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The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace Hardcover – October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Man Who Saved the Union

“Through Grant, Mr. Brands paints a vivid landscape of mid-19th-century America filling his canvas with fascinating characters . . . Mr. Brands's prose is engaging, almost conversational, and the narrative moves briskly.”
The Wall Street Journal

"Comprehensive, dramatic, and highly readable . . . H.W. Brands has written an authoritative, action-packed, and well-rounded biography of a very human Ulysses S. Grant."
Philadelphia Inquirer

“In this splendidly written biography, University of Texas at Austin professor H.W. Brands does justice to one of America’s most underrated presidents . . . Brands is both sympathetic and thorough in his examination of Grant’s life. The Man Who Saved the Union makes clear that Grant did precisely that. The end of the Civil War did not mark the end of the divisions that had so badly weakened the country, and during Reconstruction those divisions threatened to plunge America back into chaos. Brands has provided a valuable service by making clear how much America owes to Ulysses Grant.”
Dallas Morning News

“Thorough, balanced, and a good read . . . Brands deserves great praise for once more attempting to put Ulysses S. Grant where he belongs, in the pantheon of American heroes.”
—Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

“Brands’s Grant is captured crisply in the title of his new biography: The Man Who Saved the Union. But Brands’s Grant is more than that. He is, like the increasingly accepted view of Dwight D. Eisenhower, ‘indisputably above politics,’ a crusader against race hatred, a warrior against what Grant himself called ‘lawlessness, turbulence, and bloodshed,’ friend to black and Indian alike. . . . Brands artfully portrays Grant as a man of his times—‘his adult life had coincided with the Union’s long crisis’—and argues, persuasively, that he played a role in settling the great questions of his time.”
—The Boston Globe

“What is distinctive about this distinguished biographer's new work is its rehabilitation of President Grant, who was not only a great general who wrote memoirs worthy of comparison to Julius Caesar's, but a great moral leader who pursued Lincoln's agenda of re-unifying the nation and integrating its former slaves into one indivisible nation.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A well-done effort to portray one of the most important and insufficiently appreciated American figures of the 19th century."
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Once again, H. W. Brands has crafted a wonderful portrait of a great leader who endured and prevailed in hours of stress and strain. Brands’s U. S. Grant is a compelling figure, a man too often overlooked by history. This book rectifies that with grace and insight.”
—Jon Meacham, author of American Lion, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography

"There is a magnificent unity to this story of Grant's leadership in both war and peace that is not found anywhere else. In this compelling narrative, Grant emerges more fascinating than ever before."
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals and No Ordinary Time, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history

“Too frequently overshadowed or overlooked, U. S. Grant finally gets his due in H. W. Brands’ splendid new biography. With verve and his trademark scholarship, Brands vividly brings Grant to life. Here, rendered in all his humanity, is the soldier, statesman, president. Here, too, is a man as much for our time as for his.”
—Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval

“H. W. Brands celebrates Grant the warrior and Grant the president, too long maligned by an unholy alliance of snobs, racists, and partisan historians. A great American gets his full due.”
—Richard Brookhiser, author of James Madison

“A skilled American storyteller reminds us of Grant's bravery and devotion on the bloody battlefields of the Civil War and as the president who rescued the martyred Lincoln's dream in the ugly seasons after the assassination. From the assault on Chapultepec to the carnage at Shiloh, from the Appomattox Court House to Grant's showdown as president with the Ku Klux Klan, the inestimable H. W. Brands tells the tale of this very human hero with the verve and insight we expect from a great biographer.”
—John A. Farrell, author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned   

"With this clear-eyed work, Brands re-examines the great American struggle, this time with Grant at the center. The result is deeper and more complex than much of the giant Lincoln literature, as Brands gives us not just the war but its painful and painstaking aftermath. The Grant presented here is altogether new — flawed, yes, but also brilliant, pratical, humble and perfectly American. This is an essential book."
—Jim Newton, author of Eisenhower: The White House Years  

“This authoritative biography of an obscure failure and occasional drunkard who became a Civil War generalissimo and the 18th U.S. president is a study in two kinds of moral courage . . . [Brands’s] narrative of Grant’s military campaigns in particular is lucid, colorful, and focused on telling moments of decision. His Grant emerges as an immensely appealing figure . . . with a keen mind, stout character, and unpretentious manner. The result is a fine portrait of the quintessential American hero.”
Publishers Weekly starred review

About the Author

H. W. BRANDS is the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times bestselling author, he was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American and again for Traitor to His Class. His website is

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532419
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

H.W. Brands taught at Texas A&M University for sixteen years before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History. His books include Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, and TR. Traitor to His Class and The First American were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Man Who Saved the Union is the latest work from renowned presidential biographer H.W. Brands. It is an intriguing, comprehensive portrait of Ulysses Grant, the general who is credited for leading the North to victory on the battlefield during the Civil War and was eventually elected president.

