Among the autobiographies of great military figures, Ulysses S. Grant’s is certainly one of the finest, and it is arguably the most notable literary achievement of any American president: a lucid, compelling, and brutally honest chronicle of triumph and failure. From his frontier boyhood, to his heroics in battle, to the grinding poverty from which the Civil War ironically rescued him, these memoirs are a mesmerizing, deeply moving account of a brilliant man told with great courage as he reflects on the fortunes that shaped his life and his character. Written under excruciating circumstances—Grant was dying of throat cancer—and encouraged and edited from its very inception by Mark Twain, it is a triumph of the art of autobiography.
Grant was sick and broke when he began work on his memoirs. Driven by financial worries and a desire to provide for his wife, he wrote diligently during a year of deteriorating health. He vowed he would finish the work before he died, and one week after its completion, he lay dead at the age of 63.
Publication of the memoirs came at a time when the public was being treated to a spate of wartime reminiscences, many of them defensive in nature, seeking to refight battles or attack old enemies. Grant’s penetrating and stately work reveals a nobility of spirit and an innate grasp of the important fact, which he rarely displayed in private life. He writes in his preface that he took up the task “with a sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to anyone, whether on the National or the Confederate side.”
“The best [memoirs] of any general’s since Caesar.” (Mark Twain)
“One of the most unflinching studies of war in our literature.” (William McFeeley, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Ulysses S. Grant)
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Great - but not really a biography...
- Michael "I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read."
What makes a great commander?? Read this book
Best account yet.
Grant was a great commander in the Civil War. In his memoirs, he discusses his successes and surprisingly is even more frank about his failures
The book takes him from a militia Colonel all the way to a Lieutenant General commanding an Army.
What brought him success was meticulous planning, a great understanding of how the terrain shaped the fight and an ability to accurately assess what options were available to his opponent.
If you study the civil war or study the art and science of command, then this book should be one to own. Keegan's book was really good. Lee's Lieutenants really good, But Grant's Memoirs is in a class by itself.