'lost century' between the first voyage of Columbus and the establishment of Jamestown in 1607. In this informative, whimsical, and thoroughly enjoyable account, Horwitz describes the exploits of various explorers and conquistadores and enriches the stories with his own experiences when visiting some of the lands they 'discovered.' Horwitz writes in a breezy, engaging style, so this combination of popular history and travelogue will be ideal for general readers."—Booklist (starred review)

"Realizing that his knowledge of American history between Columbus's discovery and Plymouth Rock over 100 years later was sketchy at best, Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist Horwitz sets out to educate himself with his own explorations. He intertwines his experiences retracing the early conquistadors, adventurers, and entrepreneurs through such regions as Newfoundland, the Dominican Republic, and the American South, Southwest, and New England with thoroughly researched accounts of the territories themselves, the natives who were historically affected, and the motives of the explorers. Along the way, Horwitz meets many interesting people who have studied and/or appropriated the early discoverers for their own purposes: a conquistador reenactor who likens De Soto to a drug lord, the Zuni tribe of New Mexico, an expert on 16th-century combat, the fraternal Improved Order of the Red Men, and the Dominican belief in a Columbus jinx. At the end of his journey, Horwitz recognizes that all the truths he uncovered will never quash the myths of American history, especially the Pilgrim mystique. This readable and vastly entertaining history travelog is highly recommended for public libraries."—Margaret Atwater-Singer, Library Journal

"A Voyage Long and Strange is a history-fueled, self-imposed mission of rediscovery, a travelogue that sets out to explore the surprisingly long list of explorers who discovered America, and what discovered means anyway, starting with the Vikings in A.D. 1000, and ending up on the Mayflower. Horwitz even dons conquistador gear, making the narrative surprisingly fun and funny, even as he spends a lot of time describing just how badly Columbus and subsequently the Spanish treated people . . . as a character himself, [Horwitz] is friendly and always working hard to listen and bear witness."—Robert Sullivan, Publishers Weekly

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