Grant
Pulitzer Prize-winner and biographer of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of America's most complicated generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and inept businessman, fond of drinking to excess; or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War; or as a credulous and hapless president whose tenure came to symbolize the worst excesses of the Gilded Age. These stereotypes don't come close to capturing adequately his spirit and the sheer magnitude of his monumental accomplishments. A biographer at the height of his powers, Chernow has produced a portrait of Grant that is a masterpiece, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had been dismal, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War, he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in the Civil War, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the Battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee after a series of unbelievably bloody battles in Virginia. Along the way Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. His military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff. All the while Grant himself remained more or less above reproach. But, more importantly, he never failed to seek freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him 'the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race." After his presidency, he was again brought low by a trusted colleague, this time a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, but he resuscitated his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre. With his famous lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as "nothing heroic... and yet the greatest hero." His probing portrait of Grant's lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America's greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of America's finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.

Grant Details

TitleGrant
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 17th, 2017
PublisherPenguin Press
ISBN-139781594204876
Rating
GenreHistory, Biography, Nonfiction, Military History, Civil War, North American Hi..., American History, Politics, Presidents

Grant Review

  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    This book requires a serious time commitment. Grant lived 132 years ago, not so long in the course of things. Much had been written about him at the time, and much after. He himself wrote memoirs that are highly regarded and that showed his intelligence and shrewdness. His mother-in-law Dent, Julia’s mother, noticed that although he had failings (alcohol) and could sometimes get off-track career-wise (an inability to make money as an independent entrepreneur), he had a fine political mind. That This book requires a serious time commitment. Grant lived 132 years ago, not so long in the course of things. Much had been written about him at the time, and much after. He himself wrote memoirs that are highly regarded and that showed his intelligence and shrewdness. His mother-in-law Dent, Julia’s mother, noticed that although he had failings (alcohol) and could sometimes get off-track career-wise (an inability to make money as an independent entrepreneur), he had a fine political mind. That his mother-in-law, a supporter of southern slave-holdings, had such good things to say about his instincts is impressive in itself. The cover copy says Grant was unappreciated for much of his career. This should give succor to individuals who struggle through various jobs, unable to find something in which they can excel. Grant went to West Point almost by accident, disliking the jobs assigned him by his father, a tanner. He apparently hated the smell of the tannery and warm blood, and found himself unable to eat meat unless it was charred beyond recognition. His horsemanship was legendary, even from a young age, and the skill served him well throughout his military career. That career stalled after a stint in the Mexican War, and revived during the Civil War when he could showcase his particular skills in strategy and logistics.The book cannot adequately be recapitulated in short form, so I resort to impressions hammered home by Chernow in a thousand examples: that Grant decided to trust certain people whether they were knaves or not. He tended to hold onto his initial impressions even when he had reason to abandon support for individuals who’d done him wrong. It strikes me that this failing of his, a failing of accuracy in judgment, could be a reason he as so well liked as a leader. He was loyal, generous, kind, and willing to forgive as well as extraordinarily skilled himself in being able to read a battlefield, the condition of his men, and the heart of the opposition. Grant was not as skilled at the diplomacy he would later be asked to perform in his role as president, though he gave more positions to people of color than any previous government, and he was instrumental in reforming the civil service. I would like to read more about a diplomat that Chernow seems to praise above all others, Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State for the entire of Grant’s presidency. More than anything, Chernow makes clear that Grant’s life, despite the lofty heights of public regard during certain periods, was a real struggle all the way through. Never has a presidency seemed like such a bum job: after having fought a terrible, bloody war on one’s own soil for so many years, Grant had to face the unrepentant vanquished again as leader of a divided nation. The racism and bitterness we see and hear now is a mere echo of what was going on during Reconstruction, when every attempt to raise the quality of life of black people was fought every step of the way. Makes one want to force those who refuse to accept their defeat to their knees now—no more talk, no more accommodation. I wish it were as simple as bringing out the big guns (the law) and ending this. But we see now how deep the sense of entitlement still is.Any portion of this book is worthwhile to read even if you can’t get to the whole thing. It's so important to recall the details of the Civil War and its aftermath now, in this time of division in our own country. If I had my druthers, this book would be shorter. My brain’s ROM has been gummed up with this work for months now and it nearly crashed my hard drive. I feel I am cheating in some way by not being able to express more moments of revelation, but there were so many. I’m sure there is something to be said for putting in every detail of a man and his country, and perhaps it is reasonable to repeat oneself occasionally. Readers may select portions, or spread out the reading over a long period. However, it is difficult to digest a book of this size.I listened to the audio of this book and looked over the hard copy. The audio was very well read by veteran actor Mark Bramhall, and it was produced by Penguin Audio.
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  • Tony
    January 1, 1970
    A mere ten years ago this would have been my Book of the Year. But I’m a different reader now. Not necessarily a better or smarter reader, just different. So I pause when I read a sentence like: As ever, his whole physiology sprang into action. Where is the editor to ask: Ron, do you really mean his whole physiology? Because that would be all the functions of a living organism, which is, you know, a whole lot of physiology. And, Ron, as ever? Do you really mean every single time? And, Ron, I’m g A mere ten years ago this would have been my Book of the Year. But I’m a different reader now. Not necessarily a better or smarter reader, just different. So I pause when I read a sentence like: As ever, his whole physiology sprang into action. Where is the editor to ask: Ron, do you really mean his whole physiology? Because that would be all the functions of a living organism, which is, you know, a whole lot of physiology. And, Ron, as ever? Do you really mean every single time? And, Ron, I’m going to have to wrestle you to the ground if you insist on saying sprang into action. I pause too when I read: Painfully aware of his mistakes as president, Grant fantasized about reentering the White House to correct those errors and redeem his reputation. Sorry, but there is not a single shred of evidence in this book or elsewhere that Grant believed he had made mistakes or that he wished to correct them. On the contrary, if he got a chance to do it again, I suspect he would still try to annex Santo Domingo, still send Sheridan out to trample the rights of Native Americans fairly won through treaties, still appoint incompetents to Cabinet level positions, and still demand the resignations of actual qualified appointees who disagreed with him. And, Ron, fantasized?Four years ago, Frank P. Varney published General Grant and the Rewriting of History which forever changed the way I read History. He took the conventional wisdom of historians that General William S. Rosecrans was weak, vain and irresolute and lacking Grant’s superlative drive and focus, and then he backtracked through each volume to find the basis of why that was said to be so. Invariably, the footnote trail led to Grant’s Memoirs. Varney went beyond that single source and looked at military orders, dispatches, and correspondence, and I think convincingly showed that the consensus verdict on Rosecrans was flawed. He showed too, to my satisfaction, that Grant’s literary assault on Rosecrans was spiteful, vindictive and self-serving. So, I waited for Chernow to get to the battle of Chattanooga. And he wrote: Rosecrans was weak, vain, and irresolute, lacking Grant’s superlative drive and focus. You know, the party line. A different reader now, I looked for Chernow’s authority for such a claim. There’s none; except, what should have been a caution, a citation to Grant’s wife’s Memoirs, recounting Grant ‘smiling’ when he got Rosecrans’ transfer paper.See, there’s enough in Chernow’s own book to demand skepticism of Grant, without even going to groundbreaking historical research. Grant lauded Rosecrans - one of the ablest & purest of men, both in motive and action - until he didn’t. The same with Grant on Winfield Scott Hancock, who Grant praised until he suspected Hancock of political aspirations in competition with his own, and then was deemed a coward. No single person did more to advance Grant’s career than Elihu Washburne. Yet, the moment Grant suspected Washburne of having presidential ambitions, Grant ended his relationship with him. Confronted with irrefutable evidence of fraud, Grant could turn a blind eye if it helped family or friends, even directing his attorney general not to make deals which could lead to convictions. And then there are the many omissions and equivocations in the Memoirs that Chernow points out. But if you have your mind made up, as Chernow seems to have done, then you can insist that Grant was ‘scrupulously honest’ and a ‘stickler for the truth.’ This then becomes an ipse dixit, so Grant wins every dispute.You can still like Grant, as I do, and yet admit the flaws. Some other random thoughts about the book:In Hamilton, Chernow seemed to dwell, almost creepily, on Hamilton’s sexuality. Here, Chernow seems preoccupied with Grant’s drinking. Not that Grant’s alcoholism wasn’t important. It was. But, here, every meal seems to need a report whether Grant inverted his wine glass. And, and, Chernow ends the book with that issue, as if that was Grant’s greatest challenge.If a biographer’s ‘sources’ are mostly other previous biographies – McFeely, Foote, McPherson, Catton – one wonders why the need for this new book. It may be that an author has achieved certain purchase that his view, his take on things becomes the reason. And Chernow has certainly won all the awards and now, thanks to Broadway, has earned star status. Chernow’s judgment is that Grant was smarter than you’d think, unquestionably honest, but hopelessly naïve with business associates. Nothing new there. What Chernow highlights though is Grant’s efforts in support of new rights for African-Americans. I fear I’ve criticized this writing to the point where it seems I hated the book. I didn’t. On the contrary, I fairly gobbled it up. I just found some things jarring. Grant is still a great story, with lessons for today. And this book challenged me (a good thing), just perhaps in unintended ways.Can't wait for the musical.
