|Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
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Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses Grant (April 27, 1822 ¨C July 23, 1885), was an American general and the 18th President of the United States (1869¨C1877). He achieved international fame as the leading Union general in the American Civil War.
Destitute and wracked by throat cancer, Ulysses S. Grant finished writing his Personal Memoirs shortly before his death in 1885. Today their clear prose stands as a model of autobiography. Civil War soldiers are often celebrated for the high literary quality of the letters they sent home from the front lines; Grant's own book is probably the best piece of writing produced by a participant in the War Between the States. Apart from Lincoln, no man deserves more credit for securing the Northern victory than Grant, and this chronicle of campaigns and battles tells how he did it. (The book also made a bundle of money for his family, which had been reeling from the failure of Grant's brokerage firm.) This is not an overview of the entire Civil War; as the North was beating the South on the third day of Gettysburg, for example, Grant was in Mississippi capturing Vicksburg. But it is a great piece of writing, one that can be appreciated even by readers with little interest in military history. --John J. Miller
- The Greatest Book Ever Written!
This is not hyperbole. Read it and you will agree. Not only was Grant the greatest General in our history, he was also the greatest writer. He is my idol and I think he is too little understood and appreciated today. An exceptional reading experience!...more info
- Clear Vision of an Executive
I didn't become engrossed in the Civil War until I visited the Grant/Lee exhibit at the New York Historical Society this summer. There I first saw Grant's Personal Memoirs book displayed. It is an unbelievable, first-hand interpretation of war, leadership, and politics. I'm amazed at Grant's personal relationships with the southern generals, many that he knew from West Point and later fought against. One of my favorite quotes in the book, "The natural disposition of most people is to clothe a commander of a large army whom they do not know, with almost superhuman abilities. A large part of the National army, for instance, and most of the press of the country, clothed General Lee with just such qualities, but I had known him personally, and knew that he was mortal; and it was just as well that I felt this." page 116. Grant starts his book with the Mexican War where he gained experience fighting battles which eventually proves to serve him well in the Civil War. He provides his opinion of the war, southern politics and his feelings towards other generals. I love when he evaluates the actions and performances of generals on both sides just like a business executive would of employees and superiors. For example, Grant was almost arrested for not following orders of the commanding General Halleck. This reminds me of office politics we face during our business lives. Grant clearly lets the reader know his displeasure with Halleck whom he eventually outranks. He lets you know which generals were soldiers and which were not up to the task of fighting. Like Jim Collins in the book Good to Great, Grant tells you about effective generals that were humble. Of General Taylor he writes, ...he never made any great show or parade, either in uniform or retinue...he was known to every soldier in his army, and was respected by all." page 63. Of General Howard from the south, "It occured to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him...From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy...I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. This lesson was valuable." page 149. Grant humbly lets the reader know how he was able to win battles, get promoted, and end the war. Basically, most generals on both sides were hesitant to attack where Grant attacked any chance he got. Page 35, "One of my superstitions had always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, not to turn back, or stop until the thing intended was accomplished." President Lincoln eventually recognizes these qualities in Grant and makes in the top general of all the Union armies. Grant had a clear vision and plan and executed it quickly once he had the power to do it. You may be wondering why I gave it a 4 rather than a 5. Sometimes Grant gets into way too much detail about different things where the story and chapter drags on. But if you are patient, you will get by all of this and appreciate the intimacy and first hand experience of one of the most effective generals in US history....more info
- The wielder of the terrible swift sword writes his memoirs
I entirely agree with the praise that previous reviewers have heaped upon these extraordinary memoirs. It is beyond a shadow of doubt that the two finest autobiographical works in American history are this by Grant and the earlier one of Benjamin Franklin.
