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Nearly a thousand pages of text. So challenging to finish. But a terrific book. I already knew quite a bit about Grant's background and military career -- or rather two military careers: the rather undistinguished early career in Mexico, Vancouver, and Humboldt -- and the remarkable Civil War years, when he seemed truly indispensable. However, I knew little about the post-war and Presidential years, and some of what I "knew" was wrong. The details of the Reconstruction, when the Confederate states continued their resistance by all means available were especially revealing.
This volume is a massive rehabilitation of Grant, the General, and to a somewhat lesser extent Grant the President. Chernow freely admits Grant's alcoholism, and his failings in bureaucratic and political infighting, as well as his manipulation of the truth while writing memoirs, but frequently refutes individual incidents or charges. The highlights of the picture that emerges include utter and dogged determinism, deep and caring humanity, and even a new side of Grant who Chernow dubs the most progressive American president on civil rights issues before the New Deal.
Brilliant. Likely Grant is the most underrated, unknown person in American history. He should best be known for keeping the former slaves from being re-enslaved. The ugly residue of slavery still rings loud in the south today. A must-read to understand American history.
Ron Chernow writes a well researched book on a famous American General and president I didn't really know much about. Emphasizing Grants problem with alcohol that was greatly over blown in the press that was largely controlled and went years hardly touching the drink.
A failure in life before the war and was hardly a businessmen, I believe providence was at work when the civil war broke out and he did what he was best at doing, leading an army.
Not one for showmanship he even apologized to Lee at Appomattox for his appearance with mud caked clothes and boots while Lee was dressed to the nine's.
Grant was often overlooked in a crowded room as he was rather short and unassuming, not one to draw attention to himself. Lincoln didn't know grant was in the same room with him as he was quiet and stood off in a corner whilst the others were seeking attention for themselves.
I read somewhere that Gen. Grant was an alcoholic. This was the most salient feature mentioned. As for Gen. Lee, in the book of Dale Carnegie, titled: "How To Make Friends And Influence People", Carnegie writes that after the death of the assassinated President Lincoln, a letter was found in his desk drawer, a letter he never sent. In that letter, addressed to Gen. Lee, Lincoln reproached Lee for allowing the South's armies, after beating them in battle, to escape to the other side of a river. Lincoln said: "Now that you allowed them to escape, the war will go on for a long time." Now, what a genius was that Lee, to allow the enemy to escape, instead of destroying it? Carnegie in his book said: "Maybe Lee was tired of seeing so much blood flowing..." Well, I guess Lee was not a dummy or a sensitive soul. He was an agent of those bankers who in fact financed both sides of the Civil War - those bankers wanted the war to go on, and they profited from it. Because this way they drove Lincoln into deep debt, and, as Lincoln was unable to pay his soldiers, those international bankers blackmailed him into passing a bill, allowing those foreign bankers to print the American money and lend it at an interest to the Government. Cornered, Lincoln had the bill passed and so he got a loan of 250M US$ to pay his soldiers. (The bankers could decide, in other occasions as well, who should win wars, by just withholding financing from one side.) Lincoln was known to be planning to revoke the bill, and then, according to many books, the bankers sent an agent, a "lone killer" (Wilkes Booth) to remove Lincoln. Booth escaped and was helped by the bankers to go to England. I guess Lee was a tool in the plot, which gave control of the American money to an international banking group, called "Federal Reserve."
With the success of his books on George Washington , Henry Ford and notably Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow has emerged as America’s preeminent biographer – and his latest book on US Grant is rightly regarded as one of his best.
Chernow challenges the harsh view of Grant as merely a drunkard who presided over a corrupt two-term presidency. Instead, the book examines how Grant overcame the business struggles of his youth to become the supreme Union commander of the American Civil War. Chernow chronicles Grant’s logistical prowess in coordinating massive armies in different regions during the conflict. It contrasts Grant’s dogged and low-key personal style to the man-of-marble reputation of Robert E. Lee. And notably, it highlights Grant’s attempts to salvage the social and racial progress begun by Abraham Lincoln against violent and reactionary Southern forces that opposed Reconstruction.