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    "he was nothing heroic....and yet the greatest hero." Walt Whitman of Ulysses S. GrantA blue ribbon historical biography by Ron Chernow, who is one of the only historical biographers in recent years to gain some public notoriety, from his Alexander Hamilton serving as the basis and inspiration for the still-SRO "Hamilton" on Broadway.We read biographies, it seems to me, to remind us that the individual can matter and to learn what came to make the individuals who have mattered most. On both poi "he was nothing heroic....and yet the greatest hero." Walt Whitman of Ulysses S. GrantA blue ribbon historical biography by Ron Chernow, who is one of the only historical biographers in recent years to gain some public notoriety, from his Alexander Hamilton serving as the basis and inspiration for the still-SRO "Hamilton" on Broadway.We read biographies, it seems to me, to remind us that the individual can matter and to learn what came to make the individuals who have mattered most. On both points, Chernow's Grant is a grand slam.The book most significantly accomplishes two goals. One, it provides clarity, context and perspective on Grant's faults, and why he's gotten a bum rap in history classes over the past century after being one of the three most favorably viewed presidents at the end of the 19th century. Second, it shows his huge accomplishments during his two terms serving as United States president. Chernow holds Grant accountable for his faults, but demonstrates that they have been greatly exaggerated or overblown as the result of the Southerners' resentment and in service to their Lost Cause myth--that the Civil War was fought over states' rights and not over slavery. As Chernow thoroughly examines and concludes: Grant was an alcoholic, but a situational one rather than habitual drinker and the evidence indicates he never drank during a major military campaign; he was not a butcher on the battlefield, but beat the Southerners with smarts as well as numbers and even his mistakes--the carnage at Cold Harbor and bloody Shiloh--had in mind winning the war sooner than later and thus saving lives by its end; he was not incompetent, but rather gullible, naive and too trusting of those upon whom he relied and hired in his administration, as well as at fault for hiring too many old friends and family; and, while his administration was stained as corrupt, he never benefited a dime, and again was burned and his reputation tarnished by those he negligently trusted. The more important point of this bio is that the faults have unfairly obscured his successes in office. Grant fulfilled what he considered his mission as president: preserving the Union and safeguarding the freed slaves. He crushed the first incarnation of the KKK who had killed thousands of former slaves and their supporters. And, he ensured the passage of the civil rights amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 13th outlawing slavery, the 14th applying the Bill of Rights--including every citizen's right to equal protection--to the states, and the 15th granting black men the right to vote. As Frederick Douglass declared, Lincoln made "the negro...a freeman and General Ulysses S. Grant made him a citizen," in placing Grant alongside Lincoln as the man who had done the most for the nation's 4 million former slaves.Chernow also splendidly covers his younger years and what made him so great as the commanding general of the Union Army. Chernow concludes that Grant is worthy of being labeled the "Civil Rights president." After reading this rather hefty bio, I agree.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent biography which I recommend to those who enjoy that genre or history in general or American history specifically. While focused on Grant as it should be, this book also provides needed background on the state of the United States when Grant was a child and as he grew, as these changes in turn affected Grant's life and decisions.Truly an excellent biography, covering childhood through to burial, Grant's struggles to find a place in the world before the coming of the Civil War This is an excellent biography which I recommend to those who enjoy that genre or history in general or American history specifically. While focused on Grant as it should be, this book also provides needed background on the state of the United States when Grant was a child and as he grew, as these changes in turn affected Grant's life and decisions.Truly an excellent biography, covering childhood through to burial, Grant's struggles to find a place in the world before the coming of the Civil War which led to his and others' discovery of his military talents. I learned so much history of that era as well as of Grant' s life. To all intents and purposes, Grant was foundering in both military and civilian life prior to the beginning of the Civil War. It was only as he rose up through the ranks of officers and assumed battleground responsibilities, developing his own strategies, during the Western campaign of that war that his star began to rise and his skills and strengths were recognized. He too began to recognize that he had found a place he could succeed. Ultimately he found the major sponsor he would need and want, the President, Abraham Lincoln, for whom Grant provided much needed victories at a time of Northern despair.After the war, the road seemed to lead only to the White House. There, some personality and work/military habits that had developed over time did not serve him well. Over time, they led to some long held negative views of his presidency. It is interesting that some of the personality traits that served Grant so well during wartime proved problematic when he was president. One of these involved his problem-solving and decision making skills. He was used to acting quickly, independently, almost instinctively. As President, he often did not consult with his cabinet, Congress, etc., did not consider public reactions when making decisions. This often led to conflict with Congress, members of Congress and backlash from the public. Also, because of an essential naivete about people, Grant would become enmeshed in schemes begun by various businessmen who sought to benefit from his position, his name, his past. This problem existed before the war, continued while he was in the White House and lasted for the rest of his life. He tended to admire the powerful and rich of his time and was slow to read them as individuals. He accepted them at their word and lost money and reputation at their hands. Chernow also deals with the often told tales of Grant's problems with alcohol in a way that feels very convincing to me.Chernow's biography is excellent, painstaking in its detail from childhood to burial, outlining Grant's foibles and strengths, what he added to the institution of the presidency and what left with him. Grant lived during a hugely important time in American history: when the nation was moving from an agrarian to an industrial society; when the issue of secession was fought and decided (to the degree it would be); when the continent was about to be crossed by the railroad and the many tribes of Indians were being forced off the lands they had roamed for so many generations. Grant participated in all of these as a private individual, a soldier or a President.I highly recommend this book!A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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  • Darwin8u
    January 1, 1970
    "When did [Grant] ever turn back? He was not that sort; he could no more turn back than time!"- Walt Whitman, quoted in Ron Chernow, GrantRon Chernow delights in writing about complicated American Icons and money men. It might seem odd that Chernow would chose Grant after writing about Washinton, Hamilton, John D. Rockefeller, the Morgans and the Warburgs, but Chernow also loves rehabilitative writing. Just look at what his biography of Hamilton did (helped out mightily by Lin-Manuel Miranda). G "When did [Grant] ever turn back? He was not that sort; he could no more turn back than time!"- Walt Whitman, quoted in Ron Chernow, GrantRon Chernow delights in writing about complicated American Icons and money men. It might seem odd that Chernow would chose Grant after writing about Washinton, Hamilton, John D. Rockefeller, the Morgans and the Warburgs, but Chernow also loves rehabilitative writing. Just look at what his biography of Hamilton did (helped out mightily by Lin-Manuel Miranda). Grant is a great subject to write about. He is a complicated man, with an interesting story, surrounded by a slew of fascinating characters. Chernow is also one of my favorite US biographers. He isn't quite as high up the biographer Olympus as Caro (who is really?), but is consistently better IMHO than McCullough, Meacham, and Ellis (among the Costco-selling blockbuster biographers). Perhaps, the proper place for Chernow is next to Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Herbert Donald, and Edmund Morris. This year has seen two massive Grant biographies. I'm planning on reading Ronald C. White's 864 page biography sometime in the last 1/3 of 2018. This summer, I will also attempt to read Grant's own Memoirs this summer. So, I might have to come back and revise my review after reading White and Grant. For now, let me just say that Grant should probably be viewed as a great American (top 10), and mediocre president (25-30). It is, however, difficult to imagine any president emerging out of the post Civil War/Reconstruction/Johnson years with any huge levels of success. The hostilities of the South to Reconstruction, and black engagement in the economic and political spheres practically divided the nation again, post Civil War. Northern Republicans also seemed exhauted by the horrors of Reconstruction, and largely abandoned blacks. But Grant, despite his failings in many spheres, bravely fought for the legal and voting rights of the newly freed slaves longer than almost any of his peers during that time would have. But Grant was complicated. His blind trust and reliance on old friends, and lack of experience in politics and business, bit him hard and lead to several large scandals during both terms and after his presidency. Chernow avoids turning this book into a hagiography, but only just. Clearly Chernow thinks Grant's reputation gets hammered too hard for his scandals and drinking and not enough time is spent on his successes (foreign policy, fighting the KKK, etc). My other mild criticism of Chernow, besides a clear resurrectionist bent, is skimming quickly over the financial and economic implications related to the gold standard debate (see Mehrsa Bahadaran's review) and subsequent Long Depression of 1873–79. I find it fascinating that a writer (Chernow) with a background in heavy in financial writing and thinking (he was once the director of financial policy studies with the Twentieth Century Fund), tends to bore easily with the major financial issues of Grant's tenure.But overall, I loved the book. I loved the sections on Reconstruction and was surprised to learn details about Longstreet, Lee, and Sherman that I didn't know before. I was happy to devote a week to reading it.
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  • Steven Z.