Grant is a remarkable prose stylist who offers unforgettable set-pieces: life as an indifferent and non-soldierly cadet at West Point, downplayed heroics of a junior officer in the Mexican War, dreary days in far-off California, waiting fretfully in General McClellan's outer office while hoping that one of the gilded staff officers might notice him; taking command of his first regiment and being introduced to the troops as "United States" Grant, leading a brigade over a hill to discover that the enemy commander had been even more frightened of him than he had been of the Confederate, demanding the capitulation of his once and future friend Confederate Simon Bolivar Buckner to earn the name of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant, Grant as supreme commander offering a command to McClellan only to be turned down because Little Mac had the presidential bug, and finally that amazing, brilliantly etched scene in which the dusty Union generalissimo meets the magnificently turned-out Robert E. Lee in the living room of a house at Appomattox Court House.
That said, I feel obliged to warn that neither Franklin nor Grant should be given their readers' absolute trust. About Franklin I shall say no more than that he was simultaneously one of the most admirable men who ever lived and more than a little bit of a scoundrel. Only such a man of corkscrew soul could have performed so exquisitely at the Court of Louis XVI during the War of Independence.
Grant was not a man who wrote to justify his failures (such as about half the Yankees and almost all the Confederates) nor was he a man to re-fight ancient battles (such as Jubal Early), but he did have his pet peeves. Grant's method of dealing with them was to blot them out of history. During the war, one of the most prominent members of Grant's inner circle was John Rawlins, who often served as de facto chief of staff in an army which did not yet have a general staff. After the war, Grant took notice that Rawlins had often been far more concerned about Grant going on a bender than he'd been with fighting Confederates and, worse, that some thought Rawlins to be the brains behind Grant's military successes. Those were subjects about which Grant had become touchy, to say the least. In the memoirs, Rawlins is reduced to a faint figure in the background.
Throughout the war, Grant had been friendly with and highly respectful of Henry Wager Halleck, known in the army as "Old Brains," for awhile his immediate superior in command. Grant believed that Halleck had protected him and supported him against attacks from envious generals and Washington politicians. When Grant was researching these memoirs by examining the War Department files, he came upon correspondence between Halleck, then commander of the western theater and McClellan, the overall Union commander. They had clucked like a pair of hens over the manifold sins of loutish, drunken, lazy, insubordinate Grant, almost to the point of dismissing him from command. Grant quietly blew a gasket. Halleck was hurled into the outer darkness with Rawlins.
Grant, then, does not tell quite the whole story but, ah, what he does tell is magnificent. This is a true classic!
Five stars....more info
- A terrible, boring book
Grant is, as others have said, a lucid writer, and though he might have been a great military mind, he is neither a visionary nor an intellectual. The vast bulk of his memoirs recount the Mexican and Civil wars and thus are interesting primarily from a military standpoint. Anyone seeking more will not only be disappointed, he or she will be extremely bored, as Grant troubles himself to recount most troop movements of the war....more info
- My Family is American...
I was concerned that a book written over one hundred years ago might seem a bit dated in it's style. I need not have worried, except for a very few instances such as spelling reconnaissance > reconnoissance and the word embarassed used as meaning "to threaten," this book could have been written yesterday. When it first came out in 1885 it was a great success. The informed reader will quickly realize that this was not out of sympathy for Grant, the great general who was dying of throat cancer while writing it, but well deserved recognition of a great autobiography. I have read some of the better modern civil war historians such as Shelby Foote, Bruce Catton, and Winston Groom; Grant's book ranks up there with the very best. ...more info
- A Masterpiece of American Literature
General Grant wrote this book while dying of throat cancer. He had been swindled by a dishonest Wall Street Broker and his trophies and possessions were stripped from him to satisfy the demands of his debtors. Bankrupt, suffering from a terminal illness and never passing a moment without acute pain, he produced this magnificent monument to his greatness. Those who denigrate Grant as a drunkard, butcher, bumbling President need to read this book in order to correct these errant assumptions. It is impossible to read this book and not realize that Grant was an inordinately intelligent man and one hell of a writer.
