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This is the most insightful and instructive biography I have ever read. Not only does it give overdue credit to a truly great military leader and president and genuinely kind and humble man of extraordinary accomplishment, but it also provides the reader of a more complete and compelling picture of the monumental challenges faced by the nation and it's leader following the Civil War and it's aftermath. This work is must read history.
25 of 25 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up American Ulysses in three words, what would they be?
Compelling, Penetrating, Fair
What did you like best about this story?
White has enough confidence in his research and ultimately his discernment to render the story in a straight-forward manner that might have pleased its subject. White doesn't besiege the reader with footnotes, counterpoints or what-ifs, instead placing the reader in that time and place, with Grant.
Which scene was your favorite?
The breakout towards Jackson during the Vicksburg Campaign. White is able to capture the intensity and pressures bearing down on Grant, and when, at last, Grant's forces move east when their target lay west, the reader gains a sense of Grant's audacity, nerve and will.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I am very familiar with the details of Grant's life and times from other biographies and histories. Yet there is cumulative power in White's writing and his description of Grant's last "campaign" at the close of his life was more moving than any other treatment I had encountered.
Any additional comments?
Any author attempting a comprehensive biography of such a momentous figure has to make choices about length and depth of detail. White's concentration is on the prominent figures on the Union side, and there is a nutshell quality to his descriptions of Grant's adversaries (even Lee). Ultimately that's a justified treatment of the vanquished. White briefly discusses Grant's long banishment into the historical wilderness, as his reputation declined and languished after his death, but White misses an opportunity to explore the context of the ongoing struggle by many to preserve the most imperfect aspects of the United States that led to the war and which continue to trouble the nation on the low boil. The most eye-opening aspect of the book was the depth of Grant's commitment to the rights and protection of the freedmen. If he was late getting there, his absolute, unshakable resolve on this point caused me to seriously reassess his presidency, and gave me a greater appreciation of his remarkable character.
34 of 37 people found this review helpful
Americans know the key importance of Grant to the USA, not just as the civil war general but as an effective president and as a role model to future generations who have been inspired by his modesty, honesty and courage. The book is very well read by Arthur Morey. And the author, Ronald White, does justice to his subject giving as much coverage to his life before and after the civil war as to his role in the war itself. White clearly admires Grant and his admiration shines through the work, engaging the readers attention. Only in a couple of chapters was it hard to follow who was who and what was going on, one of these being an account of foreign relations during his presidency. The chapters on the civil war are quite easy to follow as the narrative focusses on Grants own experience and his relations with fellow officers rather than detailed descriptions of battles. Very likely there is much in this book that you won't know already. One such story for me was the invitation to dinner that Grant received from Bismark. Grant the famous war hero and ex-president arrives at Bismarks palatial home on foot, on his own and plainly dressed. Not what the great German and his servants were expecting!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful