An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: So who is buried in Grant’s tomb, anyway? That’s an old and insipid joke, of course, but considering what we think we know about the 18th President of the United States, a question worth asking might be hiding in there. With American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald C. White endeavors over 800 pages (over 100 them being notes referencing primary and secondary sources) to shed light on one of our most influential yet enigmatic figures. This isn’t a revisionist biography; Grant already got that treatment in the early 20th century, when he transformed from a respected Civil War general and public servant into a craven opportunist and failed president, drunk and penniless at his death (just try imagining a destitute former POTUS in this era). White, author of the award-winning bestseller, A. Lincoln: A Biography, first redresses criticisms of his martial prowess—primarily that he exploited a huge numbers advantage by needlessly sacrificing troops in exchange for victory—with detailed accounts, maps, and illustrations of his conflicts, limning a battlefield acumen previously diminished through ad hominem barbs. White resuscitates Grant’s career as a public servant through his presidency and beyond—he was a defender of equal rights and an enemy of the Ku Klux Klan–by placing in the context of the complex postbellum landscape, where the war may have been won but the country was hardly whole. Serious, exhaustive, and likely definitive, American Ulysses is a tricky meld of comprehensive research and readable narrative, worthy of the pantheon of monumental presidential biographies. — Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review
In his time, Ulysses S. Grant was routinely grouped with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in the “Trinity of Great American Leaders.” But the battlefield commander–turned–commander-in-chief fell out of favor in the twentieth century. In American Ulysses, Ronald C. White argues that we need to once more revise our estimates of him in the twenty-first.
Based on seven years of research with primary documents—some of them never examined by previous Grant scholars—this is destined to become the Grant biography of our time. White, a biographer exceptionally skilled at writing momentous history from the inside out, shows Grant to be a generous, curious, introspective man and leader—a willing delegator with a natural gift for managing the rampaging egos of his fellow officers. His wife, Julia Dent Grant, long marginalized in the historic record, emerges in her own right as a spirited and influential partner.
Grant was not only a brilliant general but also a passionate defender of equal rights in post-Civil War America. After winning election to the White House in 1868, he used the power of the federal government to battle the Ku Klux Klan. He was the first president to state that the government’s policy toward American Indians was immoral, and the first ex-president to embark on a world tour, and he cemented his reputation for courage by racing against death to complete his Personal Memoirs. Published by Mark Twain, it is widely considered to be the greatest autobiography by an American leader, but its place in Grant’s life story has never been fully explored—until now.
One of those rare books that successfully recast our impression of an iconic historical figure, American Ulysses gives us a finely honed, three-dimensional portrait of Grant the man—husband, father, leader, writer—that should set the standard by which all future biographies of him will be measured.
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