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Grant

by Ron Chernow

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,2483310,969 (4.51)46
The #1 New York Times bestseller. New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2017 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. Named one of the best books of the year by Goodreads - Amazon - The New York Times - Newsday - BookPage - Barnes and Noble - Wall Street Journal… (more)

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» See also 46 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
This Memorial Day is appropriate to celebrate one of our nation’s forgotten saviors. Although Lincoln is often credited with guiding the nation’s rebirth by preserving the Union, none of this would have happened without Ulysses S. Grant’s leadership. Still, Grant is often denigrated as an inept drunk and a butcher of soldiers. This view simply was not shared among his contemporaries who viewed his grace in Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse as foundational in national reconciliation. Chernow’s well-written, admiring biography seeks to correct this oversight.

In a bitter reaction to Northern victory, generations of Southern historians have tried to play up Confederate military expertise and put down Grant’s skill. Grant had struggles with alcohol early in his life, yes, but he admiringly avoided alcohol for most of his later life so that he prove more useful. Grant’s victories, such as those at Chattanooga and Vicksburg, required expertise that made him one of the world’s all-time greatest generals. His memoirs, written on his death-bed, only reaffirm this view as Grant’s ingenuity shines through.

I would have liked for Chernow to put in a chapter on Grant’s legacy. How can this successful two-term US President be so forgotten in contemporary culture? That explanatory narrative deserves to see the light of day, and I would have liked to have Chernow write it. Overall, this biography is extremely well-researched, well-argued, and well-executed, but that glaring omission stands as a weakness.

As Chernow and contemporary Walt Whitman acknowledge, America’s greatness can be seen in the ascent of plain but brilliant individuals like Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant to the highest places. These stories must not be forgotten or revised in light of face-saving by future generations. Lincoln and Grant together freed the black slave. They saved the Union and preserved the hope of democracy for the world. Chernow does a good job of making this case and persuading the reader of Grant’s nobility. ( )
  scottjpearson | May 24, 2020 |
I only wish is that the author provided more detail of the destruction of the KKK. ( )
  4bonasa | Apr 25, 2020 |
Captured both the brilliance and the flaws of the man and the times. ( )
  snash | Feb 11, 2020 |
My family immigrated to the US in April 1979, when I was 7 and finishing up second grade. I was fascinated by my new home, from TV shows such as The Dukes of Hazard and Dallas to baseball to US history. I really was interested in US history, as nerdy as that sounds for a second/third grader, and I actually memorized the US presidents on my own in third grade. I would see how fast I could say all 39 presidents (this was the last year of the Carter Administration), and, while I was not reading books like Chernow's [b: Grant|34237826|Grant|Ron Chernow|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1488289288i/34237826._SY75_.jpg|55296448], I did know a little bit about each president.

What I knew about Grant's President was that he was one of the two worst Presidents in US history, along with Warren G. Harding. I think that I learned that from [b: The Book of Lists|940251|The People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists|David Wallechinsky|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1457604994i/940251._SY75_.jpg|403617], a favorite back then.

40 years later, thanks to Chernow and many others, Grant's reputation as a President has been rehabilitated. I have learned how the facts of US history had been distorted and twisted, in part by revisionist historians serving the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, following Grant's death.

It's a complex subject, but one simple example is that, even in my high school US History class in 1988, "carpetbagger" was one of the vocab words we were expected to know. In other words, I'm fairly certain that we learned more about the malign aspects of Reconstruction, such as the supposedly rapacious carpetbaggers who had traveled to the South to line their own packets, than we learned about Grant's efforts to put down Ku Klux Klan violence.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Chernow's [b: Grant|34237826|Grant|Ron Chernow|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1488289288i/34237826._SY75_.jpg|55296448] was the General's commitment to black civil rights during the war and afterwards as General of the Army and then President. As a country and as individual citizens, we generally know shamefully little about Reconstruction, a failing I plan to remedy by reading Eric Foner and others on the subject.

In 1979 and 1980, as an 8-year-old, my shallow store of facts about Ulysses Grant was that he had been a great general who became a terrible president. 40 years later, he has become one of my personal heroes, for his triumphs over personal adversity as well as for his successes as a general and a leader knitting the country back together.

I'm grateful that Chernow, one of our best popular historians -- as my Goodreads friend Darwin8u mentions in his review, not quite in the league of Robert Caro, but then who is? -- chose to focus his energies on Grant. For me, Grant's story and this book were more gripping than the story of Alexander Hamilton. Maybe we can get an Amazon Prime series out of it, if not a Broadway musical? ( )
1 vote Robert_Musil | Dec 15, 2019 |
Absorbing reading and a rehabilitation of Grant's reputation. Most heartening was the due acknowledgement given to Grant's commitment to full satisfaction of rights to those freed from slavery. It gives the lie to the carpetbagging/states rights narrative. The viciousness of the terrorism inflicted on freed slaves and Republican supporters weighs sadly for arguments that the conflict was, at its heart, nothing but a racist one.

I saw an interview with Chernow and he impressed as a clear thinking and intelligent man. This biography bears out that impression.
  ivanfranko | Dec 8, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
For all its scholarly and literary strengths, this book’s greatest service is to remind us of Grant’s significant achievements at the end of the war and after, which have too long been overlooked and are too important today to be left in the dark.
 
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(Introduction) Even as other civil war generals rushed to publish their memoirs, flaunting their conquests and cashing in on their celebrity, Ulysses S. Grant refused to trumpet his accomplishments in print.
On April 27, 1822, Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, tucked away in the rural southwestern corner of the state near Cincinnati.
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The #1 New York Times bestseller. New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2017 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. Named one of the best books of the year by Goodreads - Amazon - The New York Times - Newsday - BookPage - Barnes and Noble - Wall Street Journal

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