18 - Ulysses S. Grant
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Grant by Jean Edward Smith
Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier & President by Geoffrey Perret
Grant. A Biography by William S. McFeely
U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth by Joan Waugh
Grant was one of three presidents to graduate from a military academy: West Point.
He finished his memoirs only a few weeks before his death from cancer. The book brought in $500,000 for his family after his death.
While president, Ulysses S. Grant was arrested for driving his horse too fast. He was fined $20.
His real name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. He changed it because he didn't want to enter West Point with the initials H.U.G.
Grant was a fourth cousin once removed of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a sixth cousin once removed of Grover Cleveland, and a first cousin three times removed to Judy Garland.
Grant ate a cucumber soaked in vinegar for breakfast each day.
Grant was the first president to have both parents alive when he took office.
Grant used around seven to ten cigars a day. Of this 7-10, he often did not smoke them at all. A reporter wrote that Grant liked cigars, and people started to send him cigars. He received over 20,000.
Ten years after he was president, Grant was stricken with throat cancer. He regularly swabbed his throat with cocaine, becoming addicted to it.
Grant said that he knew only two songs, "One was Yankee Doodle, and the other wasn't."
I thought it was a very good book, enjoyed reading it very much. I remember thinking at the time, that Grant was a huge failure, execpt as the commander of Union troops, and as President. Everything else he did failed.
It has been quite a while since I read this book. 522 pages of biography and 14 pages of bibliography, its a nice book and my copy is a first edition. It was hard going to get through it and I can't make myself read it again. I really didn't much like General Grant and I didn't get what the voters saw when they elected him for a second term. In order to give you an idea of the style and substance of Mr. McFeely's work, I'll copy here the penultimate paragraph of the Epilogue:
"The present study will not sit well with either school of historians. Grant did not make war for reasons or in ways that ennoble the Civil War. He did not rise above limited talents or inspire others to do so in ways that make his administration a credit to American politics. If Ulysses Grant was, in any measure, 'the concentration of all that is American' and we still believe in democracy, his story is troubling. In fact, it suggests that we must rethink both the worth of war and the uses we make of politics if we are to build a society in which Ulysses Grant can be heard in a constructive way."
My review of Smith's book posted on the work page:
One of my personal goals lately has been to read a biography of each US president in order. This approach has some distinct advantages - the biggest is the perspective one gets from seeing the overlapping look at events from the point of view of each president. As one might imagine, the quality of biographies varies, both on the scholarship and the interest side of writing. Clearly, the high point has been David McCullough's John Adams. After all, how many presidential biographies have been turned into a major series on HBO? Jean Edward Smith's Grant is easily on par with McCullough's work. The portrait of General Grant is sympathetic without glossing over his faults, interesting reading while keeping a high level of scholarship and analysis, and downright compelling in spots. The chapter on the surrender at Appomattox was one of the best pieces of writing I've read in a while.
There are, I'm sure, dissenting opinions on Grant. His military strategy, for example, is sometimes criticized for the heavy casualties it produced. His handling of relations with the Plains Indians was muddled and too trusting of those on the ground. He was in over his head dealing with business and finance, and was burned many times by less than scrupulous underlings. Smith recognizes these issues, but makes us see Grant's motivations, how that drove him to do the things he did, and the personal cost of these decisions through his life. And I don't think Smith was too easy on Grant - much of the discussion on his Presidency centered around how Grant's military style of leadership really wasn't well suited to the realities of a political office. Yet his popularity enabled him to get past this to succeed in major efforts Reconstruction and foreign policy even as his attempts to deal with Native American issues failed. Sometimes politics is about convincing others to do what you believe is right, not about command, and in many ways Grant didn't get that.
All in all, I highly recommend Smith's biography of Grant. It's good reading, and it's about an interesting person. He's also written a biography of FDR that I'm now going to make sure I read when the time comes!
As stated above, Grant by Jean Edward Smith, is the one that I read. I really did like it, and recommend it as well. I did not know that Smith did a biography of FDR. I will have to look for that one. Thanks for the information.
by Geoffrey Perret
This book is subtitled "Soldier & President", but you get far more of Grant the Soldier than Grant the Chief Executive. The biography starts off, as most do, with a somewhat brief account of Grant's childhood. The chapter surrounding his enrollment and education at West Point offers more detail and then you get a nice, detailed account of his service before, during and after the Mexican War. The Civil War years enjoy the most scrutiny, but then Mr. Perret rushes through Grant's years as President. 'Twas quite a surprise considering how much many of the other presidential biographies I've read focused on politics. I can't say that it's a bad thing--after all, I think the common consensus is that Grant was a far better soldier than he was a politician. As the former, Mr. Perret holds Grant in very high regard, ranking him on the same level of Napoleon. But don't think this is merely a book for military fanboys. Mr. Perret also serves up a lot of information of Grant's personal life. All in all he presents a well rounded, if private, man in a style that is quite readable.
Title: U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth ★★★
Author: Joan Waugh
I didn't right a full review of this book basically because the three parts - his life, his reputation, and his effect on history were IMO, though well-written, lacking in enough details to make a full review worthwhile.
This book did not give sufficient details of the presidency of Ulysses Grant, however, it did justify the stature in which he was held in the hearts of his countrymen.
I think I'll look at his memoirs.
memoirs are way too long for me right now, so I'm going to read Grant by Jean Edward Smith
Title: Grant ★★★★★
Author: Jean Edward Smith
Subject: Ulysses S. Grant
Dates Read: May 1 - May 23
Number of pages: 628 + 156 of footnotes
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: no, Public Library
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: History Class
I read Adams by David McCullough and this book ranks right up there with it.
I rarely give a book a ★★★★★ rating but this book was so well-written and so informative, you could see that it was thoroughly researched. Granted, the content is very heavy, but the manner that the information is dispersed, makes it a very easy read that holds your interest even if you know the outcome.
This is definitely the Grant book for you to read. What a fascinating man - so humble and yet calm and responsible.
Overall, I thought this was a very well-written and well-researched biography of Grant. It was a very accessible volume, but still quite long (just over 600 pages). The main problem I had was that not all chapters flow as one; in many chapters the author jumps around and it is difficult to follow his thoughts. It almost seemed like his determination to have everything chronological held him back from organizing some of the middle chapters thematically. While I think this would have aided the reader, it would not be a reason to avoid the book. If you're looking for a good, readable biography on Grant, I would recommend this one.
Grant The Forgotten Hero by Charles Henry Vessey
Don't know how long this offer will be free, so get it while you can.