Grant's Memoirs are a deserved classic in American literature and considered the greatest military Memoirs ever penned, exceeding Caesar's Commentaries. Grant wrote as he lived: with clear, concise statements, unembellished with trivialities or frivolities. The only "criticism" the reader might have is that Grant bent over backwards not to wound the feelings of people in the book. He takes swipes at Joe Hooker and Jeff Davis, but what he left unsaid would have been far more interesting. A compelling and logical reason why Grant was so spare in his comments was because he was involved in a race with death. He didn't know how long he could live and therefore, "cut to the chase."
Grant's assessments of Lincoln, Sherman, Sheridan and other military leaders are brilliant and engrossing. His style, like the man himself, was inimitable and couldn't be copied. In everyday life, Grant was a very funny man, who liked to listen to jokes and tell them himself. His sense of the absurd was acute. It's no accident that he loved Mark Twain and the two hitched together very well. Twain and Grant shared a similar sense of humor, and Grant's witicisms in the Memoirs are frequent, unexpected and welcome. There are portions where you will literally laugh out loud.
Though Grant's Memoirs were written 113 years ago, they remain fresh, vibrant and an intensely good read. I have read them in! their entirity 30 times in my life and I never weary of the style and language that Grant employed. He was a military genius to be sure, but he was also a writer of supreme gifts, and these gifts shine through on every page of this testament to his greatness. All Americans should read this book and realize what we owe to Grant: he preserved the union with his decisive brilliance. In his honor, we should be eternally grateful....more info
- Imagine US Grant telling his story to you.
I didn't really "read" this book. Instead, I listened to it. Over several commutes to and from work I listened to US Grant tell me about his life, his view of the decisions he made, his assessment of the other people he came in contact with (President Lincoln, for example). When the tape was complete, I found myself wanting more. I finally found a copy of the hardcover book in a used book store.
- THE BEST AND MOST POIGNANT MEMOIR BY A PRESIDENT
"The Personal Memoirs" of U.S. Grant are not only the very best memoirs ever penned by a former President, but they are also the most poignant.
Imagine this. A man who was a failure at business and is even rejected by the pompous George McClellan when he practically begged for a regimental command becomes one of the greatest military commanders in United States History, perhaps even a more solid and accomplished leader than the Robert E. Lee whose "Marble Man" legend has eclipsed Grant (don't forget the unassuming Grant not only paved the way for a Union Victory in the West, but also bested the noble Lee from the Wilderness to Appomattox). He was elected President, but despite his own personal honesty and integrity, his administration was wracked by scandal.
After the Presidency, Grant settled down for what he and his family hoped would be a quiet, successful life. His involvement and investment with a crook, however, left the Grant family almost totally penniless - and at practically the same time he learned he had cancer of the throat.
In a valiant race against time, Grant agreed to pen some articles for Century magazine. Mark Twain caught wind of this, and urged Grant to write a book of memoirs. In the one year of life remaining, and all too often in great pain, Grant didn't write one book - but a two-volume set of memoirs that are regarded not just a classic of war, but of U.S. History and Literature as well. He proved to be a winner once more, finally writing the last sentences of the memoirs less than 2 weeks before he died.
These Memoirs flow with great descriptive writing of events, battles, and characters. While there are no really "legendary" moments that pop out at the reader, i.e., Lee and the wounded Union soldier at Gettysburg, for example, all of the moments written, of friends who came to prominence in the Mexican war, and some who,like his protege, General McPherson, later died, are gripping ones. His description of the love and respect he had for Abraham Lincoln is touching. As in the description of what took place at Appomattox Court House.
A must set of books essential to all Americans who loved their country and respect their history.
I was presented with the limited leatherbound first editon 2 volume set as a gift from my parents, something I will always treasure (I can only guess whom they might have belonged to) I can heartily recommend the Konecky and Konecky hardbound volume, or this modern library edition that I am reviewing here. The print is better in the Konecky volume, but either way, this is one book that belongs in your library - and for your children....more info
- This amazing man's amazing book
I have been a history 'buff' all my life, and read what I thought were some of the best books about and set in the American Civil War. But until I read Ulysses Grant's Personal Memoirs, that wasn't true. I would never have believed that a career soldier and a very misunderstood, under rated US President could write such a fascinating, enthralling memoir of a time in our history we all think we know all we need to know.
If you haven't read this wonderful book yet, I'm going to be bold and say you don't really know what the war was like for the men who fought in it, led the men who fought in it, and who drove themselves, as Grant did, for the sole purpose of perserving the Union and ending the war as swiftly as humanly possible. His insights are invalueable for the time, and his humor and pathos are electrifying.
A reviewer on the back of this volume says it most clearly: Grant writes his memoirs so vividly, so humanly that you are on the edge of your seat the whole way through, waiting to see how the Civil War ends!
And perhaps most amazing of all, Ulysses Grant wrote and revised and finished the manuscript for this book in the winter and spring and early summer of 1885, while he was dying of throat cancer. Also, he wrote it not to aggrandize himself, but to help his family, when bad business partners bankrupted the former President and Victor of the Civil War.
This is a must read as far as I'm concerned for anyone who wants to understand that time and understand why the American Civil War was the transforming event of the American 19th century.
Rielle ...more info
- Great Observations of Early America
This book contains some great observations of early American life and attitudes. Also, since Grant was an Army officer out West for a couple of years, he includes some interesting descriptions of San Francisco, Oregon Territory, and Panama around 1850 if I remember correctly.
Also, if you are interested in Grant's Mexican campaigns between Texas and Mexico City, this is a good perspective on that. It sure refreshed my memory on what that was all about.
However, approximately 2/3 of the text is detailed descriptions about the Civil War, complete with every troop movement and minor skirmish. That gets old quickly. Thanks, Steve Willie, Olympia, WA...more info
- Master of Strategy as Well as Language
The plain fact is U.S. Grant seldom gets the credit he deserves as a general. Conducting offensive operations into enemy territory is far and away the most difficult strategic task a commander can master and Grant did it for 4 years with consistent success. Writers usually reduce his accomplishments by insisting it was entirely the superioity of numbers and equipment that gave him victories, completely ignoring the fact that every other Union general who attacked the south and failed had those same advantages. Add to his mastery of strategy the fact that he was quite simply one of the best writers of his day. His prose is elegant, clear, and impossible to misunderstand. This memoir is informative, honest, and wonderfully written. Mark Twain referred to it as the greatest book in the English language. Grant was a man whose qualities are not instantly apparent. When you study him enough, you learn that he was a man capable of intense concentration and inexhaustible determination. It is worth noting that during the war, Grant almost never moved an army back in the direction from which it had come. He only went forward, determined to complete whatever task he had been given. Grant's writing and his military career prove that sometimes simplicity is a special kind of genius....more info
- An Unexpected Masterpiece
This book probably tells more about Grant than any biography. In fact, none of his biographers seem to be able to do him justice. Grant's personal diffidence may have played some part in this. The clarity of expression and lean, strong use of the language tells us much about the type of man that Grant was. Grant seems to be an ordinary man who took advantage of his opportunities and whose guiding principal was perseverance and more perseverance. In fact, many of us are drawn to him because he seems to have been so ordinary, not regal, aristocratic, handsome, imposing. He had many problems that are common, business failures and alcoholism. Yet Grant finally got a real chance and took advantage of it. He was not without his moments of brilliance. The Vicksburg campaign was marvelous strategy. The relief of Chattanooga was complex and brilliantly executed. His final move against Petersburg and the railroads, trapping Lee's army, was solid and, in the final analysis, effective. Grant is still something of an enigma. These memoirs do not solve that, but contribute to our understanding of this great figure in our history. After having studied much literature about him, I find myself drawn to this plain spoken, hard working man, much more so than Lee or Jackson. Some of Grant's character shows here. It helps if you have read a great deal of civil war history prior to picking this up. Bruce Catton's books on Grant and on the Army of the Potomac would be a good place to start....more info
- Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
Very detailed and complete rendition of the chronology of his personal life as well as his military life. I learned details of both aspects of this era in history....more info
- If you only read one book on the Union war effort, read this one
This is the amazing memoir by U.S. Grant, who rose from obscurity at the outbreak of the war to be the Union's brightest military light. It is slightly apologetic in tone, but much less so than it could have been, considering the degree of scrutiny Grant's command decisions had endured. Among his few regrets are the assaults upon Vicksburg and Cold Harbor.
One telling anecdote comes from his early life, when he went to buy a colt from a Mr. Ralston. Upon arrival he tells Ralston, "Papa says I may offer you twenty dollars for the colt, but if you won't take that, I am to offer twenty-two and a half, and if you won't take that, to give you twenty-five." As the child is father to the man, so is the horse trader father to the general.
- A Man among Men
The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses. S Grant, and General Grant's conduct of his role in the Civil War stand as two of the highest, most nobly Human and Honorable credits to the United States - ever.
Conducting an effort involving thousands of people on several fronts stretched over a thousand miles would be a huge achievement even today. But do it on horseback and on foot. Do it without cell phones, GPS, decent maps, radar, and with medical support little better than butchery.
Tradition has always cast Grant's opponent, Gen. Lee, as a "refined and gracious Gentleman officer", and he was those things. But Grant's simplicity and humility, his intelligence and heart, made him every bit as gracious and elegant as his southern foe.
Grant's memoirs show, all of us, what the Civil War was really like for, and did to, an ordinary, decent, affable human who could have just as easily been our neighbor, or uncle or fishing partner. It illustrates one ordinary American who achieved the Extraordinary with mostly just his determination and belief in Purpose. Of a hundred or more incidents that prove Grant's goodness and humanity I doubt any could outshine his deep concern for reconciiation at the war's end and his insistance upon immediate respect for the vanquished at Appomattox. He shepherded a nation divided through it's darkest, most desperate days and then gave that wounded nation it's finest hour. This IS Ulysses S. Grant, a Man among Men....more info
- Best Book
I had to write an anlysis essay for college, and found this book to be the best for helping to understand (Hiram)Ulysses Simpson Grant....more info
- A great Book to Read Aloud
I am so pleased to find a book "worth reading" which is great to read aloud, and fun too, It is hard to find books to read to my father(who is blind), that we both like. Grant had a wry sense of humour, as well as a clear mode of writing. I am almost totally ignorant of the Mexican War of 1845; but I'm enjoying the journey Ulysses takes me on....more info
It is been said that Grant's memoirs are the finest written by an American president, and such an assessment may well be true, which is among the reasons why I wanted to read them. Lincoln held Grant in very high regard, and credited both Grant and Sherman with winning the Civil War militarily and thereby preserving the Union. Grant returned Lincoln's respect and praise, both in the words that he wrote and in his decision not to become a presidential candidate in 1864 -- and probably a very formidable rival, according to Lincoln's keen political judgment.
It is a shame that Grant did not write about his own two-term presidency, and instead concluded his memoirs with the war's end. However, he died of throat cancer in 1885, twenty years after the "rebellion" ended and less than a week after completing work on the memoirs, which were written in large part to provide much-needed financial security for his beloved wife, Julia Dent Grant. They accomplished their purpose, and were encouraged and edited by his friend, Mark Twain.
While I am not a student of the Civil War, nor of the other campaigns in which Grant served -- all of which are discussed in great detail -- his memoirs give the reader a window into the man and the war that wrenched and transformed this nation, and produced so much carnage on both sides. Like Eisenhower and other famous generals, Grant concludes, "this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the necessity of avoiding wars in the future."
However, Grant adds: "To maintain peace in the future it is necessary to be prepared for war. . . . [U]nless we are prepared for it we may be in danger of a combined movement being some day made to crush us out." With respect to former slaves, Grant writes: "[H]e was brought to our shores by compulsion, and he now should be considered as having as good a right to remain here as any other class of our citizens."
As to the future of our nation and the healing of its wounds, he concluded:
"The war has made us a nation of great power and intelligence. . . . I feel we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the [North and South]. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last, seemed to me the beginning of the answer to 'Let us have peace.'
"The expressions of these kindly feelings were not restricted to a section of the country, nor to a division of the people. They came from individual citizens of all nationalities; from all denominations -- the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jew; and from various societies of the land -- scientific, educational, religious, or otherwise. Politics did not enter into the matter at all."
Grant dedicated his memoirs to the "American Soldier And Sailor"; and it seems true, as Geoffrey Perret has written, "he was modest, sensitive, generous, honest, and superlatively intelligent. Grant's courage, both moral and physical, was a matter of record." And he lives on through his words and deeds....more info
- Do NOT I repeat DO NOT get this edition...
Don't get me wrong, this is an incredible Memoir, but the edition that you want is the one by the Library of America. Yes you will pay a little more, but you will get a better quality edition, and you will get 200 pages of letters written by Grant, including letters sent to Lincoln and Halleck. These letters give you an even better insight of Grant the general/husband /person.
If there is anyway at all possible that you can spend the extra $9 I recommend doing it. If you are on a shoe string budget then buy this edition. It is a 5 star memoir, even without the letters.
I have a full review at the other edition, but I will say that I cannot recommend Grant's memoirs enough. It really is an awesome book.
- America's Greatest General was a Wonderful Human Being
As I read this book, which includes both volumes of General Grant's memoirs, I couldn't help but wonder how many thousands of people had read it before me over the past 120 some odd years and if they, too, came away as impressed with the general as I have been. And I couldn't help but wonder if they also came to see the general, not as the narrow caricature which has come down to us - as a failure in business, a cigar chewing drunk, a man who willingly led his men to slaughter, and a corrupt president - but as an intelligent, thoughtful, honest, humane, and brilliant leader whose primary failing seems to be that he found it almost impossible to speak ill of his fellow man.
I learned more about American history by reading this book than I ever learned in school while, at the same time, learning it from a man who was actually helping to create that history before, during, and after the Civil War. In the process, I learned, for the first time, why America is considered by many to be an imperialist nation and why so many Mexicans feel that Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California should legitimately be part of Mexico. I also learned that unscrupulous and conniving politicians are nothing new to the American political scene and that even way back then many leaders, both military and political, placed their fortunes above the call of duty, honor, and country as many do now.
I have often heard the question asked: "If you could have dinner with any historical figure, living or dead, who would it be?" Before reading this book, I would never have considered Ulysses S. Grant to be that person. Now, I'm not sure he wouldn't be very close to the top of my list. What an interesting man - very human, down to Earth, thoughtful, tolerant, and humble - yet brilliant. Based on my reading of his memoirs, he was simply the kind of man you'd like to have as your best friend, and if you had to fight a war he's the man you'd want to have to plan your strategy.
I found this book to be interesting throughout, but I particularly enjoyed the early part of volume one, that part leading up to the time at which Grant first became a general, and the final chapter of volume two in which the general summed it all up. Those early chapters show Grant as the man he truly was, and that final chapter is an absolute must read.
Bottom line: Any serious student of the Civil War must read this book, and anyone having the slightest interest in American history would certainly be wise to read it.
The finest work of military literature ever written...more info
- A Must Read
Being a Civil War buff, I just received a copy of the old 2-volume edition of this book as a birthday present. It turned out to be one of the better presents I have received.
Grant begins by stating that he will NOT present all the details of each campaign and battle. He keeps this promise. Rather, the book is a general overview of his background, youth, and military career from Mexico through the Civil War.
I expected some self-aggrandizement, but was (pleasantly)surprised by Grant's frankness and obvious sincerity. He tells things as he experienced them, with no flourishes. When he was wrong, he says so. When credit belongs to someone else, he also says so. It is a straight-forward story by an obviously straight-forward man. Knowing that he was soon to die, Grant wrote a remarkably honest piece - especially compared to the works of some of his contemporaries.