Despite his achievements as a military commander and--in Brands' view--as a president Grant's reputation has been savaged by other historians. Scholars have claimed that he emerged triumphant in the Civil War only because of the North's superior manpower while emphasizing the scandals that plagued his tenure as president. The Man Who Saved the Union is, to some degree, a corrective to these views. Maintaining a high level of objectivity about its subject, the book praises some of Grants achievements on the battlefield and in the White House. Brands believes that what made grant a successful general was his strong sense of moral conviction and his willingness to take responsibility for his decisions. He describes Grant's rise in rank over the course of the Civil War through victories at Chattanooga, Vicksburg and elsewhere. Roughly the last third of the book is devoted to Grant's political career. In treating Grant the president, Brands mentions some of the scandals that tarnished his image but also emphasizes that Reconstruction did have some lasting achievements such as the fifteenth amendment. Brands does a good job here of crediting Grant for what he accomplished without neglecting the scandals that have tarnished Grant's reputation.

One of the strong points of the work is that in its recounting of Grant's life it not only reintroduces us to the general and president but also to the America that he lived in.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on October 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Man Who Saved the Union" is a new biography by Dr. H.W. Brands. Brands is a professor of history at the University of Texas who is a prolific chronicler of the great men of American history. Among his many bestseller popular biographies are oones on the lives of Benjamin Franklin; Andrew Jackson; Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This new book is a wonderful edition to his oeuvre. Brands writes with clarity, deep understanding of his subject and an encyclopedia mastery of primary sources. This book on Grant is the kind of biography which could spark a young person's love of history and the role of heroic figures in our nation's history.
Grant was born on April 27, 1822 in a small village in southern Ohio. His father Jesse was a tanner. Jesse used his influence to win Grant appointment to West Point as a cadet. The lad graduated in 1843 being known there more for his equestrian skills than academic plaudits in the classroom. Grant served under General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War. He later served in lonely posts in the West where he had a propensity to face life in an alcoholic haze. Grant wed Julia Dent the daughter of a Missouri slaveholder. The couple had a wonderful marriage and there children did well in life. Son Fred even graduated from West Point. Daughter Nellie married a British aristocrat! When the Civil War began Grant was working in his father's tanning shop in Galena, Illinois. His past attempts as a farmer and real estate agent in St. Louis had not done well.
Grant won fan in the Civil War. His Western victories at Belmont; Forts Henry and Donelson; Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga won him the attention of President Lincoln who called the little Ohioan east to take on Robert E.
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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful By T. Green on October 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished this book, and I agree with other reviewers that there is nothing new here and that there is no insightful analysis of Grant. I have come to appreciate Grant very much, and I am glad for any book that tries to restore his unduly denigrated character, but Brands' book about TR was much better. This book seemed more like a series of vignettes about Grant than it did a cohesive analysis of and story about his life. I never felt pulled into the story of Grant's life like I did in Jean Edward Smith's book about Grant. And I thought it odd that some notable stories about Grant that truly illustrate his unique character were never mentioned, such as his message to President Lincoln that "whatever happens, there will be no turning back," or the excitement of the troops when Grant turned south at the conclusion of the Wilderness battles in May 1864. The best chapters were actually the very few that gave some insight to his family life, although I didn't think Brands gave enough emphasis to Grant's love for his wife throughout his career except to somewhat disparage Julia. And after noting Grant's concern about his daughter's marriage to an Englishman, he never returned to this issue and the subsequent problems with that marriage. In short, I never quite thought that Brands truly figured out Grant; I think Smith did.

Also, one other thing I thought odd about the book: there is a picture said to be Grant on a horse at City Point in the photos in the middle of the book, and the picture also is found on the title page at the front.
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