    January 1, 1970
    Recently Ron Chernow was asked on the CBS morning news program if his new biography, GRANT could become a Broadway musical as his previous book HAMILTON had. His response was clearly no, but he left open the possibility of a movie. Whatever the case, Chernow has written the most comprehensive biography of the man credited with changing the course of, and winning the Civil War, then went on to support Lincoln’s reconstruction program, and assumed the presidency. The book is quite long, to the poi Recently Ron Chernow was asked on the CBS morning news program if his new biography, GRANT could become a Broadway musical as his previous book HAMILTON had. His response was clearly no, but he left open the possibility of a movie. Whatever the case, Chernow has written the most comprehensive biography of the man credited with changing the course of, and winning the Civil War, then went on to support Lincoln’s reconstruction program, and assumed the presidency. The book is quite long, to the point that Chernow dedicated the book to his readers, as he stated in a New York Times interview he himself would have difficulty dealing with the length of his own books. As far as a film is concerned it is easy to contemplate such a complex life story that experienced numerous successes and failures. Before the Civil War his private life was riddled with failed businesses and depression. He had to deal with a father-in-law who thought very little of him, and a father who was rather intrusive. Troubled by alcoholism he would lead the North to victory over the Confederacy, was a proponent of civil rights for freed slaves, and guided the United States through the perilous years following the Civil War.Every high school student is taught that there was a great deal of corruption linked to the Grant administration, but in truth noting ever involved him on a personal level. The historiography dealing with Grant’s life and career beginning with William A. Dunning at the turn of the twentieth century has been rather negative, but Chernow’s effort has continued the new strain of thought reflected in recent biographies by Ronald C. White and Jean Edward Smith who argue that Grant was a great military leader and a better president than he has been given credit for.Chernow’s portrait of GRANT is all consuming beginning with a boyhood that witnesses a grandstanding father and a stubbornly private son. Along with his over-bearing father, Grant had to cope with a painfully retiring mother resulting in a young man who kept a world of buried feelings locked inside, a trait he would carry his entire life. Chernow follows his subject through his formative years and West Point until his marriage to Julia Dent, a southern woman who lived on a plantation. Since the Grants were rabid abolitionists it created tremendous pressure on the young couple, particularly Ulysses who could never measure up in terms of wealth to his father-in-law. Chernow is a wonderful writer of narrative history, but he also centers on the motivations and consequences of people’s actions. Employing his analytical skills to Grant’s intellectual development in dealing with American expansion during and following the Mexican War, and the problem of Texas we witness a man who realizes early on that the war incited by President James K. Polk could only exacerbate domestic tension by adding territories that the south would try and turn into slave states. Grant’s pre-presidential views are in a constant state of evolution; whether dealing with military strategy during the Civil War, his dealings with Union generals such as George McClellan, William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and Henry Halleck; how to deal with the problem of “contraband” slaves and whether they should be employed by Union armies against the south; what approach to take against Robert E. Lee; and his developing relationship with Abraham Lincoln.Chernow’s Grant has a facile mind who was able to control his emotions and weigh his decisions. Grant realized that his reputation was one that stressed his problem with alcohol and the fact that casualties under his command were very high. Chernow spends a great deal of time dealing with the alcohol issue and concludes that Grant was the type of drunk who could control when to start and stop drinking. The evidence presented reflects the belief that Grant never drank during periods involving the preparation of and actual combat. The stress of battle needed an outlet, and when Julia was not around or his Chief of Staff John Rawlins was not present to manage him, Grant did resort to alcohol. As far as casualties were concerned, Grant unlike McClellan and George C. Meade did not pursue an offensive approach to war. Once Grant experienced success in the western theater, particularly at Vicksburg, his relationship with Lincoln was solidified as the president finally found a general who wanted to destroy the Confederate army, and not just concentrate on acquiring territory. Another major point that Chernow develops is that historians tend to concentrate on the Army of the Potomac and events in the east, with Grant’s life story the west comes into focus particularly its strategic value during the Civil War.Grant’s relationship with Lincoln was the key to victory. The strength of their bond can be seen with all the “presidential talk” surrounding Grant as the war wound down as he assured Lincoln he had no presidential aspirations. In dealing with the social issues that emerged with the Emancipation Proclamation we witness the further evolution of Grant’s thinking as he proposed what would come to be known as the Freedman’s Bureau to take care of freed slaves. Lincoln’s assassination hit Grant very hard, as he lost his partner in trying to bring the south back into the union without the former Confederates loosing total face. Once Lincoln was gone, Grant as General in Chief had to deal with Andrew Johnson, an avowed racist who went to war with radical Republicans in Congress. By wars end the “erstwhile goods clerk” from Galena, Illinois was in command of over one million men which could compete with any army in the world. For Grant that army would be reduced appreciatively, but was to be used to control southern rejectionists who committed numerous atrocities against freed blacks, and wanted to reinstitute the status quo ante bellum.Chernow provides a historically accurate portrayal of the Reconstruction period. Beginning with the presidency of Andrew Johnson the author dwells on the former Tennessee governor’s blatant racism and goal of restoring Confederate ideals as soon as possible. Grant, then General in Chief and temporary Secretary of War with Johnson’s suspension of Edwin M. Stanton challenged the new president on issues ranging from the Freedman’s Bureau, constitutional amendments, racist inspired riots and murder in Memphis and New Orleans, and the impeachment process. It is clear from Chernow’s analysis that Grant became the foremost protector of persecuted blacks in the south as his disgust with Johnson continually increased. With this process his world view moved closer to Radical Republicans. Grant believed that Johnson “had subverted the will of Congress in a way that bordered on treason.”(589) Grant grew very uncomfortable as he found himself in the middle between Johnson and the Radical Republicans over the interpretation of the Tenure of Office Act. For Grant military rule in the south should be terminated as soon as possible, but also believed that withdrawal should take place without sacrificing the welfare of blacks.It came as no surprise that Grant was easily elected to the presidency, a job he never really sought, but once in office seemed to enjoy. The problem was that Grant tended to view rich businessmen through rose colored glasses leading to weak and corrupt appointees. Grant, who during the war had a knack for choosing superb talent proved to have lost that skill as president. Men like Jay Gould and John Fiske tried to corner the gold market; Orville Babcock spied for whisky distillers within the administration along with General John McDonald, the Supervisor for Internal Revenue in Arkansas and Missouri; Secretary of War William M. Belknap made money selling trading posts that provided goods to Native-Americans; and of course the Credit Mobilier - all personified the looser morals of the Gilded Age which greatly detracted from his presidency. Grant was a victim of the disease of patronage as he repeatedly handed out positions to family and friends. Many of his problems resulted from the lack of a true civil service system. In his defense, Chernow argues that Grant was the first president to oversee a continental economy which led to the rise of big business, particularly the expansion of railroads that required government assistance providing fresh opportunities for graft. “With the federal government bound up in new moneymaking activities, there arose a gigantic grab for filthy lucre that affected statehouses as well and saturated the political system with corruption.”(645) Grant had to cope with a strong Congress whose powers had been amplified as the death of Lincoln and the actions of Johnson greatly reduced the power of the Executive branch. Overall, Grant’s problem was that after the Civil War the Republican Party evolved from a party of abolitionism to a more business oriented one.Chernow stresses the role of John Rawlins in helping Grant become the hero of the Civil War, but with his death a vacuum was created that no one could fill. Without Rawlins to help Grant control his drinking problems, act as a sounding board for decisions, and choosing the proper person for a position, it became easier for people to take advantage of Grant. The result was once Rawlins died, Grant’s presidency became a victim of “crafty, cynical politicians for whom the credulous Grant was no match.” Later in life Grant would admit his character flaws and blamed himself for choosing and working with individuals that helped contribute to the negative view of his presidency.Despite the corruption that hovered around the Grant presidency there are areas to admire. During his administration Grant faced a clandestine Civil War in the south. Remnants of the Confederacy morphed into the Klu Klux Klan and other racist groups that reigned murder and violence against blacks or any whites who supported them. Grant used the newly created Department of Justice and the military to prosecute offenders and safeguard possible victims. Though he could not totally eradicate the violence and hatred by 1872 he had destroyed the Klan in the south. However, by his second administration acts of violence against blacks in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi increased culminating in the Colfax massacre and others. When Grant sought to use federal troops to protect black voting rights he ran into northern opposition that had grown tired of Reconstruction. Another area that Grant should be commended for was the negotiations resulting in the Treaty of Washington that settled the “Alabama claims” issue with the British dating back to the Civil War. As a result Anglo-American cooperation would replace years of controversy and ill-feelings. Further, it allowed for the influx of British capital which greatly enhanced American industrial development.It is interesting to note the current manipulation of the “Civil War Monuments Issue” by politicians in light of Chernow’s analysis. The author explains Grant’s resentments against those who argued that he was only successful because of superior resources and men as opposed to the strategy he employed in defeating Lee’s army. Further, it vexed him that after the Civil War “the North denigrated its generals while southern generals were idealized.” Grant remarked that Southern generals were [seen as] models of chivalry and valor—our generals were venal, incompetent and course…Everything our opponents did was perfect. Lee was a demigod, Jackson was a demigod, while our generals were brutal butchers.” (516) Grant is probably turning over in his grave today as statues of the treasonous Lee are used as a vehicle to exploit the feelings of many individuals who still refuse to honor the 13th,14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution.Chernow’s work is masterful, well written, and the epitome of how history should be presented. Chernow does not miss a beat; from Grant’s military career, family life, battle to overcome alcoholism, to the trust in mankind that led to so many financial losses. If you have the time, GRANT is a major commitment, but if you choose to accept the challenge of engaging a book that weighs between two and three pounds you will not be disappointed.
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  • Mackey St
    January 1, 1970
    I was born and raised in the southern part of the United States. The name U.S. Grant was spoken with disdain, whether it was in a familial conversation, at a historical site, or in a history class in high school or at university. Two Northern Generals, Grant and Sherman, have been firmly engrained in the minds of young southern minds as the worst two people who ever walked on American soil. You can imagine how excited I was, then, to receive this book - Grant - to read for review. What more did I was born and raised in the southern part of the United States. The name U.S. Grant was spoken with disdain, whether it was in a familial conversation, at a historical site, or in a history class in high school or at university. Two Northern Generals, Grant and Sherman, have been firmly engrained in the minds of young southern minds as the worst two people who ever walked on American soil. You can imagine how excited I was, then, to receive this book - Grant - to read for review. What more did I possibly need to know about this terrible man? Well, as it turns out, I had a LOT to learn! The first thing that one needs to know, Ulysses S Grant is not his real name. It was a mistake made when he entered the military academy. As with the remainder of the book, this was the first of many "historical facts," that Chernow sets out to correct. From his childhood until his death, I doubt there ever has been a man in American history who has been painted so erroneously. Perhaps it was due to the aftermath of the Civil War, perhaps in part because of the war itself, however, every single thing that I ever had been taught about President Grant was, in fact, wrong and not only wrong, but an outright lie created to destroy the man's reputation. And we just think this type of thing is a product of the 21st century.Chernow is an artful storyteller and the book reads more like historical fiction than a non-fiction account of Grant's life. I found myself on more than one occasion cross checking his statements because they did, in fact, seem too outlandish to be true. His research and his facts are, indeed, well grounded. My only, very slight, complaint is that Chernow obviously came to admire Grant a great deal. It's difficult not to do so. That does show through in some of his writing, especially toward the end. He appears to lose a little of the objectivity needed to write a non-fiction account. However, as I stated, it does not affect the facts of the book in any way. If you like history or even historical fiction then I highly recommend this book to you. If you are a southerner, I think it is a must read in order to correct the misconceptions of a lifetime of ill-learning.
