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Grant: A Biography (Great Generals) Hardcover – May 25, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Palgrave's Great Generals series continues with this sketchy, unbalanced homage to the Union war hero. Military historian Mosier (The Myth of the Great War) focuses on Grant's Civil War exploits, emphasizing his brilliant early victories and glossing over the bloody 1864 campaign when his generalship dimmed. A brief section on his presidency dubiously calls Grant "our most undervalued president." Mosier offers a good précis of Grant's virtues: his ability to translate penetrating strategic insights into vigorous, well-coordinated operations; his imperturbable coolness in the face of reverses; an energy and combativeness unmatched by other Union generals (especially his nominal superior, the conniving "good for nothing" Henry Halleck). But he flirts with hagiography, portraying Grant as both a military genius who eclipsed even Napoleon and as a great commoner whose very ordinariness made him the personification of American democracy-in-arms. His reverence leads to a number of historical misjudgments, like his contention that Grant never lost a battle, which overlooks Union set backs at Cold Harbor and Petersburg, and his baffling claim that "no Union general besides Grant was able to mount successful offensive operations." Indeed, Mosier's severest criticism is of the general's "too trusting belief in the goodness of his fellow men." Grant's achievements were real enough to make such obfuscating overstatements unnecessary. Photos. (June)
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From Booklist

In this precis of Grant's generalship, military historian Mosier argues that his subject deserves historical stature equal to that of Wellington and other prominent war leaders of the past two centuries. In victories, the undefeated Grant is in their league, yet readers are reminded, as Mosier develops his position, that Grant's reputation is still disparaged. The criticism is of two types: that Grant was careless of casualties, and that his victories resulted from material superiority, not battlefield brilliance. Building his case around detailed analysis of the initial battles Grant fought, Shiloh in particular, Mosier demonstrates that Grant's numerical advantage was trivial and that he only rarely ordered frontal assaults, the basis of the "butcher" charge. Praising Grant's tactical visualization of terrain and imperturbability under fire, Mosier proceeds to contrast favorably Grant's strategic conception for defeating the Confederacy with that of military intellectuals such as the Union's Henry Halleck. A persuasive second installment in the publisher's Great Generals series, inaugurated by Alan Axelrod's Patton (2006). Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Great Generals
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; First Edition edition (May 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403971366
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403971364
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #763,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

In all, this is a marginally useful book, if, as I did, you listened to it on audio.
Jonathan Zasloff
Not only is the book filled with basic factual errors it paints such a saintly figure of General Grant that one would suspect Mosier is related.
J. Hill
I say this because at the beginning of the book, Mosier admits that he does not have much information on Grant the man.
Michael Taylor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Edward H. Bonekemper, III on July 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For a book that is in the "Great Generals" series, this one has a surprising number of blatant errors. Its pro-Grant bias is excessive and overstated. Its timeline omits Grant's 1854 resignation from the army, is two years off on Grant's three-star promotion, is one year off on the Battle of Nashville, and only one month off on the Battle of Chattanooga. The book claims no one foresaw Grant's greatness before the war; this overlooks Rebel General Ewell's perceptive warning that he hoped the Union did not find Grant, who was a real threat. The book claims he married while the Mexican War was in the offing; he married after the war. The book claims Zachary Taylor's men marched all the way to Mexico City in the Mexican War; only Winfield Scott's did so. On page 37, we learn that Gettysburg was a two-day battle that had 80,000 casualties; of course, it was a three-day battle with 50,000 casualties. Overlooking Sherman and Sheridan and Thomas (Nashville), the author claims Grant was the only Union general who could mount successful offensive operations. The book tells us that the Tennessee River flows south into Georgia from the Ohio River; in fact, the Tennessee flows NORTH into the Ohio River and never touches Georgia. Grant's amphibious force at Belmont was 3,000, not 12,000 (his entire command in the area). Fort Henry was taken in 1862, not 1861, The road from Fort Donelson led to Nashville, not Charlotte. Grant moved upstream, not downstream from Henry/Donelson to Shiloh. At Iuka, Rosecrans, not Ord, fought because an acoustic shadow kept Ord from hearing Rosecrans' fighting. Grant was with Ord, not on the way to him. Theodore Roosevelt was not elected in 1901; he succeeded the assassinated McKinley. Time precludes my going on. The maps in this book are useless. Where were the editors of this Great Generals Series????? This book does a disservice to Grant, who was a great general.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Zasloff on January 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Mosier is a talented historian, but he really goes overboard here. It's not good enough that Grant was an excellent general -- he was the BEST general ever, and no one could measure up. Mosier goes so far as to say that Grant never lost a battle, an assessment that would have come as a surprise to the veterans of Cold Harbor (and to Grant himself). To be sure, one could argue that Cold Harbor was not a "battle" at all, only one part of a campaign. But then the author needs to discuss this; if there isn't space, then he shouldn't be making such broad assertions.

I found much of the detail interesting and enlightening. Mosier speculates that one major advantage that Grant had was that he was an excellent draftsman; in other words, he had an excellent eye for space and landscapes, and that served him well as a field commander. You can't really disprove that, but it is an interesting point. He also contributes an excellent discussion about the culture of Army life in the pre-Civil War period, and provides good background on the nature of West Point education at the time.

In all, this is a marginally useful book, if, as I did, you listened to it on audio. Other more useful books are not on audio. But if you have time to do the reading, read other accounts.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By B. Joseph on June 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admire Washington, Lincoln and Grant. While the former two have garnered numerous accolades, Grant has been unjustifiably denigrated personally (alcoholic, fool, depressed) and professionally (butcher). His presidency has been unappreciated. Mosier makes a persuasive case that General Grant was probably a genius. In the final chapter, he briefly discusses Grant's undervalued presidency. I would highly recommend two other brief succinct biographies one by Korda and another by Bunting both of which explore Grant's presidency.

Mosier dispels many Grant myths. He was not an alcoholic in a medical sense. He was self-taught in algebra. He entered West Point which was one of the best educational institutions in the world. West Point entrance examination had a 50% failure rate. He graduated 21st in a class of 39 but 40 of them failed to graduate so he was in the top 25%. He was a good artist with a great 3-D vision which was essential for a commander during battle. He was a great horseman.

In the Mexican war, Grant was a quartermaster who demonstrated tremendous skill in logistics. This experience was vital when he commanded the Union armies and he made sure his men got enough ammunition, food etc. He displayed tremendous personal courage during the Mexican war (riding away to get ammunition) and ingenuity (dragging cannon to a church steeple).

Mosier compares U.S. Grant favorably with other great generals, namely Wellington, Napoleon and Foch. He finds Grant to be superior all of them. Without him, the North would have lost the war. Grant never lost a battle. Mosier defends Grant against charges of butchery by comparing Civil War casualties with those suffered by the British and French in World War I. Robert E.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Erin E. Willis on August 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After reading U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth by Jean Waugh, I was intrigued enough to read additional biographies. This book was a basic introduction to Grant's growth as a military leader. As mentioned by previous reviewers, there are numerous historical errors and the author tends to be enthusiastic in his assessment of Grants skills (Note to the author: the overuse of exclamation points detracts from the perception of this book as a scholarly tome).

The use of more maps would have been helpful to envision the movement of troops on the field, but I will say the book gave credible support for Grant as the last great general, meaning his leadership and guidance determined the course of a war. The Civil War would have been lost without Grant at the head of the Union Army. With the rise of a skilled officer corps, the author makes the argument that later wars were less dependent on a general's leadership.

I highly recommend Waugh's book as a discussion for the decline in Grant's reputation after his death.
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