When I finished reading the book, I don't believe that I knew that much more about the war itself. Rather, my strongest impression was of Grant's character; that I had, in a sense, met the man.
It is a book NOT be to missed....more info
- Fascinating, but knowledge of the Civil War is helpful
I just wanted to add that this book is best read after watching the PBS "Civil War" miniseries. Grant talks a lot about the details of certain battles, but does not give a "big picture" perspective. The details would have worn me down if I didn't have some idea of the big picture, which I got through the Civil War miniseries. Grant's recollections of the siege of Vicksburg made the book for me....more info
- A Well Written Work
An unlikely hero, Ulysses Grant, tells of his experiences during the Civil War in a very contemporary style. It is clear and concise; easy to read and provides some insight into his strategy both in the West and in the East. Definitely a basic volume in any Civil War library....more info
- "Drummer boy, beat your skin with a passion unrivaled!"
awesome book! i recommend it, etc. and so-forth. i cannot add to what other reviewers have said about it. the purpose of this typing is to clear up an issue in a previous review. mark twain did not ghost write this book with grant. grant wrote it by himself. if you're interested in the fascinating grant/twain friendship, read "Grant and Twain : The Story of a Friendship That Changed America," by Mark Perry, AFTER having read the grant memoirs. happy reading, righteous dudes....more info
- Great book
This is the best book I have ever read. It is the first book I bought that I actually highlighted quotes from. It is one of the best books on the War between the States from one of the most important figures in American History....more info
I was unaware that this book only covered information through the Civil War. I am quite aware of his war service,but not very knowledgeable of his life after the war. ...more info
- Great literature
Grant's "Personal Memoirs" was written entirely by U.S. Grant; there was no ghostwriting or heavy handed editing. Grant had a remarkable gift, he could truly write. He had a reputation, as a general, of writing clear, easily understood orders (indeed some are reproduced in footnotes). His Memoirs are written in this same clear style. Grant does not write about his presidency and devotes very few pages to his early life. This book is a military history of the Mexican and Civil Wars. Abraham Lincoln was a congressman at the time of the Mexican War and was opposed to it. Grant, as a young army officer could not oppose that war but, he makes it clear that he thought it was wrong, that the United States was amassing troops in disputed territory between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers in order to goad Mexico. In relatively few chapters, Grant gives a good history of that war and he asseses the characteristics of the two great generals, Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott.
His history of his involvement in the Civil War is illuminating but I would suggest that the reader have a working knowledge of the war before reading these Memoirs since Grant writes about campaigns that he was a part of, not about aspects of the war he did not experience first hand. However, he broadens his scope after he replaced Henry Hallek and assumed command of all the armies. At this point, although he made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, he nontheless writes a much broader history of campaigns in other theaters since he was now in control. Thus, he gives a good account of Sherman leading his troops from Tennessee eastward as they take Atlanta and ultimately march to the sea.
Grant was magnanimous in his judgments of others. In other histories, it is often clear that he was in conflict with others such as General John McClernand, a grandstanding political general who sought to beat Grant to Vicksburg in order to garner the glory. Grant barely hints at this, obviously seeking not to speak ill of McClernand, whereas other historians expose McClernand's shortcomings. Grant is effusive in showing his feelings for those he admired, including Lincoln and Sherman. Grant also, subtly, comes to his own defense against criticisms leveled against him. For example, he posits that he was expecting the rebel attack that became the bloody battle of Shilo and that he was not surprised. Also, as he begins to discuss the Overland campaign,in which he had been accused of being a butcher who put his troops through a meatgrinder, he notes that although the casualties were great, the war was to only last less than a year once this campaign was commenced. This implies that if the war had dragged on longer, more soldiers would have died even if the battles had been less devestating.
The completion of the Memoirs was heroic since Grant was dying of cancer and by its completion, he assured the financial well being of his family. Other than his accomplishments as a general, the completion of his Memoirs may be his finest act....more info