Book - 2017
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"Pulitzer Prize-winner and biographer of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most complicated 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 inept businessman, fond of drinking to excess; or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War; or as a credulous and hapless president whose tenure came to symbolize the worst excesses of the Gilded Age. These stereotypes don't come close to capturing adequately his spirit and the sheer magnitude of his monumental accomplishments. A biographer at the height of his powers, Chernow has produced a portrait of Grant that is a masterpiece, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Penguin Press,, 2017
ISBN: 9781594204876
Branch Call Number: 921 GRA
Characteristics: xxiii, 1074 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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Nov 05, 2019

Ulysses S. Grant is a name that resonates with just about every American. A Civil War general and later President of the United States, his name is most often touted alongside some of the other great names that resounds through American history, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Unlike those two, however, Grant's name has been mired and tarnished owing to the circumstances of the era he lived in. Many Lost Cause adherents have derided him as a drunken butcher, who only brought a Northern victory about in the Civil War because of the nigh-unlimited bodies and resources he had at his fingertips, and have held him up as wanting compared to the 'gallant genius' of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In more recent decades, however, there has been a growing movement to restore Grant's reputation, to shine a light on his genuine military skill and success, as well as his fervent belief and commitment to equality for the African Americans freed from slavery in the Civil War and through the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and his own personal integrity. Ron Chernow is but one part of this movement, and he wrote an outstandingly well-researched account of this long-misunderstood man.

A well-researched, long account, but do not let its length deter you. Over a thousand pages (or 38 CDs, if you choose that format), and each one as engrossing as the next. Chernow's efforts cover the entire breadth of Grant's life, from his childhood to his first military career, from his woe-begotten days working various menial jobs to his reenlistment on the outbreak of the Civil War, from his rise to prominence as a General who fought against the Confederacy and won (something that was not exactly a normal sight in the early years of the war) to becoming the leader of the entirety of all Union forces that would lead down the road to Appomattox Courthouse and end the war, to his involvement in politics and rise to the Presidency, and to the later years of his life amid the pomp and circumstance of the Gilded Age. Chernow brings all of it to life. He highlights Grant's many successes, both as a general and a politician, but he does not flinch from writing about his failures, many of which stem from his own innate goodness and desire to think well of the people closest to him, no matter how undeserving so many of those people were.

I was engrossed with this book from start to finish. Chernow's style is very easy to stick with, and Mark Bramhall's narration was perfectly on-point. I learned so much about Grant. I had some familiarity with him before reading it, mostly of his military years, but I knew very little about his early life, or his Presidency other than it had been rife with scandal. But Chernow did a wonderful job exploring Grant's presidency in particular, reminding the reader that Grant did a great deal of good during this time, even amid the scandals that also rocked his administration on multiple occasions.

I highly recommend this book. Whether you choose a print copy or an audio, you will learn about one of the most fascinating yet misunderstood figures in American History, and you will enjoy every bit of it.

Feb 23, 2019

Nearly a thousand pages of text. So challenging to finish. But a terrific book. I already knew quite a bit about Grant's background and military career -- or rather two military careers: the rather undistinguished early career in Mexico, Vancouver, and Humboldt -- and the remarkable Civil War years, when he seemed truly indispensable. However, I knew little about the post-war and Presidential years, and some of what I "knew" was wrong. The details of the Reconstruction, when the Confederate states continued their resistance by all means available were especially revealing.

Dec 29, 2018

On Barack Obama's Top Books of 2017

Dec 29, 2018

This volume is a massive rehabilitation of Grant, the General, and to a somewhat lesser extent Grant the President. Chernow freely admits Grant's alcoholism, and his failings in bureaucratic and political infighting, as well as his manipulation of the truth while writing memoirs, but frequently refutes individual incidents or charges. The highlights of the picture that emerges include utter and dogged determinism, deep and caring humanity, and even a new side of Grant who Chernow dubs the most progressive American president on civil rights issues before the New Deal.

Dec 06, 2018

Brilliant. Likely Grant is the most underrated, unknown person in American history. He should best be known for keeping the former slaves from being re-enslaved. The ugly residue of slavery still rings loud in the south today. A must-read to understand American history.

Jul 29, 2018

The Wilderness, Vicksburg – like most Americans, I recognize these names from the Civil War, but this wonderful book brought them to life for me. Chernow has written history that reads like fiction, setting the context, describing the people and events, drawing one into the era so that it is very difficult to put the book down, always wanting to read just one more chapter. Considering the 900-plus pages, that was a difficulty that had to be overcome more than once. I was surprised by my emotional involvement, especially in the final chapter, which tells of Grant’s decline and death. This Grant was much more than the man I had previously thought he was. A book definitely worth reading.

