From New York Times bestselling author H. W. Brands, a masterful biography of the Civil War general and two-term president who saved the Union twice, on the battlefield and in the White House, holding the country together at two critical turning points in our history.
Ulysses Grant rose from obscurity to discover he had a genius for battle, and he propelled the Union to victory in the Civil War. After Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the disastrous brief presidency of Andrew Johnson, America turned to Grant again to unite the country, this time as president. In Brands's sweeping, majestic full biography, Grant emerges as a heroic figure who was fearlessly on the side of right. He was a beloved commander in the field but willing to make the troop sacrifices necessary to win the war, even in the face of storms of criticism. He worked valiantly to protect the rights of freedmen in the South; Brands calls him the last presidential defender of black civil rights for nearly a century. He played it straight with the American Indians, allowing them to shape their own fate even as the realities of Manifest Destiny meant the end of their way of life. He was an enormously popular president whose memoirs were a huge bestseller; yet within decades of his death his reputation was in tatters, the victim of Southerners who resented his policies on Reconstruction. In this page-turning biography, Brands now reconsiders Grant's legacy and provides a compelling and intimate portrait of a man who saved the Union on the battlefield and consolidated that victory as a resolute and principled political leader.
This authoritative biography of an obscure failure and occasional drunkard who became a Civil War generalissimo and the 18th U. S. president is a study in two kinds of moral courage. The first infused Grant's military leadership with decisiveness, confidence in his own judgment, and a usually well-calculated willingness to gamble men's lives on risky maneuvers. The second inspired his presidency to a principled and effective support of the rights of freedmen in the South (sometimes at bayonet point) that politically consolidated the war's fragile verdict. Unfortunately, Grant's judgment failed him on business matters, from bad horse trades in his youth to the loss of his fortune in old age to a Wall Street ponzi scheme and failed the nation's economy when his tight money policies exacerbated the depression of the 1870s. This new biography by University of Texas Austin history professor Brands (Traitor to His Class) is comprehensive but well-paced and vividly readable; his narrative of Grant's military campaigns in particular is lucid, colorful, and focused on telling moments of decision. His Grant emerges as an immensely appealing figure though except for a wartime outburst of anti-Semitism, later repented, which the author relates with a keen mind, stout character, and unpretentious manner. The result is a fine portrait of the quintessential American hero. Photos.
I thoroughly enjoyed this week-researched and equally well-written book. Before reading this book I only knew of Mr. Brands as a commentator on history shows on TV. I always appreciated his comments, found them to be thoughtful and thought provoking. Now that I have finally read one of s books, I am eager to now read others.