In addition to chronicling the life of Grant it also underlines important and sometimes disturbing currents of American history that occurred after better-known events of the Civil War. The book is long, detailed and tremendously readable. It provides understanding of conflicting currents in American society that are still very relevant in today’s era of polarized politics.
Ron Chernow's Grant is essential reading for our time, rehabilitating the reputation of the greatest general in American history and one of our greatest--and most maligned--presidents. Grant emerges from this book not only as the military genius that he was, surpassing Robert E. Lee, but also as the courageous and humane president who defended the civil rights of black Americans, crushed the Ku Klux Klan, and forged a crucial treaty with Britain that began our "special relationship." At the end of his life, on death's door, he penned the greatest memoir of any American president.
Chernow is the not greatest stylist. His prose is often dry and laden with adjectives, without the inventiveness and artistry of a great narrative writer like Rick Atkinson. But what he lacks in rhetoric he makes up for in detail. The amount of research that went into this book is astonishing. I have read several biographies of Grant, but Chernow's was far and away the most informative. He has dug up fascinating nuggets that paint a complete portrait of the man and his times. Reading the book can be a slog, but it pays off in the information learned.
As a Civil War buff, I came away from this book with the utmost admiration for Ulysses Grant. Many great figures of history were not, upon close inspection, good people. But Grant was. His struggle with alcoholism--a life-long battle he finally won--humanizes him all the more. Honest to a fault, dismissive of military airs or honors, devoted to his family, determined to repay every favor done him, and democratic in his treatment of people--including emancipating a slave given to him by his father-in-law--Grant is an example of the very best of America.
Wow, I wished this book did not come to an end. Chernow is a wonderful writer and makes history so interesting and easy to read. Grant seems like a good friend through out this book and you'll find yourself pulling for all his successes and saddened by any digressions or downfalls. Luckily for our society, he made great contributions and always tried to do right and be just. To me, he seems like one our counties greats General/President/Politician, even though at times reluctant. I'd guess his contributions have been insufficiently heralded. Also, great detail about US history during the 2nd half of 19th century.
I can’t imagine a better book on a US president, on a military general, on a war, on American history.
The Civil War didn’t end in long and mere four years. In my mind Grant stood out of an obscurity as the most prominent!
Amongst numerous well portrayed supporting characters, Sherman intrigues me. Badeau’s florid writings contributed significantly to this book, the pain I felt at his treatment towards Grant at the end was relieved when Grant confronted him in splendid words - the only time he managed to rebuke any of his long trusted and indecent friends.
The rich content makes 1000page volume compact. Repetitive descriptions of the people and events after a long stretch of time maybe helpful for readers who take longer in multiple sittings. Index at the end is a great reference tool for novices like me.
The book was interesting but I found it overly complimentary of Grant and lacked objectivity concerning his accomplishments and mistakes. There was very little analytical value and instead was simply a well written reiteration of facts and events. Also, instead of being selective, he seem to throw in every minute detail he learned about Grant, which became tedious at times.
My first foray into the World of Chernow and I'm hooked. Meticulously, almost absurdly researched, Chernow has the widest possible range of resources at his disposal (somehow) and the wisdom to use them even-handedly. I had no idea there was so much I needed to know about Grant, who was an astounding (and, yes, flawed) dude. And, as importantly, how much his story relates to what's going on in America today. To a large extent, our modern nation came into being on Grant's watch. A remarkable tale told remarkably.
I will come back to this - it's a lot of stuff - but it gas great flow and reaffirms this fellow was a common man with depth seldom seen in most of us. He had his trials but many overwhelming victories - in war and life.
It is obvious his contemps were drawn to his humanity, honesty, and talent.
This a fine bit of biography and never lectures or gets didactic about history. Bios can be tedious if you are sketchy on facts from earlier times. This writer carries you easily.
High school didn't cover Grant. And only after reading this did I better understand the honors flowing to him over time, including statue near NYC Central Park etc. Lincoln and others around Grant praised his courage and talent - and marveled at his humility and kindness.