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  • Jim
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsI was torn between 4 stars or 5 stars for this outstanding biography and decided to split the difference giving it 4.5 stars. The only demerits being that at times when it delved into politics I found it a little dry but that is probably me and has nothing to do with the authors writing talent. I read one other book by Ron Chernow, that being Alexander Hamilton. The research that went into this narrative is outstanding and the author's writing style is such that you feel as though you k 4.5 starsI was torn between 4 stars or 5 stars for this outstanding biography and decided to split the difference giving it 4.5 stars. The only demerits being that at times when it delved into politics I found it a little dry but that is probably me and has nothing to do with the authors writing talent. I read one other book by Ron Chernow, that being Alexander Hamilton. The research that went into this narrative is outstanding and the author's writing style is such that you feel as though you know the person. He was not just a general during the Civil War and a President. He was a son, husband, and a father. He was also a friend to many historical figures in the 19th century. In this narrative you get to meet them all.I knew of Ulysses S. Grant of course. Robert E. Lee surrendered to him at Appomattox, he went on to become the 18th President of the United States, was well known for his cigars and drinking reputation, and appears on the fifty dollar bill. Then there is the well known riddle of "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?". There is a lot more to this complex man. For instance I did not know that he was not born Ulysses S. Grant. (view spoiler)[ He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant (hide spoiler)] As president he was a proponent of civil rights and had to deal with the birth of the Klu Klux Klan and with domestic terrorism. There were also several scandals during his two terms as President. This book does not white wash over these. Grant was not directly involved in these except in the people he appointed to offices and whom he trusted.At over one thousand pages this is a serious read but if you enjoy history and biography I would strongly recommend this book. Before I started this book I knew a little about Ulysses S. Grant. By the time I finished reading the book I felt like I knew Ulysses S. Grant. There is more to the man than the reputation that one sometimes finds.Interesting fact from this book and the Civil War: (view spoiler)[Wilmer McLean was a Virginian whose house was near Manassas, Virginia ... site of the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. After the battle he moved to Appomattox, Virginia to escape the war. In 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in McLean's house in Appomattox. His houses were, therefore, involved in one of the first and one of the last encounters of the Civil War. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Christopher Saunders
    January 1, 1970
    Rehabilitating Ulysses Grant has become a cottage industry among biographers: in the past sixteen years alone, we've seen formidable studies by Jean Edward Smith, H.W. Brands, Brooks Simpson and Ronald C. White showing us that Grant, far from the drunken butcher-general and terrible president caricatured throughout the years, was a shrewd military leader and a well-intentioned, if not always effective Chief Executive. Ron Chernow's latest book covers little new ground, but a solid biography by a Rehabilitating Ulysses Grant has become a cottage industry among biographers: in the past sixteen years alone, we've seen formidable studies by Jean Edward Smith, H.W. Brands, Brooks Simpson and Ronald C. White showing us that Grant, far from the drunken butcher-general and terrible president caricatured throughout the years, was a shrewd military leader and a well-intentioned, if not always effective Chief Executive. Ron Chernow's latest book covers little new ground, but a solid biography by a talented historian is always worth checking out. Chernow provides the detailed yet accessible, humanizing style which made his earlier works (especially Alexander Hamilton) so enjoyable. He charts the familiar course of Grant's life, from near-destitution in Illinois through military and political success, with verve and commendable balance. One failing that many Grant biographers have is that they try overbalancing the ledger, depicting their subject as a God made flesh. Chernow (whose George Washington book occasionally suffered from this) avoids this temptation: there's much frank discussion of Grant's alcoholism, which if not as prevalent and crippling as his detractors claimed, still caused him sorrow and difficulties throughout his life. Similarly, his fractious family relations (despite a happy marriage to Julia Dent, he suffered a slave-owning, secessionist father-in-law and his own unscrupulous father, who sought to exploit his son's fame), poor business and political sense and more errant judgments (notably the infamous "Jew Order" of 1862, expelling Jewish traders from Union-occupied territory) receive due scrutiny and criticism.Besides such balance, Chernow's main contribution is enriching his subject's strengths and successes. Hardly an intellectual, Grant nonetheless possessed a keen, intuitive mind that absorbed military history, strategic lessons and classical literature, which along with a dogged, no-nonsense determination made him an ideal military commander for the Civil War. While often lacking in judgments of friends and family members, he possessed a shrewd eye for gifted subordinates and had a knack for sizing up opponents, be they hapless failures like Bragg and Pemberton or the near-sainted Robert E. Lee (whom Chernow deflates as an overrated tactician and Southern ideologue), whose skill and seasoned veterans required a different approach. Thus the brilliant campaigns against Ft. Donelson, Vicksburg and Chattanooga, along with more near-run battles at Shiloh, Cold Harbor and Petersburg are all of a piece; Grant isn't always brilliant or successful, doesn't always make the right call, but his mixture of strategic sense and tenacity make for a deadly opponent. Chernow also burnishes Grant's ideological background. He reads much into Grant's admiration for the unfussy Zachary Taylor and his disdain for the vain Winfield Scott and loathing for Napoleon; unlike George McClellan, for instance, he was a small-d democrat first, a soldier second. While Grant's often depicted as ambivalent about secession and slavery, Chernow shows that he, while hardly an abolitionist, harbored a deep-seated hatred of the "peculiar institution," was an early advocate of arming black troops and (despite a meme that remains popular in Lost Cause circles) never doubted slavery was the war's primary cause. This led him, as president, to embrace Reconstruction full-throttle, cracking down on the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups while fighting for black enfranchisement, along with his less-heralded effort to bring justice to Native Americans. Grant's presidency is trickiest to navigate. While it's true that Grant's been smeared by Lost Cause calumnists and that he was personally blameless for corruption, it's also true that his apologists tend to airbrush these traits to a nauseating degree. (No one argues that Warren G. Harding was a great president because he wasn't personally implicated in Teapot Dome.) Chernow balances his fight against the Klan with his harebrained scheme to annex Santo Domingo, the widespread crookedness of his staff members and subordinates, and the queer admixture of sincere reform and personal corruption that characterized the Southern Reconstruction governments. These fissures, along with personal feuds with Charles Sumner and others, split the GOP in 1872 and nearly destroyed Grant's reputation. Chernow argues that Grant, while not a worst-ever president as often claimed, entertained a rather mixed record as chief executive.The final chapters show Grant's checkered post-presidential life: an international tour that salvaged his reputation; a failed business deal and ill-advised campaign for a third term which sunk it again; his agonizing struggle with cancer and race to complete his memoirs. In these chapters as elsewhere, Chernow shows Grant as a genuinely good, well-intentioned man battling his own failings and the betrayal of those he trusts most, armed mainly with personal principles and unshakable stubbornness. He emerges as deeply flawed but roundly heroic, an epic figure worthy of both careful study and considered veneration.
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  • Melania 🍒
    January 1, 1970
    4,6/5I looooove biiiig books and I really like Grant (apparently) and I admire Chernow’s writing style and yeah... I loved pretty much everything about this 😊
  • Jean
    January 1, 1970
    I have read a number of biographies of both Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. Chernow’s is by far the most detailed and documented. I have always enjoyed Chernow’s biographies even if they are very long. Chernow always presents a rich sensitive portrait of his topic, in this case, Ulysses S. Grant.The book is well written and meticulously researched. I was impressed how thoroughly he investigated the claims of Grant’s alcoholism. He pointed out what might have been true or false claims of his p I have read a number of biographies of both Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. Chernow’s is by far the most detailed and documented. I have always enjoyed Chernow’s biographies even if they are very long. Chernow always presents a rich sensitive portrait of his topic, in this case, Ulysses S. Grant.The book is well written and meticulously researched. I was impressed how thoroughly he investigated the claims of Grant’s alcoholism. He pointed out what might have been true or false claims of his periodic drinking. Mostly the book is unbiased. The author covers the entire life of Grant with a more in-depth look at his military career and the Civil War. He reports on Grant’s mistakes as well as the accomplishments. Chernow documents how Grant helped the slaves during the Civil War and after as president. Grant wanted to see them educated and obtain the vote. Grant helped pushed through the 15 Amendment to the Constitution. Chernow paints a picture of Grant as an advocate for civil rights after the War. Chernow shows how Grant’s trust of people had always caused him problems particularly when he was president. The author reviews in detail the various scandals of Grant’s presidency. I found the section of Andrew Johnson’s presidency and his attempts at blocking reconstruction post-Civil War most interesting. I know I have read about this before, but I think it meant more to me now because of the current political turmoil. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learned more about Grant and his time.I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is just over forty-eight hours or 1020 pages. Mark Bramhall does an excellent job narrating the book. Bramhall has won twelve Earphone Award.
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  • Michael Austin
    January 1, 1970
    The sheer popularity of Ron Chernow, now known as the source of the most popular musical in the history of ever, ensures that both his new biography and its subject are going to be taken seriously in national conversation. The re-evaluation of Grant and Reconstruction that Chernow offers has been in progress for several decades among historians and experts. But Chernow is (quite literally now) a rock star--and that matters. Ulysses S. Grant deserves to be taken far more seriously as a president The sheer popularity of Ron Chernow, now known as the source of the most popular musical in the history of ever, ensures that both his new biography and its subject are going to be taken seriously in national conversation. The re-evaluation of Grant and Reconstruction that Chernow offers has been in progress for several decades among historians and experts. But Chernow is (quite literally now) a rock star--and that matters. Ulysses S. Grant deserves to be taken far more seriously as a president and a leading figure in the battle for civil rights than he has been for the last hundred years or so, and Chernow’s biography—despite being about a million pages long—is almost certainly going to do it.Before reading the biography, my understanding of Grant boiled down to about five contradictory “facts”: he was a hard drinker, he won the civil war even though he wasn’t that good a general, he was compassionate towards Lee at Appomattox, he had one of the most corrupt presidential administrations in US history, and he went broke a lot. Chernow seems to know that readers have these preconceptions, and he either contradicts or deeply problematizes all of them along with demonstrating, with mountains of evidence, that Grant was, on the issue of civil rights, the most effective and committed president from the beginning of the Republic to 1960s. This is an extremely important thing for us to be talking about at a time when many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement are in danger of being lost to yet another flare-up of a Civil War that still has yet to be conclusively won.But let’s start with Grant’s drinking. Chernow announces in the introduction that he will work from the assumption that Grant was an alcoholic who spent much of his life trying not to drink and was successful for large periods of time. He was not a social drinker, but a private one who binged, repented, abstained, and binged again. This cost him his job the first time he was in the Army, but, when he became a general (and with a lot of help from his aide-de-camp John Rawlins), he was able to avoid alcohol for months and even years at a time. And there is no evidence that he drank at all while he was president. But the rumors of drunkenness—largely based on his early dismissal from the Army—followed him throughout his life and surfaced every time somebody needed a reason to criticize him.Chernow also does a pretty good job of showing how Grant operated as a general, with one of the most comprehensive grasps of overall strategy that anyone in the world to that point had ever possessed. Because his initial job in the army was as a quartermaster, Grant developed an understanding of logistics that probably had as much to do with his victories as his military strategies. He knew how to keep an army fed, and he knew how to disrupt the feeding of other armies. This, combined with an understanding of multiple armies as part of a single strategic unit, allowed him to do what six previous commanders were unable to do, which is win a war with no advantages beyond immense superiority in manpower and industrial strength.My major criticism of the book is that Chernow does not give us a good tactical sense of what happened in the individual battles, but he does (like Grant) show clearly how he was able to think of the actions of multiple armies through multiple battles to produce a conclusion that was by no means guaranteed. Though the United States had far more population and industrial strength than the Confederate rebels, they did not have an inexhaustible supply of political will—and, had Grant not taken over the entire Armed Forces and mounted important victories, it is very likely that Lincoln would have been defeated in 1864 and the war would have ended with either a Northern withdrawal or a truce that preserved slavery.What comes through the most in the Civil War chapters is that Grant fundamentally believed in the idea of natural, political, and social equality for freed slaves. He strongly supported the use of Black troops in the regular army, and her argued fervently for emancipation when he was a general. In all of his letters, public statements, and writings after the start of the war, there is not a trace of even the paternalistic racism that most White liberals of the time displayed. He actually appears to have thought that black and white people were (with the exception of minor variations in pigmentation) pretty much the same. And this is the crucial fact of his two-term presidency. Grant fervently supported Lincoln and was crushed by his assassination. When he became president himself, he focused uncompromisingly on Lincoln’s vision for Reconstruction—one in which freed slaves would enjoy full political and, eventually, economic equality. To this end, he deployed the military relentlessly to break the Ku Klux Klan and its descendants. He fought hard for the 15th Amendment, and he was willing to enforce it with all of the power at his disposal. Frederick Douglass considered him the greatest presidential ally that African Americans ever had—greater even than Lincoln. When the mood of the country soured on Reconstruction, Grant used up nearly all of the political capital that he still had to keep military governors in place and protect the right of freed slaves to vote and live in peace. He believed that, if this effort ended too soon, the white power structure would use intimidation and state-sponsored violence to undue nearly everything that the Civil War accomplished. Which is exactly what happened after he left office. Grant recognized the Klan and the White Liners for what they were: terrorist organizations that wanted to effect through murder what they were unable to accomplish through rebellion. Grant kept them at bay for eight years, after which the prevented equal treatment under the law for the next eighty years. Despite the best efforts of the hero of the Civil War, we let the terrorists win. And Grant saw it all coming and wrote clearly and prophetically about how this fundamental betrayal would unfold.But what about the corruption? It is not without reason that the Grant administration was known as one of the most corrupt in history. Chernow argues, and I think he is correct, that Grant was personally a person of great integrity, but he had three disastrous characteristics that allowed this corruption to take root: he was naïve about people, he was a fierce friend, and he refused to back down when presented with clear evidence that a trusted adviser was guilty of serious wrongdoing. The big scandals of his administration—the scheme to annex the Dominican Republic, the Crédit Mobilier affair, and the Whiskey Ring scandal that touched several of his closest advisers and friends—were all brought about by the patronage culture that existed at the time. But, in each case, Grant believed people that he trusted and kept on believing them well past the point when their denials were credible. These were largely self-inflicted wounds.And this same set of tendencies proved disastrous in Grant’s post-presidential life, as a trusted friend and business partner bilked him out of most of his life savings. But this penury a the end of his life forced him to write his memoir, which became, and according to many people remains, the best book ever produced by a former politician or military officer in the United States.Chernow’s Grant is most certainly a rehabilitation, but it is a curious sort of rehabilitation. The Grant that comes through in its pages is fiercely honest and loyal, but also naïve, stubborn, and, in many ways, unprepared for the crucible of politics in the Gilded Age. But the flip side in his inability to see the bad in people was his extraordinary ability to see good in people, which allowed him to pursue a course of reconciliation with the Confederacy at the same time that he sacrificed all of the capital he had to try to protect the freed slaves and new citizens of the South. He appointed more African-American, Jewish, and Native American individuals to prominent positions than all of the presidents before him—and for a hundred years after him—combined. And this is a legacy that deserves to be remembered.
