Cover image for Grant
Title:
Grant
ISBN:
9781594204876
Physical Description:
xxiii, 1074 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Contents:
Introduction: The Sphinx talks -- Part one: A life of struggle. Country bumpkin ; The darling young lieutenant ; Rough and ready ; The son of temperance ; Payday -- Part two: A life of war. The store clerk ; The quiet man ; Twin forts ; Dynamo ; A glittering lie ; Exodus ; Man of iron ; Citadel ; Deliverance ; Above the clouds ; Idol of the hour ; Ulysses the Silent ; Raging storm ; Heavens hung in black ; Caldron of hell ; Chew & choke ; Her satanic majesty ; Dirty boots ; A singular, indescribable vessel -- Part three: A life of peace. Soldierly good faith ; Swing around the circle ; Volcanic passion ; Trading places ; Spoils of war ; We are all Americans ; Sin against humanity ; The darkest blot ; A dance of blood ; Vindication ; A butchery of citizens ; The bravest battle ; Let no guilty man escape ; Saddest of the falls ; Redeemers -- Part four: A life of reflection. The wanderer ; Master spirit ; A miserable dirty reptile ; Taps.
Genre:
Summary:
"Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Ron Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency."--Book jacket.
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Summary

Summary

The #1 New York Times bestseller.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling 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 an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, 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 ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in 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. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant's military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members.

More important, he sought 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 dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.

With 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." Chernow's 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 our 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.


Author Notes

Educated at Yale and Cambridge University in England, Ron Chernow is a biographer who specializes in hard-hitting exposes on historical business figures. Among Chernow's early accomplishments was his unmasking of corruption in Chinatown for New York magazine in 1973.

In the book The House of Morgan, winner of the National Book Award in 1990, Chernow outlines the extraordinary path of J.P. Morgan's empire and its influence on the American banking industry. Chernow is also the author of Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, which chronicles the life and times of the richest man in the United States in the early 1900s. His other work includes The Warburgs, The Death of a Banker, Alexander Hamilton, Washington: A Life, and Grant.

Chernow is regular guest on the National Public Radio programs Fresh Air with Terry Gross and All Things Considered.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Acclaimed biographer Chernow, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Washington: A Life, entertains in this informative whopper as he upends the long-held view of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) as a lumbering general and incompetent president. An unhappy Army officer who resigned his commission in 1854, Grant was reduced to clerking in his father's dry-goods store when President Lincoln called for volunteers in 1861. Bolstered by his West Point background and enthusiastic support from his congressman, Grant reentered service and quickly rose to brigadier general. In February 1862, he won the first great Union victory by capturing forts Henry and Donelson. Thrilled by Grant's victories at Vicksburg and Chattanooga, Lincoln made him commanding general of the Union Army. Chernow contrasts Grant's awareness of the tasks required to win the war with opponent Robert E. Lee's comparative shortsightedness. Discussing Grant's presidency (1869-1877), Chernow discloses the admiration he received from contemporary black leaders for his efforts during Reconstruction, even though it collapsed due to continued white intransigence. Similarly, pressure from whites undermined Grant's well-intentioned Indian policy, leading to the Sioux Wars. Throughout his life, Grant was bad with money and a constant target of hucksters. Chernow spares few details, but Grant was a complex, mostly admirable figure, and this may become the definitive biography for the foreseeable future. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* For most of the past century, the consensus among historians was that Grant was an effective but unimaginative general and a mediocre president whose administrations were soiled by financial corruption. In recent decades, there have been several more positive reappraisals of Grant as a soldier and politician. Chernow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, most notably, of Alexander Hamilton, presents a massive and beautifully written portrait that may well be a culmination of that revisionist trend. Chernow views Grant as a modest man who, unlike any of his West Point contemporaries, sought neither fame nor glory. Instead, he regarded the winning of the Civil War as a test of duty, and he pursued that with dogged determination. Perhaps he lacked the flair of some other commanders, but he was a master in coordination of troop movements and supply of ordinance and other essential materials. Like his friend William Sherman, Grant knew the war had to be waged against the farms and factories that supplied Confederate soldiers. Chernow doesn't gloss over Grant's struggle with alcoholism or his tendency to trust shady operators. However, his willingness to protect the gains of freemen and to fight the KKK was an example of the moral courage he consistently displayed. This is a superb tribute to Grant, whose greatness is earning increased appreciation.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2017 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

