Shortly after losing all of his wealth in a terrible 1884 swindle, Ulysses S. Grant learned he had terminal throat and mouth cancer. Destitute and dying, Grant began to write his memoirs to save his family from permanent financial ruin.
As Grant continued his work, suffering increasing pain, the American public became aware of this race between Grant's writing and his fatal illness. Twenty years after his respectful and magnanimous demeanor toward Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, people in both the North and the South came to know Grant as the brave, honest man he was, now using his famous determination in this final effort. Grant finished Memoirs just four days before he died in July 1885.
Published after his death by his friend Mark Twain, Grant's Memoirs became an instant bestseller, restoring his family's financial health and, more importantly, helping to cure the nation of bitter discord. More than any other American before or since, Grant, in his last year, was able to heal this—the country's greatest wound.
In 1884, the ex-president and ex-Union commander Ulysses S. Grant became bankrupt, having trusted his money to swindlers; soon after, he felt the first agonizing throat pain from the cancer that would kill him. Desperate to save his family from destitution, he wrote his memoirs, finishing days before his 1885 death. Veteran historian Flood (Lee: The Last Years) delivers a blow-by-blow narrative, full of colorful characters, accounts of earlier triumphs , and an upbeat ending. Grant's book became a critically acclaimed bestseller. Much credit goes to aggressive marketing by Mark Twain, who published the book and insisted on paying far more than the usual royalties. Inevitably, Grant's illness provoked an obsessive media deathwatch that seems very contemporary, plus innumerable tributes, honors, speeches, editorials, and letters from schoolchildren, admirers, and cranks. Liberal quotes from these as well as extensive flashbacks reveal Flood straining to fill the pages, but this is a moving if painful portrait of a dying national hero.