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  • Scott Hitchcock
    January 1, 1970
    4.5*'sSimply a masterful piece of history. I cannot imagine the countless hours put into the research of this book gathering perspective from every viewpoint possible. As with most things in life the thing that made it terrific is also the one criticism. Chernow gives us a perspective on why Grant failed at different junctures. It isn't that he was stupid or incompetent as many would portray him. It was that he trusted too freely. In many I can see the author's point but I think he's fallen in l 4.5*'sSimply a masterful piece of history. I cannot imagine the countless hours put into the research of this book gathering perspective from every viewpoint possible. As with most things in life the thing that made it terrific is also the one criticism. Chernow gives us a perspective on why Grant failed at different junctures. It isn't that he was stupid or incompetent as many would portray him. It was that he trusted too freely. In many I can see the author's point but I think he's fallen in love with Grant's persona and has a hard time blaming him for anything whereas others he doesn't have that issue. Still a terrific book.
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  • Jeanette
    January 1, 1970
    This is quite a biography. When I was young they taught me Grant's role, especially in his Presidency years, to be significantly less important than I believe it was. And to completely over blow his alcoholism as "practiced". But regardless of my former nuance of detail considering Grant or how he has been taught, this book made him come alive. It holds depth of his times too, to an incredible degree.He seemed to be the very best of the best that is human when under extreme and completely "prese This is quite a biography. When I was young they taught me Grant's role, especially in his Presidency years, to be significantly less important than I believe it was. And to completely over blow his alcoholism as "practiced". But regardless of my former nuance of detail considering Grant or how he has been taught, this book made him come alive. It holds depth of his times too, to an incredible degree.He seemed to be the very best of the best that is human when under extreme and completely "present" pressure. That's rare. The book itself has a few flaws, mostly in length of detail that's rather repetitive and some that is quite tangent, but you really do get the person beyond the General, the politician, or the husband/ family man. But I think it could have been done at 2/3rds the length. There are some aspects, considering the humongous detail of most personal interrelationship minutia and the quite considerable portions of his life when he was sick with various infirmities, let alone his last cancer when he dictated his own history- that I thought were fully there, but not as slanted to be as dire, unusual, unfortunate as they were. Several issues not set into the much wider picture of essential to the "heal" and USA identity too. (The economics post-war especially.) I wonder what could have been the difference if he had been "good with money" himself or understood, in any intuitive sense, how it works. His indifference and ignorance with wanting or achieving wealth (and not understanding that "friends" could think very differently about this), not just within his own political/life sphere either, seems not as much a concern as it should have been in such a lengthy study?? He was poor at it. Beyond the trusting matters or fierce loyalties which were not deserved, he didn't understand economics. But what bravery considering that he was forced to go to West Point and that it wasn't even his 2nd choice to be set upon the military path- and where that took his life in totality. When I think of him now, I will focus on the small and slender as an arrow 116 lbs horseman whose jump was the climax of his commencement ceremony. A record that still stands.
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  • Mehrsa
    January 1, 1970
    Classic Chernow—it’s beautiful and complex and makes dull things riveting. I feel like I understand the man and the time better, but it’s also classic Chernow in that he glosses over some really crucial economic issues. How can you write about Hamilton without going into the logic of banking and how central that was? Here too, he glosses over the gold standard debate, which was one of the most centralIssues of the time—almost every election after Grant hinged on it until the depression. Grant wa Classic Chernow—it’s beautiful and complex and makes dull things riveting. I feel like I understand the man and the time better, but it’s also classic Chernow in that he glosses over some really crucial economic issues. How can you write about Hamilton without going into the logic of banking and how central that was? Here too, he glosses over the gold standard debate, which was one of the most centralIssues of the time—almost every election after Grant hinged on it until the depression. Grant was wrong on it, but no matter.The beauty of the book and the fact of it being written at this point in history is the reclaiming of the history of Reconstruction from Southern revisionism that completely rewrote the war and the violent upheaval of reconstruction by southern democrats. All the relevant information was in Foner’s reconstruction, but it’s in here again and it’s relevant again because we tend to forget this ugly history and since we’re still living with its effects, it’s crucial that we internalize the lessons—the Republicans after Grant (and during his administration) decided to stop fighting for black rights. Grant understood that what the South was taking through klan violence and disenfranchisement was exactly what he had fought to protect during the war. Good guy, that Grant. But also kind of clueless about money.
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  • Craig Pearson
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Netgalley for this book. This is the perfect adjunct to Grant's autobiography 'Memoirs'. The details and background that Chernow gives to fill out missing details in Grant's life is amazing. Chernow does give heavy emphasis to Grant's perceived or actual alcoholism. The author does use every possible word in the English language so be prepared with a dictionary while reading. As an example, he used the word 'adumbrating' which I at first thought was totally made up. It means 'foresh Thank you to Netgalley for this book. This is the perfect adjunct to Grant's autobiography 'Memoirs'. The details and background that Chernow gives to fill out missing details in Grant's life is amazing. Chernow does give heavy emphasis to Grant's perceived or actual alcoholism. The author does use every possible word in the English language so be prepared with a dictionary while reading. As an example, he used the word 'adumbrating' which I at first thought was totally made up. It means 'foreshadowing' and I wonder why the author did not use it instead.
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  • 11811 (Eleven)
    January 1, 1970
    Chernow is my favorite biographer. I’ll read anything he writes. The subject is irrelevant.
