Wednesday, March 1, 2017

American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White, 826 pages.
White makes an eloquent and well-researched argument that much of Grant's reputation as a butcher of a general, and as a corrupt, incompetent president lingers as a result of the lingering narrative presented by his enemies, particularly the politicians and press of the southern states. While he was a president whose cabinet was embroiled in scandals, Grant was particularly honest. And while he lost many men during the war, Grant always felt that it was better to attack and then attack again, that fewer men would be lost by ending the war as soon as possible. Lincoln, who watched many generals hesitate and let chances and enemy armies escape, valued Grant's willingness to fight and to keep on fighting.
White also makes a fair account of the evolution of Grant's attitudes towards slavery, from a man who was willing to abide the institution, and make no fuss concerning the slaves in his wife's family, to a man willing to fight not just to preserve the Union, but also to end slavery in America.
A very readable, cogent account of a man who accomplished much but was left with a tattered reputation.

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