The extraordinary friendship of an elderly songwriter and the precocious child of his single-parent neighbor is at the heart of this novel that darts back and forth through the decades, from the 1960s to the era of Brexit. The first in a projected four-volume series, it's a moving exploration of the intricacies of the imagination, a sly teasing-out of a host of big ideas and small revelations, all hovering around a timeless quandary: how to observe, how to be. EXIT WEST By Mohsin Hamid Rlverhead Books. $26. A deceptively simple conceit turns a timely novel about a couple fleeing a civil war into a profound meditation on the psychology of exile. Magic doors separate the known calamities of the old world from the unknown perils of the new, as the migrants learn how to adjust to an improvisatory existence. Hamid has written a novel that fuses the real with the surreal - perhaps the most faithful way to convey the tremulous political fault lines of our interconnected planet. PACHINKO By Min Jin Lee Grand Central Publishing. $27. Lee's stunning novel, her second, chronicles four generations of an ethnic Korean family, first in Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 20 th century, then in Japan itself from the years before World War II to the late 1980s. Exploring central concerns of identity, homeland and belonging, the book announces its ambitions right from the opening sentence: "History has failed us, but no matter." Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen. THE POWER By Naomi Alderman Little, Brown & Company. $26. Alderman imagines our present moment - our history, our wars, our politics - complicated by the sudden manifestation of a lethal "electrostatic power" in women that upends gender dynamics across the globe. It's a riveting story, told in fittingly electric language, that explores how power corrupts everyone: those new to it and those resisting its loss. Provocatively, Alderman suggests that history's horrors are inescapable - that there will always be abuses of power, that the arc of the universe doesn't bend toward justice so much as inscribe a circle away from it. "Transfers of power, of course, are rarely smooth," one character observes. SING, UNBURIED, SING By Jesmyn Ward Scribner. $26. In her follow-up to "Salvage the Bones," Ward returns to the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Miss., and the stories of ordinary people who would be easy to classify dismissively into categories like "rural poor," "drug-dependent," "products of the criminal justice system." Instead Ward gives us Jojo, a 13-year-old, and a road trip that he and his little sister take with his drug-addicted black mother to pick up their white father from prison. And there is nothing small about their existences. Their story feels mythic, both encompassing the ghosts of the past and touching on all the racial and social dynamics of the South as they course through this one fractured family. Ward's greatest feat here is achieving a level of empathy that is all too often impossible to muster in real life, but that is genuine and inevitable in the hands of a writer of such lyric imagination. NONFICTION THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us By Richard 0. Prum Doubleday. $30. If a science book can be subversive and feminist and change the way we look at our own bodies - but also be mostly about birds - this is it. Prum, an ornithologist, mounts a defense of Darwin's second, largely overlooked theory of sexual selection. Darwin believed that, in addition to evolving to adapt to the environment, some other force must be at work shaping the species: the aesthetic mating choices made largely by the females. Prum wants subjectivity and the desire for beauty to be part of our understanding of how evolution works. It's a passionate plea that begins with birds and ends with humans and will help you finally understand, among other things, how in the world we have an animal like the peacock. GRANT By Ron Chernow Penguin Press. $40. Even those who think they are familiar with Ulysses S. Grant's career will learn something from Chernow's fascinating and comprehensive biography, especially about Grant's often overlooked achievements as president. What is more, at a time of economic inequality reflecting the 19 th century's Gilded Age and a renewed threat from white-supremacy groups, Chernow reminds us that Grant's courageous example is more valuable than ever, and in this sense, "Grant" is as much a mirror on our own time as a history lesson. LOCKING UP OUR OWN Crime and Punishment in Black America By James Forman Jr. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27. A former public defender in Washington, Forman has written a masterly account of how a generation of black officials, beginning in the 1970s, wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation's capital. What started out as an effort to assert the value of black lives turned into an embrace of tough-oncrime policies - with devastating consequences for the very communities those officials had promised to represent. Forman argues that dismantling the American system of mass incarceration will require a new understanding of justice, one that emphasizes accountability instead of vengeance. PRAIRIE FIRES The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder By Caroline Fraser Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $35. Fraser's biography of the author of "Little House on the Prairie" and other beloved books about her childhood during the era of westward migration captures the details of a life - and an improbable, iconic literary career - that has been expertly veiled by fiction. Exhaustively researched and passionately written, this book refreshes and revitalizes our understanding of Western American history, giving space to the stories of Native Americans displaced from the tribal lands by white settlers like the Ingalls family as well as to the travails of homesteaders, farmers and everyone else who rushed to the West to extract its often elusive riches. Ending with a savvy analysis of the 20th-century turn toward right-wing politics taken by Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, Fraser offers a remarkably wide-angle view of how national myths are shaped. PRIESTDADDY By Patricia Lockwood Rlverhead Books. $27. In this affectionate and very funny memoir, Lockwood weaves the story of her family - including her Roman Catholic priest father, who received a special dispensation from the Vatican - with her own coming-of-age, and the crisis that later led her and her husband to live temporarily under her parents' rectory roof. She also brings to bear her gifts as a poet, mixing the sacred and profane in a voice that's wonderfully grounded and authentic. This book proves Lockwood to be a formidably gifted writer who can do pretty much anything she pleases.