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Two thousand seventeen was a difficult year in many ways, and I chose to make it even more difficult by reading not one but two brick-like biographies of Grant: this one, and American Ulysses by Ronald White, both of which were supplied free of charge via those generous people at NetGalley. As fascinating as Grant is, this is not a life choice I can recommend to others in good conscience.Chernow is a rock star of Presidential historians, largely on the reflected glory he received when his biog Two thousand seventeen was a difficult year in many ways, and I chose to make it even more difficult by reading not one but two brick-like biographies of Grant: this one, and American Ulysses by Ronald White, both of which were supplied free of charge via those generous people at NetGalley. As fascinating as Grant is, this is not a life choice I can recommend to others in good conscience.Chernow is a rock star of Presidential historians, largely on the reflected glory he received when his biography of Alexander Hamilton, improbably, inspired a wildly successful Broadway musical. During a podcast interview, I heard Chernow say that he now regularly meets elementary school children who shyly ask for his autograph. This must be some kind of first for the genre, and also a very pleasant and human-nature-restoring experience, of which the world is in desperately short supply in our benighted times.Since (as the song goes) “Them that got shall have”, Chernow’s book was stacked high at the fashionable independent bookstore of Washington’s Dupont Circle in anticipation of the season of giving books that will plague your nightstand for months, whereas White was nowhere to be found on the day I visited.I tend to sympathize with the underdog, that is, White. Also, White’s biography has my sympathy from the start by virtue of the simple fact that it is shorter by about 100 pages. I occasionally found that Chernow, probably freer from the tyranny of editors than White, piled on the details that perhaps could be left out. For example, I think most of the details about the clash of personalities between Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant could have gotten the red pen. I think Chernow was trying to make a point that the discord between the two wives may have caused Grant to beg off an invitation by President Lincoln to join him at Ford’s Theater on the night he was assassinated. This might be true, but in a life as crowded with event as Grant’s, some speculation about might-have-beens should be excised. However, in the end, Chernow won me over. I think it is a better book for the armchair historian. It is just more dramatically written and stays in the mind longer.Chernow’s book was so good that, in fact, I sometimes had to stop reading it. This problem stemmed from the fact that, as previously noted, I had only recently fully informed myself on the tragic moments of Grant’s life at length, and these moments never change, no matter how many times you read about them. It’s hard to experience the routine setbacks and difficulties of a normal life all day and then face some of history’s saddest moments just before bedtime. Therefore, I spent several days parked, like the Union Army before Petersburg, in front of the part of the book which addresses the Grant’s fiasco at Cold Harbor, knowing how much needless and senseless slaughter I was about to read about. Similarly, I had to put the book down before Grant’s second term, because I knew that a load of cowardly unpunished violence by racist thugs operating under the pathetically hypocritical figleaf of states’ rights was in the offing.On the other hand, the few odd moments of Grant’s life where he gets to enjoy the hard-earned fruits of his labors are a pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed the chapter about Grant’s late life around-the-world tour, where he seemed to be having a grand old time being fussed over by the great and powerful.This biography, and White’s, are important attempts to re-evaluate Grant in the light of the attempt to wrestle the narrative of the Civil War of the traitorous racists who have monopolized it for far too long. As such, it has to scrape away the accumulated layers of half-truth-based character assassination which has passed for Civil War historiography for far too long.The problem with half-truths, of course, is that they are half true. Grant had a drinking problem, to which he succumbed with ever-declining regularity as he aged and spent less time alone with whiskey-swilling soldiery. Yet the problem was there. It could be (and has been) introduced to smear Grant’s every decision and policy, even those made during the long period of nearly-unbroken sobriety when he was in the White House. Similarly, Grant's maddening flaw of excessive trust in corrupt old Army buddies and other veterans pops up again and again but it should not be allowed to overshadow the fact that his administration, whatever its faults and moments of weakness, was the most benevolent to Jews, blacks, and native American of any up to, perhaps, the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson.I recommend that you read a book about Grant sometime. He is a great flawed man, a human in flesh, and a strange mirror of the prejudices and preconceptions of others, both during his lifetime and after. It may not be necessary to read more than one. It may not be necessary to read either of 2017’s brick-like re-evaluations of Grant’s legacy, if fat books are not your thing. Grant’s own memoirs, written in extraordinary circumstances (well chronicled in this book) and available in a great Library of America edition, will tell you everything you need to know about the man, and is shorter. Whatever you read, I hope it convinces you that the hardcover hatchet jobs on Grant by the previous generation’s load of Confederacy apologists should be consigned to the garbage heap of history.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Alexander Hamilton is a hard act to follow, but Chernow lives up to the expectations. Meticulously researched, the book is overflowing with details, insight, and analysis. This is backed up with extensive source notes. It took me almost three months to finish reading the biography: it's a book to be savored, not devoured. I've come away with a newfound respect for Ulysses, and highly recommend it. This book was generally provided by NetGalley.
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  • Sean Chick
    January 1, 1970
    The deification of Ulysses S. Grant has now reached apotheosis. For decades readers have been treated to sympathetic portrayals of Grant. Although popular enough books, the kind of work that can inspire a heavily biased but well composed musical is at long last here. In the war to make Grant great again, this is Appomattox the sequel.I will give Chernow some credit. He is a solid writer, if a bit too detailed at times. Unlike the other Grant apologists he does not sweep his drinking under the ru The deification of Ulysses S. Grant has now reached apotheosis. For decades readers have been treated to sympathetic portrayals of Grant. Although popular enough books, the kind of work that can inspire a heavily biased but well composed musical is at long last here. In the war to make Grant great again, this is Appomattox the sequel.I will give Chernow some credit. He is a solid writer, if a bit too detailed at times. Unlike the other Grant apologists he does not sweep his drinking under the rug. I really appreciated this part, since it makes Grant more human.Of the rest of the book I have little good to say. I read it alongside T. Harry Williams' account of Beauregard. Williams was fair to a talented and complicated man. Chernow has come not to bury Grant but to praise him, and there is a lot of praise here.The account of Grant's military career is error ridden and biased, every defeat or setback is explained away in a fashion that would comport well with Republican newspapers of the 1860s. Grant's presidency is treated as a shining example of civil rights advocacy. Grant did some good, but Chernow is uncomfortable discussing the collapse of Reconstruction which happened while Grant was in office. Nor does he explain why Grant's son, Frederick, decided "Well, no damned nigger will ever graduate from West Point" and proceeded to bully James Webster Smith out of the school. With a single word Grant could have ordered his son to stop. He did not. That story would only complicate the agenda,What is the agenda?The Civil War never ended. Academics and those on the left feel they are still fighting the Lost Cause. As such, Robert E. Lee must be made into a military mediocrity, and Grant into a genius. Lee has gone from "marble man" to narrow minded villain. Just read The Atlantic's execrable "The Myth of the Kindly General Lee" to get the new left take on Lee. Grant has gone from corrupt buffoon, to hero. Americans it seems cannot accept that these are complicated men, that maybe Grant's loyalty to his family was greater than his loyalty to civil rights. We don't like our heroes that way, particularly in these Manichean times.The trouble with fighting the Lost Cause, and propping up the Just Cause, is that the image becomes skewed. The same generals who, often unwillingly, freed the slaves also crushed the tribes of the Great Plains. At the same time Grant is trying to bring racial equality (or at least Republican domination) he was also overseeing the conquest of the west. He was the president when Little Big Horn was fought.The worst though is corruption. The word is a triggering dog whistle for Just Cause adherents because it was the means by which the Democrats retook the South. They charged the Republicans with corruption. The trouble for the Just Cause is the charges stuck. Not that the Democrats were pure people, but men such as Henry Clay Warmoth make for easy targets. Yet, in another time Grant was hated because under his watch corporate influence in American politics began to take hold. Just read C. Vann Woodward's superb essay for that take: http://www.americanheritage.com/conte...Chernow, himself known to love the inner workings of Wall Street, does not so much ignore the corruption as make Grant blameless. He is half right. Grant was not a particularly corrupt man. However, when it came to people his enemies could do no right and his friends were people he would defend to the last. It hardly mattered if such friends were corrupt. Grant chose these men and perjured himself to defend them.I have read in Waugh's book (only skimmed it for now) that Grant was dismissed by the public when we were more racist because of his civil rights record. Perhaps the tables could be flipped. Do we love or at least accept Grant now more because corporate power in politics is taken for granted? Perhaps in fifty years people will read our Grant musings with a groan, amused that we ignore his failings.At any rate, the racism charge would not stick with Woodward, nor with McFeely, nor many past critics. They were not racists. McFeely questioned Grant's motives. Woodward thought corporate issues were just as important. As a man who lived in the Great Depression, it is easy to see why.There is a counter-movement to the current Grant mania, in the works of Joseph Rose and Frank Varney. Sadly, neither man is going to sell as many books as Chernow. Instead, the deification is here, coming just as the Lost Cause, at least in the American mainstream, is pushed out. Academics have long fought that war and at last they can claim victory. If you doubt me, consider that this is the first one star review. The book has 377 ratings as of 11/21/17, and has a 4.54 average. That means it is either a great book or we no longer see Grant as a man. We no longer see a man who won his battles in the west but lost most of them in the east. We no longer see a man who fought the Klu Klux Klan only to abandon Reconstruction in 1875. We no longer see a man who favored better relations with native tribes, yet watched as the final period of conquest began.Rose is right. Grant is now "the marble man."
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    Tempted to add this title to my Southern fiction shelf. For a Pulitzer winner to be so careless with his facts is egregious. I got 200 pages or so in, and I found a glaring error. To be honest, I thought maybe it was me. I haven't taught the American Civil War in 8 years now; am I slipping? Because I could swear that the famous tidbit about a single battle killing more soldiers than the American Revolution, War of 1812, and war with Mexico all added together was about the battle of Antietam, yet Tempted to add this title to my Southern fiction shelf. For a Pulitzer winner to be so careless with his facts is egregious. I got 200 pages or so in, and I found a glaring error. To be honest, I thought maybe it was me. I haven't taught the American Civil War in 8 years now; am I slipping? Because I could swear that the famous tidbit about a single battle killing more soldiers than the American Revolution, War of 1812, and war with Mexico all added together was about the battle of Antietam, yet here is Chernow, saying it's Shiloh. This is when it's nice to have a physical library nearby. I rummaged on my Civil War shelves and plucked Battle Cry of Freedom, which he (rightly) appears to cite more often than anything except perhaps Grant's Memoirs, and I also grabbed McPherson's book on Antietam, and I double-checked. Yup. The reference is to to Antietam, not Shiloh.At this point I wondered what else might be amiss. There's a Sherman quote that's supposed to be in a section in BCF, but the page number Chernow cites is actually in a section about the nurses of the ACW. Well, of course there are different editions, so page numbers may shift a bit, especially in a lengthy source. But I chose--randomly, from the citations at the back--3 other quotes from BCF, and read 8 or 10 pages before and after the page where the quote or fact is supposed to be located, and didn't find them. A more meticulous reader might have different results, but I am not running a courtroom prosecution; I am trying to decide if I now trust this author enough to believe him regarding other information. And I am not all that sure I do.I have a lovely hardcover copy of this biography given me by one of my sons at Christmas, and I would hate to abandon it entirely at the 200 pp. mark; but I'll tell you one thing. I'm rereading Battle Cry of Freedom again before I turn another page of this biography. Because at the very least, this is a work to be read critically, rather than with innocent faith in its author. I like some of the analysis Chernow offers, but I would hate to see a newbie miseducated by using this title as an introduction to Grant or to the Civil War. As for me, I am going to strengthen my own foundation before I approach this tome, which must be read cautiously.
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  • Bryan Craig
    January 1, 1970
    When this book came out, I noticed some scholars complained that Chernow said nothing new about Grant. Historians have been revising Grant's image as president for a couple of decades.This is true, and the book is not perfect. If you know a lot about Grant, then Chernow doesn't bring a lot of new material to the table. However, what Chernow does do is bring a majestic biography that provides solid scholarship that reflects revisionism in Grant's presidency and the ability to reach mass audiences When this book came out, I noticed some scholars complained that Chernow said nothing new about Grant. Historians have been revising Grant's image as president for a couple of decades.This is true, and the book is not perfect. If you know a lot about Grant, then Chernow doesn't bring a lot of new material to the table. However, what Chernow does do is bring a majestic biography that provides solid scholarship that reflects revisionism in Grant's presidency and the ability to reach mass audiences. If more people appreciate that Grant stood up for black citizens in a growing climate of Democrat backlash, then it is worth it. If you don't know a lot about Grant, then this book will give you a great tour of his life.