Grant's ending is a wonderful and sad piece: Mark Twain interceded to help Grant publish his biography, bringing in huge sums to Grant's widow. Twain could be a pain in the ass but he had talent to separate fools and frauds from great souls. Thinking of these two giants working together was a vision for the ages. Long term, I believe this pair may be the most sought-after profiles of America during its toughest and best time.
If a person read one bio a year - or in a lifetime, this should be it.
Learned a lot from this one. Very funny. More informative than high school civics class.
Chernow presents a detailed analysis of Grant's paradoxical, misunderstood and mis- represented military and presidential career by carefully researching his family life, character
development and intersection of the myriad of personalities around him. A complex
enigma of loyalty, military shrewdness, inclusiveness and compassion Grant emerges as
the unrecognized advocate of Reconstructionist policy, civil rights, and civil service reform.
His struggles with alcoholism, naivite in regards to personal, political and business have become more mythic in recent history. I found the book a more than worthwhile read, (des-
pite grueling descriptions of civil war strategy and battles) and definitely came away with
a great deal of respect for his presidential leadership at a critical time for the U.S.
I gave White's biography of Grant 5 stars. That was before I read Ron Chernow's epic work (959 pages not including notes and acknowledgments). If you read only one book about Grant, read Chernow's. Never, ever boring, the book is rich in painting a vivid picture of this much celebrated general and even more maligned president, whose stock has been rising in recent years: since 2000 he's risen in a historians' poll from number 33 to number 22 of the 44 men who have held the office (Trump isn't being rated yet).
Yes, there was corruption--but Grant himself was never involved. Chernow writes that Grant had such trust in his friends and family that he simply could not envision them doing anything bad. This, of course, left him as an easy mark, which he paid dearly for near the end of his life, when his family's entire savings were lost in a Ponzi scheme run by a trusted advisor.
The corruption has, until recently, masked over Grant's contributions to those who needed help. He supported the 15th Amendment and early voting rights and civil rights legislation, sent federal troops into the South during Reconstruction to protect Republicans from widespread violence (Republicans in the South back then were mainly black with some whites), destroyed the original Ku Klux Klan, had a far more progressive attitude to Native Americans than almost anyone in government, submitted a dispute with England over its role in providing the Confederacy with ships during the Civil War to a successful international arbitration, thereby setting a precedent for peaceful means of settling international disputes, oversaw the first Justice Department, which was active in prosecuting civil rights violations in the South, and much more. His work on civil rights was probably the greatest of any President until Lyndon B. Johnson. A modest and generally taciturn man, he was popular enough to be elected to two terms (and almost got nominated for a third) and was the first since Andrew Jackson to serve through both of them. After his presidency, he went on a round-the-world trip, where he engaged in diplomacy, setting yet another precedent for future presidents.
I was glad to see Chernow's definitive account of Grant's drinking problem--he was an intermittent binge drinker but only when his wife wasn't around and he was bored. It never affected his conduct of the Civil War or his presidency. He'd pretty much conquered the problem by later life.
Movie rights have been purchased--how this man's fascinating life can be boiled down to 2-3 hours is beyond me, but I'm hoping the film people will succeed. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
A beautiful book in every way, from Chernow's adept writing to the bookbinding. A total pleasure from start to finish.
I've never read a bio on Grant before, so unsure how much is the author's writing ability and insights vs Grant's life story, but I have been completely drawn in and had to put the book down and just weep for an honorable man who just couldn't get a break.
And why in the world wouldn't Julia write him back when he was in the army during the Mexican War and after?? I'm very irritated over this...throw your husband a bone! No wonder he was depressed and drank too much.
The book is about 950 pages before footnotes/index. It is heavy...thus I recommend getting it in the ebook form. And I see that the library has it also in CD and downloadable audio formats.
This is really a fantastic book. I cried at the end...I felt that I had known him after all those pages together.
Chernow delivers another solid biography. I was a big fan of his Hamilton biography because he gives you a solid sense of the subject's personality and drive. I really got to know more about Grant before his Civil War successes and the challenges he faced during Reconstruction. I also identified similarities between his personality and my own, giving me a greater sense of my own self. Maybe that's the highest compliment you can give a biography, when it breathes life into someone long gone and helps us understand folks that are still with us today.