New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book 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. Read more...
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New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book 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.
- ISBN-13: 9781594204876
- ISBN-10: 159420487X
- Publisher: Penguin Press
- Publish Date: October 2017
- Page Count: 1104
- Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 2.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
The trials of a complex president
BookPage Top Pick in Nonfiction, October 2017
Move over, Hamilton! Might there be room for a Broadway musical about Ulysses S. Grant? There’s certainly a vast treasure-trove of material in Grant, a stupendous new biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, whose book Alexander Hamilton inspired the hit musical.
Grant is a larger-than-life figure, and Chernow has no difficulty crafting a fascinating and immensely readable (and immense) book. The author is aided by the existence of 32 volumes (comprised of 50,000 documents) of Grant’s papers, as well as Grant’s own memoirs, which he wrote while dying of throat cancer, spurred by a determination to provide for his wife, Julia.
Grant’s life was marked by sometimes bitter failures and hard-won accomplishments. By sheer grit, he managed to succeed in his courageous final endeavor, penning what Chernow calls “the foremost military memoir in the English language.”
Chernow’s biography is replete with fascinating details and insightful political analysis, a combination that brings Grant and his time to life. Grant played a key role in post-Civil War politics, battling Andrew Johnson in order to uphold the terms of surrender he’d negotiated with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Later, Grant came to believe Lee harbored a fantasy that his “defeated cause would rise anew.” (Lee, Chernow tells us, testified in Congress against suffrage for former slaves. As for Johnson, Chernow says, “No American president has ever held such openly racist views.”) Grant sought instead to preserve the Union and safeguard the rights of those freed from slavery. He supported federal funds for African-American education and counted Frederick Douglass as an ally in the effort to stop the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan.
While Chernow’s biography may be hefty, it is also uncommonly compelling and timely. Perhaps a Broadway adaptation wouldn’t be such a bad idea. . . . In the meantime, put Grant on your must-read list.