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  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    This is worth the time to read.
  • Arminius
    January 1, 1970
    There was no man more popular from about 1865 when the Civil War ended until July 1885 when War hero and former President Ulysses S. Grant had passed away. I am going to briefly cover his War days.After graduating from West Point he served in the Mexican American War where he observed the great leadership of Zachery Taylor and had emulated Mr. Taylor throughout his career. Taylor treated the defeated Mexicans with such graciousness that it left an imprint in Grants mind which he carried througho There was no man more popular from about 1865 when the Civil War ended until July 1885 when War hero and former President Ulysses S. Grant had passed away. I am going to briefly cover his War days.After graduating from West Point he served in the Mexican American War where he observed the great leadership of Zachery Taylor and had emulated Mr. Taylor throughout his career. Taylor treated the defeated Mexicans with such graciousness that it left an imprint in Grants mind which he carried throughout his years.When the Civil War started President Lincoln correctly chose the most distinguished War General of the time to lead it George B. McClellan. However, as the War grew on Southern victories happened because of McClellan’s unwillingness to attack giving the South time to prepare. Meanwhile Grant rose to the rank of General. As a general he took control of Kentucky, most of Tennessee, won the major battles at Shiloh and seized Vicksburg, gained control of the Mississippi River and divided the Confederacy. These victories, combined with those in the Chattanooga Campaign, persuaded Abraham Lincoln that Grant was the general best suited to lead the combined Union armies. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General, a rank previously reserved for George Washington, in March 1864. In April 1865 Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending the war.Grant had really like Lincoln but unfortunately Lincoln was assassinated April 15 1865, Andrew Johnson succeeded him. Reconstruction was started by Lincoln to protect the newly freed black population. Andrew Johnson was lax in enforcing it so groups like the KKK and other anti- Black programs had sprung up. Johnson made all kinds of enemies in congress as well becoming our first impeached President. He was dumped by the Republicans and US Grant became the man to replace him. He was elected president in 1868, the youngest man in the office to that date, Grant stabilized the post-war national economy, created the Department of Justice, used the military to enforce laws in the former Confederacy and prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan. Grant strengthened the Republican Party in the South and signed three civil rights acts into law. In 1871 he created the first Civil Service Commission. In the presidential election of 1872, Grant was re-elected by a large margin. He was regarded as personally honest, he nonetheless faced accusations of corruption within his administration. In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase trade and influence while remaining at peace with the world. Britain had supported the South in our Civil War and in what became known as the Alabama claims avoided a war with Great Britain Grant and his Secretary of State Hamilton Fish negotiated a peaceful resolution with Spain over the Virginius Affair. The Virginius was an American ship hired by Cuban insurrectionists to land men and munitions in Cuba to attack the Spanish regime there. It was captured by the Spanish, who wanted to try the men onboard (many of whom were American and British citizens) as pirates and execute them. Congress rejected Grant's initiative to annex the Dominican Republic, creating a rift among Republicans. In national affairs, Grant's administration implemented a gold standard and sought to strengthen the dollar. Grant's immediate response to the Panic of 1873 failed to halt a severe industrial depression that produced high unemployment, deflation, and bankruptcies.After his two terms were up Grant went on a World Tour. At every stop he was treated like Royalty. After his tour, he moved to New York, His son Fred and a con artist named Ferdinand Ward started an investment company whose company gave tremendous profits at first. Grant had invested all his money in this adventure as did many New Yorkers. However, the company went bankrupt and Grant slumbered into poverty. However, he was so popular though that wealthy people had helped him out. Years of smoking cigars had cause Grant to get mouth and throat cancer. As he wasted away with that dreadful disease he spent the last few years of his life writing a detailed account of the Civil War. The book was an enormous best seller. After he died, his wife Julia survived on the royalties earned from his memoirs.A side note: Susan B. Anthony cast the only vote she ever cast for Grant. Although, she did so illegally.
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  • Amy Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    I normally stick to non-fiction works that have to deal with Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and Russian history so picking this up at the library was out of the norm for me, however, I really enjoyed this biography on the man that was not only a military genius during the bloodiest war our nation has ever seen but also a two-term President during a time when the U.S. was still divided about Reconstruction, Indian affairs, and other conflicts that easy could have lead us back into another war. I wil I normally stick to non-fiction works that have to deal with Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and Russian history so picking this up at the library was out of the norm for me, however, I really enjoyed this biography on the man that was not only a military genius during the bloodiest war our nation has ever seen but also a two-term President during a time when the U.S. was still divided about Reconstruction, Indian affairs, and other conflicts that easy could have lead us back into another war. I will admit that I did breeze through the war years pretty easily, but I did have some problems pushing through his political life. It was nice to that Chernow didn't just portray him as a general and a President but also as a husband, a son, a father and a friend to many. This intimate side shown by Chernow is really how I became so endeared to Grant the man not just the larger than life figure that war and politics pushed him into being. If you love a good biography you could do no wrong with picking up "Grant" and delving into a time not many think about today.
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  • Mark Miano
    January 1, 1970
    "That sturdy old Roman, Benjamin Butler, made the negro a contraband, Abraham Lincoln made him a freeman, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant made him a citizen." - Frederick DouglasI nearly cried when I reached the moment of Ulysses S. Grant's death in Ron Chernow's biography of the 18th U.S. President, GRANT. This isn't because books or death don't make me cry; I still remember sobbing at 2am a few years back over the death of Gus McCrae in LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. However, my reaction to Grant' "That sturdy old Roman, Benjamin Butler, made the negro a contraband, Abraham Lincoln made him a freeman, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant made him a citizen." - Frederick DouglasI nearly cried when I reached the moment of Ulysses S. Grant's death in Ron Chernow's biography of the 18th U.S. President, GRANT. This isn't because books or death don't make me cry; I still remember sobbing at 2am a few years back over the death of Gus McCrae in LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. However, my reaction to Grant's death took me by surprise because this is a non-fiction book and I knew that the main character was going to die the entire time I was reading it. (He did live back in the 1800's after all!) The reason for the strong emotions was that Grant felt not just real to me, but also very dear. This is a tribute to the talent and mastery of Ron Chernow, and his ability to breathe new life into some of the most important, and in Grant and Alexander Hamilton’s cases, forgotten historic U.S. figures.Ask almost anyone about Ulysses S. Grant and they will tell you three things: 1.) he succeeded during the Civil War because the North had more soldiers, money, and supplies than the South; 2.) he was a drunk; and 3.) his presidency was mired by corruption and scandal. I suppose there is some truth to each of these statements, but Chernow does an amazing job of analyzing each one throughout the 970 pages of this book and, for the most part, dispelling them as revisionist history. Let me try to do so here, albeit more briefly:1.) Why is that so many Confederate generals are revered for their brilliance and bravery on the battlefield and yet, time after time, when they came up against Grant, they lost? Perhaps it's because Grant was a much better general than he is given credit for today. One thing that Chernow depicts so well is how Grant visualized the battle space, not just the battlefield, but the entire space of war. When he finally was put in command of all the Union forces, he wielded them across the entire Confederacy, from Sherman in the South, to Sheridan in the Shenandoah. It was an innovative and brilliant strategy, one that brought Robert E. Lee to his knees, and caused the Confederacy to crumble. From the siege of Vicksburg, to the Battle of Shiloh, to the surrender at Appomatox, Grant proved time and again that he was a methodical, ruthless, and brilliant military commander.2.) Yes, it's true, Ulysses S. Grant was a drunk; a horrible, terrible drunk. He couldn't handle even a small amount of liquor (people noticed how after just a drink or two he would slur his words), and there were several episodes were he disappeared for days on benders. But what is more true, and something that Chernow chronicles so well, is that Grant knew he was an alcoholic and fought valiantly against the problem. He aligned himself with people (usually his aide-de-camp, John Rawlins, and his wife, Julia Grant) who challenged him night and day to fight the temptation. And for the most part, Grant beat his addiction. In his later years as president, he was known to turn his wine glass upside down during banquets and state dinners, openly signaling that he did not want to be served alcohol. So while the Grant-haters have maligned him as a hopeless drunk, I prefer to celebrate him as an alcoholic who overcame his demons; one has to admire the strength it took him to do so.3.) Chernow spends much time on the third criticism, delving into the various scandals that erupted during Grant's presidency and post-presidency, and making a strong case that Grant acted with honesty and dignity during his years after the Civil War. One of the most heartbreaking stretches of the book details the failure of Reconstruction, due mostly to the relentless campaign of genocide (yes, after reading this book, I’m calling it a genocide) against Southern blacks by whites, hellbent on avenging their losses in the Civil War. Grant did his best to combat this unthinkable time, including facing withering criticism for deploying federal troops in the South to stop the violence. His fight for voting rights, equal rights, and equal protection under the law for blacks earned him much praise from Frederick Douglas, who said: "In him the Negro found a protector, the Indian a friend, a vanquished foe a brother, an imperiled nation a savior."When it comes to Grant's scandals, he did have one serious flaw - he seemed incapable of spotting the swindler in the crowd, much less the one right by his side. This is best revealed in the final chapter of the book when Grant and his family pour their life savings into a Ponzi scheme run by Ferdinand Ward, a family friend. When the scheme finally toppled, Grant was penniless, leading him to write his famous memoirs. This is the part of the book that hit me hardest: the image of Grant, dying from throat cancer, hurriedly scribbling out his memoirs so that he could leave something of value behind for his wife and family. "I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three."At its heart, GRANT is a Bildungsroman: a rags-to riches-back to rags- back to riches tale of one of our most important Americans. Thank you Ron Chernow for writing this amazing biography.And now, just for fun, here are a few factoids I learned about Grant that I never knew: * The S in his name didn't stand for anything! His real name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. Grant didn't like the name because of the acronym HUG. The S was inserted as an accident and stuck with him throughout his life. * Three members of Grant's wedding party fought for the Confederacy, including his best man (James Longstreet) who surrendered to Grant at Appomatox. Among Grant's pall bearers were two who fought for the Union, and two who fought for the Confederacy. * Grant smoked 20 cigars a day. Yep, that is not a typo. When he gave them up totally because he was dying, here's what he said as he finished his last one: "Gentlemen, this is the last cigar I shall ever smoke. The doctors tell me that I will never live to finish the work on which my whole energy is centered these days . . . if I do not cease indulging in these fragrant weeds. It is hard to give up an old and cherished friend, that has been your comforter and solace through many weary nights and days. But my unfinished work must be completed, for the sake of those that are near and dear to me.” * Grant was a fantastic writer. Noted not just in the sparse beauty of his memoirs, but also in many documents from the battlefield and White House. His spontaneous drafting of the surrender document at Appomatox is wonderful moment that depicts his skill. This is what he wrote near the end of his life, when he could no longer speak, and just jotted notes down: "“I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three.” * Grant was supposed to be in the president's box at Ford's Theater on the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It was only because Mary Todd Lincoln and Julia Grant didn't get along that Grant opted out of the invitation. * Mark Twain was the publisher of his memoirs, and openly marveled at the output of Grant's writing at the end. Would you believe that Grant wrote more than 335,000 words in one year, a year in which he was dying of cancer and in excruciating pain?