Choice Review

AN "UNCOMMON COMMON MAN": ULYSSES S. GRANT While Ron Chernow was researching and writing Grant, the inescapable question was "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?" A seemingly simple query with a straightforward answer, though it trivializes a major historical figure. But surprisingly few aspects of Ulysses S. Grant's life were simple. This comprehensive biography is long, very long indeed. At nearly 1,100 pages, it is so gargantuan that Grant could have used it to crush the Confederacy. Chernow skillfully recounts Grant's life, but he also seeks to refute longstanding myths and calumnies about the general and president, replacing them with more accurate, not to mention fair, understandings. Given enduring controversies about the Civil War and Reconstruction, Grant will, perhaps inevitably, have its critics. Still, they should not disdain learning from this impressive and stylishly written study. Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Washington: A Life (CH, Jul'11, 48-6475) and Alexander Hamilton (CH, Jan'05, 42-2983), inspiration of the current Broadway show, follows the standard chronological structure of narrating an individual life, but he chooses interesting priorities. There is rather less emphasis on Grant's early years than in some other biographies, with just one chapter on his youth.1 The Mexican-American War, which Grant loathed as unjust aggression, gets a single chapter, though Chernow acknowledges that it provided Grant with crucial military experience and strengthened his character. These sections are somewhat weakened by their frequent reliance on witnesses influenced by hindsight. This seems rather pat when these witnesses assert years later that they recognized Grant's greatness from casual acquaintance. The book hits full stride with the advent of Southern secession and the outbreak of the Civil War. From spring 1861, steady if not constant success marked Grant's meteoric rise from failure and obscurity through an impressive string of victories to commanding all Union troops in March 1864. A little over a year later, his triumph over Robert E. Lee effectively ended the war. No general surpassed Grant at forcing surrenders, winning in this way at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appomattox. Chernow clearly admires Grant's generalship, highlighting his ability to learn from mistakes and exploit changing circumstances. Grant's strategic vision encompassed the conflict in its entirety, orchestrating several offensives in the concerted 1864-65 campaign that doomed the Confederacy. Chernow aligns with historians' view that, essentially, Lee was the last great general of the eighteenth century, and Grant was the first great general of the twentieth century. This contrasts Lee's tactical brilliance but limited concept of overall strategy with Grant's shrewd, relentless use of industrial and numerical supremacy in pioneering modern total war.2 Grant also supports a better understanding of his presidency. Long dismissed as among the worst presidents, his achievements were substantial. Though Grant himself was honest and competent, corruption and favoritism plagued many administration officials. Grant was the only president to deploy federal troops during Reconstruction, which was not just about rebuilding the Southern economy, but reconstructing American democracy.3 The president used the judiciary on behalf of freedmen too, successfully prosecuting thousands of cases against the Ku Klux Klan and destroying its effectiveness as a terrorist organization. Documenting this accomplishment may be the book's most innovative aspect. Grant pursued a Peace Policy in relations with Native Americans. This was less successful due to constant pressure on Indians from westward migration, and Grant's assumption of the benefits of assimilation was misplaced. But his administration's efforts were generally more humane in their intent than preceding policies. Grant also appointed a Seneca Indian, Ely Parker, as commissioner of Indian affairs, then the highest federal office attained by any Native American. Furthermore, skillful conflict resolution characterized his foreign policy. Other historians have focused on Grant's administrations, but it was often done to condemn him. Thanks to Chernow (and recent predecessors), Grant should rank in the middle range of presidents, and arguably higher. The subject explored at greatest length throughout is also the key controversy surrounding Grant: his drinking. Chernow carefully analyzes the evidence for numerous (in)famous episodes (commonly exaggerated by critics) and concludes that Grant was an alcoholic whose periodic binges never interfered with wartime duty or became public spectacles. Rather than viewing his drinking as a damning failure, Chernow argues that Grant's successful struggle with alcoholism actually exemplified his personal triumph in surmounting a disease that derailed his early military career, motivating countless addicts to overcome their own limitations. The victory over alcoholism is but one way Chernow sheds light on Grant's personal life; identifying two others here will suffice. After leaving office, Ulysses and Julia Grant spent two years traveling the world, and one historian has already used sources from this tour to indicate that their itinerary traversed many regions devastated by the global El Nino drought and famines of 1876-79.4 Chernow recounts another