During the Civil War, Sylvanus Cadwallader, a war correspondent employed first by the Chicago Times and later for the New York Herald, was attached to General Grant’s headquarters from 1862 to 1865. Three Years with Grant is his account of that period.
As a portrait of Grant, the personality and the military leader, as a civilian’s picture of how the war was fought at the command level, and, above all, as a hitherto unknown primary source of Civil War history, as a hitherto unknown primary source of Civil War history, this is an important book. It is also an extremely entertaining one that makes an exciting reading. Entertaining because Cadwallader was a shrewd and stubborn man who was remarkably frank about his contemporaries and who was continually in trouble with all authority except Grant himself; exciting because he was a superb reporter in a unique position. Cadwallader had privileges and information accessible to no other journalist. Through his eyes—and, indirectly, Grant’s—the reader experiences the Vicksburg and Chattanooga campaigns; the actions of the Army of the Potomac; Grant and Lincoln at City Point; Grant and Sherman hatching strategy; Grant and Lee at Appomattox.
The manuscript of Three Years with Grant, never published, was acquired some years ago by the Illinois State Historical Library; probably not more than a half- dozen living persons have read it. Now it has been ably edited, with an introduction and extensive notes, by Benjamin P. Thomas, whose Abraham Lincoln is generally regarded as the best one-volume life of the President yet written.