I just finished a trio of books about American History and the building of the nation that, although somewhat unrelated, have many common threads running through them.
The books were Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, which of course is about the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth Colony in the 1620s. It also about the Indian wars that occurred fifty years after the landing at Plymouth Rock. The next was Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose and is the story of Lewis and Clark and their mission along the Missouri to find to find a navigable waterway to the Pacific Ocean. The third was The Last Stand, again by Nathaniel Philbrick and is about George Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn where Custer and over 200 of his men were completely annihilated by a large army of plains Indians.
All three are very well written, engaging history books -- although the last third of Mayflower, about the Prince Philip's war, got to be a little tedious and can't compare to the story of the Pilgrims and their trials settling at Plymouth. Undaunted Courage is the book about the Lewis and Clark trek and if you want to read one book about Lewis and Clark, this is the one. The Last Stand doesn't bring any new research to a subject covered heavily by many authors, but it is quite engaging, especially once Custer and his men begin to look for Sitting Bull's village.
Mayflower and The Last Stand are interesting bookends to America's dealings with Native Indians. The Plymouth Colony pilgrims were completely reliant on the natives the first few years after they arrived and the Indians could have easily wiped them out but they didn't. Eventually the natives begun to feel threatened by the hordes of Europeans settling in the area from Manhattan to Boston and begun to fight back, often with disastrous results to both whites and Indians. Fast forward 200 years later to 1876 and even though the Battle of the Big Horn was a great victory for Sitting Bull and a huge embarrassment to the U.S. Army, within a few years after the battle all native Americans had been brought unto reservations and the Indian wars were essentially over. Undaunted Courage describes the point between these two books, when the United States first ventured into the area west of the Mississippi and unknowingly set off a chain of events that eventually led to the Little Big Horn.
As kids we are taught a few details about the Mayflower Pilgrims, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Custer's Last Stand. However if you want to read more about these events and how they impacted the creation of the United States, I would strongly recommend either or all three of these books.