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  • Marks54
    January 1, 1970
    This is the latest biography from the person who wrote the book that was made into Hamilton. I must admit that I do not see how the hip-hop will be worked into this story, but who knows?This is a book that should be of current interest to many readers. If one is dissatisfied with the current state of US national politics and the Presidency, this book will display a time when things were almost certainly worse. For those concerned with the fitness of generals to run the US Government without prac This is the latest biography from the person who wrote the book that was made into Hamilton. I must admit that I do not see how the hip-hop will be worked into this story, but who knows?This is a book that should be of current interest to many readers. If one is dissatisfied with the current state of US national politics and the Presidency, this book will display a time when things were almost certainly worse. For those concerned with the fitness of generals to run the US Government without practical political experience, this is the perfect story - although there are pluses and minuses to Grant’s record. Concerned about civil rights, race relations, white supremacists in government or the corruption of businessmen in positions of power? Again, this is the book to consult. ... and then there is the military side - with Grant’s memoirs telling the story there are battles - lots of battles - and some brilliant generalship.I agree that Grant has been one of the most underrated presidents. This book is part of a number of important works that seek to change that picture. Ronald White’s “American Ulysses” is another recent effective effort at correcting the historical record. Grant has also benefitted from recent high quality scholarship about the tainted picture of Reconstruction that has captured the historical record and the sordid rise of the Jim Crow laws in the South after the Civil War. When placed in a clearer context, Grant comes across in a much better light, although his record of holding his appointees to effective accountability is still troubled.This is a long book because Grant lived a very eventful life. The story of his memoirs is well known but still amazing - how he wrote one of the best professional memoirs ever under the pressure of a terminal diagnosis of throat cancer and a need to keep his family from becoming penniless due to his being financially victimized. Mark Twain’s late role in the production of Grant’s memoirs is certainly to his lasting credit. There is even a new version of the memoirs being released by Harvard — in conjunction with Chernow’s book it seems.Chernow is a fine biographer of plutocrats and revolutionary heroes. Now he has added a wonderful book about Grant to his record. It is well worth reading.
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  • Jerome
    January 1, 1970
    An entertaining, lively and very readable biography of Grant.While there’s a lot of good biographies of Grant and it doesn’t seem like there’s anything new to say about him, Chernow does a great job bringing him to life as a human figure. His portrait of Grant the man is rich and sensitive,and his discussion of Grant’s military career is particularly vivid. Chernow’s portraits of Grant’s family, friends and acquaintances are sharp.The book itself is huge, but there’s not much new here. He does c An entertaining, lively and very readable biography of Grant.While there’s a lot of good biographies of Grant and it doesn’t seem like there’s anything new to say about him, Chernow does a great job bringing him to life as a human figure. His portrait of Grant the man is rich and sensitive,and his discussion of Grant’s military career is particularly vivid. Chernow’s portraits of Grant’s family, friends and acquaintances are sharp.The book itself is huge, but there’s not much new here. He does cover Grant’s drinking problem but also his effort to keep it under control (with different degrees of success), and, like other historians have recently written, it never affected him while he was on campaign. Grant was both a successful strategist and tactician; not a flawless one either way, but with an ability to consider many aspects at once and to take advantage of simple innovations.Chernow also aims to rehabilitate Grant’s presidency, but he’s not really the first historian to have attempted it. While there was much corruption in his administration, Chernow argues that Grant was never directly involved. Chernow also discusses Grant’s composition of his memoirs; he writes that Twain wasn’t involved in writing or polishing the book itself in any way; he just came up with the publishing scheme.There aren’t too many problems with the book. The discussion of the financial panic is a bit confusing, and the reader may not understand the significance of some of the effects. He also writes that Sheridan sent Custer to the Black Hills to look for gold (not find a fort site?)A clear, well-written, well-researched work.
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  • Sweetwilliam
    January 1, 1970
    My favorite part of the book was Chernow’s chronicle of Grant’s rise to fame and greatness in the Civil War. He was a man of action and cool under fire. Rather than delay to wait for reinforcements from Washington, Grant preferred to attack. Lincoln really admired Grant for this quality. Too many GAR General Officers had reasons why they could not do something but not Grant.Grant figured out in one of his first engagements that the enemy feared him as much as he feared them. From that moment on, My favorite part of the book was Chernow’s chronicle of Grant’s rise to fame and greatness in the Civil War. He was a man of action and cool under fire. Rather than delay to wait for reinforcements from Washington, Grant preferred to attack. Lincoln really admired Grant for this quality. Too many GAR General Officers had reasons why they could not do something but not Grant.Grant figured out in one of his first engagements that the enemy feared him as much as he feared them. From that moment on, he would no longer waste time vacillating in fear of his opponent. Grant would carry this attitude with him all the way to Vicksburg and then back east against the Army of Northern Virginia. I really liked the discourse between Grant and Lincoln. Their relationship evolved over the course of the war. As the dust cleared, it was obvious that Grant was Lincoln’s man. It was interesting to see that they had so much in common. Both Lincoln and Grant’s in-laws were slave owners and many relatives fought for the South. This underscores how many families were torn down the middle by the Civil War. I wish Chernow would have written even more detail about the Civil War years but I really think he may have thought that there wasn’t any need to do so because Grant had already done such a good job so in his own Auto-Biography. Chernow claims over and over again was the finest memoir to come out of the Civil War and the final chapter of the book tells the story of how Grant wrote his memoirs with Mark Twain as the publisher at a desperate time when Grant was once again penniless and dying of cancer. The period of reconstruction is covered in detail. Grant was as big a champion of Civil Rights as Lincoln or any man in US history for that matter. This book also helped to raise my awareness to the plight of four million newly freed slaves. After the Civil War was over there was what Chernow referred to as the second Civil War. The South had lost the war, their way of life, and nearly half their wealth and often took it out on the newly freedmen. The slaves were freed, made citizens, and given the right to vote by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment from 1865-1870; but they were indigent and couldn’t read and write. The newly freedmen were in some ways worse off after the War than prior to it. It is ironic but as Chernow explained, the problem was that they were no longer anyone’s property so there was no incentive to take care of them. Chernow fell in love with his subject but he was awful hard on some of the other men of that period. I think he did so in an effort to boost Grant’s reputation but I didn’t think he needed to go as far as he did. For example, he accused some officers of cowardice and he said Mead had to be told to stand and fight at Gettysburg. Others are labeled as racists. Hell, just about everyone was racist 150 years ago. Why act so shocked? Better to highlight the exploits of visionaries like US Grant. This is periodism and I didn’t fall out of my chair every time Chernow called someone a racist. Chernow also does his best to separate the myth from the man of Robert E. Lee. Chernow argues that Lee, after Gettysburg, was fighting a defensive battle. Grant had a 3 to 1 numerical advantage but that is what was required for a successful offensive campaign against an entrenched enemy. Also, Grant was directing five armies across the United States and Lee only had to worry about the Army of Northern Virginia. Chernow also chips away at what he calls the myth of the lost cause. I think he went too far. Heck, I had never even heard of it. Reconstruction was also a mind-blower for me. I can remember a history professor in school talking about the “bloody-shirt” Republicans waving the bloody shirt and how Johnson no longer wanted to punish the South once he took over for Lincoln. Chernow’s version was a little different. Chernow also has a high opinion of Carpetbaggers. I have to say this was a part of reconstruction I was unfamiliar with. It was an ugly period of American History and Chernow said it is something that has been swept under the rug. I didn’t like it but I’m glad I read it. History should never be sugarcoated and Chernow dragged me kicking and screaming through one of the ugliest and unchivalrous stretches of American History. Yuk! Sometimes the truth hurts. In the end of the book Chernow argues that the war was about slavery. He quotes Longstreet as saying “It was always about slavery.” However, I don’t buy it. The war was about saving the Union. Grant said at the wars beginning that only the original 13 colonies should be able to succeed because several of the states and territories were purchased by the US Government. Below is an excerpt from a letter Lincoln wrote to Horace Greely, August 22nd of 1862:I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I think it is intellectually dishonest to claim that the Civil War was only about the abolition of slavery. This was something that evolved during the war for Grant and Lincoln and several other players. Grant was a great officer but he was too trusting and I was disappointed that he allowed himself to be swindled so often. An otherwise spectacular career was tarnished by this. There were lots of surprises in this book. How egotistical Charles Sumner was and how Grant and Sherman didn’t see eye-to-eye during Grant’s presidency. How John A. Rawlins helped Grant with temperance during the war. A little too much PC shows through in this book for my taste. I also do not think that it was necessary to denigrate Lee’s star and several other general officers from both sides in order to elevate Grant’s status. Otherwise this was a fine book and tribute to a genuine war hero and early champion of civil rights.
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  • Mitchell
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent book. The first third and last third takes patience and persistence, but the rest is really special. Even if you only read a part of this, it is worth the investment. Chernow presents Grant in a new and better light. And I think he is properly restored. He wasn't as bad of a President as some suggest, and he faithfully presided over Reconstruction the best he could. It has been said that Grant had done more for African Americans' civil liberties than any other President betw This is an excellent book. The first third and last third takes patience and persistence, but the rest is really special. Even if you only read a part of this, it is worth the investment. Chernow presents Grant in a new and better light. And I think he is properly restored. He wasn't as bad of a President as some suggest, and he faithfully presided over Reconstruction the best he could. It has been said that Grant had done more for African Americans' civil liberties than any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson. Again, great book. A wonderful saga covering both the Civil War and Reconstruction - Grant was center in both.
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