Jun 28, 2018

Ron Chernow writes a well researched book on a famous American General and president I didn't really know much about. Emphasizing Grants problem with alcohol that was greatly over blown in the press that was largely controlled and went years hardly touching the drink.

A failure in life before the war and was hardly a businessmen, I believe providence was at work when the civil war broke out and he did what he was best at doing, leading an army.
Not one for showmanship he even apologized to Lee at Appomattox for his appearance with mud caked clothes and boots while Lee was dressed to the nine's.

Grant was often overlooked in a crowded room as he was rather short and unassuming, not one to draw attention to himself. Lincoln didn't know grant was in the same room with him as he was quiet and stood off in a corner whilst the others were seeking attention for themselves.

Jun 16, 2018

I read somewhere that Gen. Grant was an alcoholic. This was the most salient feature mentioned. As for Gen. Lee, in the book of Dale Carnegie, titled: "How To Make Friends And Influence People", Carnegie writes that after the death of the assassinated President Lincoln, a letter was found in his desk drawer, a letter he never sent. In that letter, addressed to Gen. Lee, Lincoln reproached Lee for allowing the South's armies, after beating them in battle, to escape to the other side of a river. Lincoln said: "Now that you allowed them to escape, the war will go on for a long time." Now, what a genius was that Lee, to allow the enemy to escape, instead of destroying it? Carnegie in his book said: "Maybe Lee was tired of seeing so much blood flowing..." Well, I guess Lee was not a dummy or a sensitive soul. He was an agent of those bankers who in fact financed both sides of the Civil War - those bankers wanted the war to go on, and they profited from it. Because this way they drove Lincoln into deep debt, and, as Lincoln was unable to pay his soldiers, those international bankers blackmailed him into passing a bill, allowing those foreign bankers to print the American money and lend it at an interest to the Government. Cornered, Lincoln had the bill passed and so he got a loan of 250M US$ to pay his soldiers. (The bankers could decide, in other occasions as well, who should win wars, by just withholding financing from one side.) Lincoln was known to be planning to revoke the bill, and then, according to many books, the bankers sent an agent, a "lone killer" (Wilkes Booth) to remove Lincoln. Booth escaped and was helped by the bankers to go to England. I guess Lee was a tool in the plot, which gave control of the American money to an international banking group, called "Federal Reserve."

Jun 16, 2018

With the success of his books on George Washington , Henry Ford and notably Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow has emerged as America’s preeminent biographer – and his latest book on US Grant is rightly regarded as one of his best.
Chernow challenges the harsh view of Grant as merely a drunkard who presided over a corrupt two-term presidency. Instead, the book examines how Grant overcame the business struggles of his youth to become the supreme Union commander of the American Civil War. Chernow chronicles Grant’s logistical prowess in coordinating massive armies in different regions during the conflict. It contrasts Grant’s dogged and low-key personal style to the man-of-marble reputation of Robert E. Lee. And notably, it highlights Grant’s attempts to salvage the social and racial progress begun by Abraham Lincoln against violent and reactionary Southern forces that opposed Reconstruction.
In addition to chronicling the life of Grant it also underlines important and sometimes disturbing currents of American history that occurred after better-known events of the Civil War. The book is long, detailed and tremendously readable. It provides understanding of conflicting currents in American society that are still very relevant in today’s era of polarized politics.

Jun 02, 2018

Ron Chernow's Grant is essential reading for our time, rehabilitating the reputation of the greatest general in American history and one of our greatest--and most maligned--presidents. Grant emerges from this book not only as the military genius that he was, surpassing Robert E. Lee, but also as the courageous and humane president who defended the civil rights of black Americans, crushed the Ku Klux Klan, and forged a crucial treaty with Britain that began our "special relationship." At the end of his life, on death's door, he penned the greatest memoir of any American president.

Chernow is the not greatest stylist. His prose is often dry and laden with adjectives, without the inventiveness and artistry of a great narrative writer like Rick Atkinson. But what he lacks in rhetoric he makes up for in detail. The amount of research that went into this book is astonishing. I have read several biographies of Grant, but Chernow's was far and away the most informative. He has dug up fascinating nuggets that paint a complete portrait of the man and his times. Reading the book can be a slog, but it pays off in the information learned.

As a Civil War buff, I came away from this book with the utmost admiration for Ulysses Grant. Many great figures of history were not, upon close inspection, good people. But Grant was. His struggle with alcoholism--a life-long battle he finally won--humanizes him all the more. Honest to a fault, dismissive of military airs or honors, devoted to his family, determined to repay every favor done him, and democratic in his treatment of people--including emancipating a slave given to him by his father-in-law--Grant is an example of the very best of America.

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Jan 15, 2019

Wonderful book, bought for personal library

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