aspect of the Grants' lives; namely, their great romance from beginning to end. Most people today assume that couples always tended to "marry for love," but less than 200 years ago, this was untypical. Young people seldom exercised choice, instead serving as instruments in forming alliances between families. Modern Americans take romantic love and companionate marriage for granted (sic), but the Grants were prominent early, if not pioneering, models of this fundamental shift. Indeed, they were known for public displays of affectionate kisses and chaste caresses that seem tame by today's standards, but it was heady stuff for Victorian observers.5 Grant's last battle was fought against mortality. Racing against cancer and time, he completed his Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (1885-86) one week before his death. This act of devotion gave his family financial security while giving posterity a priceless document--a literary masterpiece and probably the best book ever written by a US president, and now available in a superb annotated edition (2017).6 Finally, we return to the hoary question: "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" The correct answer is: no one. Both Ulysses and Julia Grant are entombed there above ground, but nobody is actually buried underground. Since Grant rose to prominence in early 1862, there have been many questions about his abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and character. Grant addresses them in a manner that compels historians to reckon with this landmark work. Chernow firmly establishes Ulysses S. Grant as the general of freedom who vanquished the armies of slavery, then defended freedom. If that is not greatness or heroic, then nothing is. NOTES Inspiration for the review title comes from A. L. Conger, The Rise of U.S. Grant (Da Capo, c.1931,1996), xvi; and George S. Kanahele ed., Hawaiian Music and Musicians: An Illustrated History (Hawai'i, 1979), 287. CH, May '80. 1. Cf. William S. McFeely, Grant: A Biography; (Norton, 1981) CH, Sep'81; J.E. Smith, Grant (Simon & Schuster, 2001) CH, Dec'01, 39-2399; and R. White, American Ulysses (Random House, 2016). For years, McFeely's highly critical study dominated scholarship on Grant because of its thorough research. But it has been superseded by more favorable assessments from Smith, then White, and now Chernow's work. 2. Primarily associated with J.F.C. Fuller, Grant & Lee (Scribner's, 1933), 248-49; and Decisive Battles of the U.S.A. (Beechhurst Press, c. 1942, 1953), 319. 3. W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America (Harcourt Brace, 1935); Katharine L. Balfour, Democracy's Reconstruction (Oxford, 2011) CH, Dec'11, 49-2347. 4. Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts (Verso, 2001), 1-6. CH, Jul'01, 38-6200, making effective use of John R. Young, Around the World with General Grant (The American News Co., 1879). Davis claims that the Grants seemed barely aware of the catastrophes unfolding around them. 5. Stephen M. Frank, Life with Father: Parenthood and Masculinity in the Nineteenth-Century American North (Johns Hopkins, 1998), 179. CH, Jul'99, 36-6457; Edward Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family (Basic Books, 1975) CH, Mar'76. 6. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, ed. John F. Marszalek (Harvard, 2017). Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. --Thomas Pyke Johnson, University of Massachusetts, Boston


Kirkus Review

A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who "was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction."Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee's surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, "by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson." Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant's reputation. At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting's Ulysses S. Grant (2004). Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Chernow continues his success from his best seller Alexander Hamilton, with this comprehensive account of Civil War general and U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85). Some view Grant as a brilliant military tactician and influential if flawed politician; others paint him as corrupt and ineffectual. Chernow, utilizing thousands of letters, military records, and diary entries, creates a more complete portrait of the surprisingly timid Grant, who hated the sight of blood and understood that the thousands of men dying every day under his command were the only way to end what was, in his mind, a thankless and brutal war. Chernow's Grant is humble, quiet, and playful-moody in peacetime but a genius in wartime. As other historians have painted Grant as a raging drunkard, Chernow sheds light on Grant's lifetime battle with alcohol as a disease, rather than a vice. Admittedly, Grant's history as president is much less interesting than his military duty, and much of this volume is devoted to the Civil War. Grant was an inexperienced politician, and history has allowed the corruption that flourished during his time as president to overshadow the landmark civil rights legislation passed during his tenure. VERDICT Don't expect a Grant musical, but this important work of American biography belongs on every library shelf. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]-Tyler Hixson, Brooklyn P.L. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.