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Ulysses S. Grant: The American Presidents Series: The 18th President, 1869-1877 Hardcover – August 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This study is among the best in the notable series of short presidential biographies presided over by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. While recent biographers have taken a more sympathetic view of Grant than formerly, Bunting goes further to show that Grant possessed that rarest quality among American presidents: nobility of character. He acknowledges Grant's youthful tippling and the defects of his presidency. But as a veteran military officer himself, Bunting (An Education for Our Time) captures Grant's brilliance as a strategist, his quiet compassion, his firm judgment and his humanity as the Union's principal military leader. Then, where other historians hold Grant's administration responsible for many of the failures of Reconstruction, Bunting believes Grant was in his era "the central force in the achievement of civil rights for blacks, the most stalwart and most reliable among all American presidents for the next eighty years." What's more, Bunting does as good a job as possible in making sense of Grant's difficult presidency. If at times the author excuses Grant too much for his handling of scandal and for the consequences of his unwavering loyalty to friends, his defense is well within the bounds of credibility. This superb book should support those who are gradually moving Grant from the lower to the upper half of rankings of chief executives.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–While these books are roughly the same length and both provide an easy read, they focus on different aspects of the subject. Bunting's goal is a re-examination of one of the most vilified presidents in American history. Though the author discusses the man's life before and after his presidency, he looks more closely at Grant's record and discovers more in it than has generally been credited. At the end, it must be said that Grant's intentions and character are more praiseworthy than his accomplishments, but one cannot gainsay the successes that he oversaw in foreign policy and in his determined enforcement of civil rights for freedmen in the South. Korda's volume is interested in investigating the psychology of one of the great Americans of the 19th century. He examines Grant's successes and failures and shows the parts of his character that are evident in both. In doing so, he produces a gripping study of the man, operating successfully under the stresses of war, enduring failure in the stresses of peace, and coping with his fatal cancer. It is a broad, sweeping view of the man's life and naturally tends to focus more on his military than on his political career. Neither book tells the whole story; together, though, they provide an admirable introduction to one of the great men of American history.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (September 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069495
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on February 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This short biography, which is a volume in the "American Presidents" series affords the reader a sympathetic view of Grant as President. Another recent short biography of Grant, by Michael Korda, spends a little less time on Grant's presidency (thus more time on his military career) and views his presidency less favorably. I recommend that both biographies be read, as in significantly less than 200 pages, both offer insights into Grant. Indeed, if you have read a longer biography (and there are many) such as McFeely, Peret, or Simpson, these short biographies do a great job of crystalizing the information and, in fact, they offer additional insights.

Bunting views Grant as the most pro African American president up to his time and for many decades thereafter. He tried to make Reconstruction work for the freedmen but, much like the attitude of Americans when the Vietnam War dragged on for many years, Americans lost their patience when Reconstruction dragged on with little discernable progress. Grant was President at a time when foreign affairs were not paramount. Therfore, most of what went on beyond domestic policy involved Latin America, including a plan to acquire Santo Domingo (now the Dominican republic). However, Grant was successful in certain foreign ventures such as entering into a treaty with Great Britain for reparations based on it's role in building blockade running ships for the Confederacy.

Another area in which Bunting admires Grant is his treatment of the American Indian. Grant was ultimately unsuccessful but he had hoped to integrate them into American society so that they would be full citizens.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Steele on January 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Unlike his generalship during the Civil War, Grant's presidency has earned him few admirers among historians. The numerous scandals that took place during his two terms in office, and the Panic of 1873 which wrecked havoc on the country's economy during his second term, have generally diminished history's view of Grant's presidency. His consistently strong stewardship of the difficult task of Reconstruction, including his upholding of the laws which enabled Blacks to vote and hold office in the south, his successful foreign policy, and his fair treatment of Native Americans were often neglected. An historical consensus formed that split Grant's life into halves; General Grant was a heroic and needed leader, but President Grant was an admirable failure, unsuited for political leadership.

Josiah Bunting III is the perfect author to correct these misperceptions about Grant. As a former army officer, Bunting understands well the institution that was so much a part of Grant's adult life and the source for his fame which would catapult him into the White House. But he also has enough emotional distance from the army to provide insightful commentary. What's most surprising, however, is the literary skill Bunting brings to the task. His small book on Grant is a beautiful gem of a biography, burnished to a fine work of art. Bunting has written two novels and he shows a fine writer's gifts here. He has the great biographer's necessary gift of understanding the importance of character.

The Grant that comes alive in Bunting's pages is highly sympathetic, but always credibly so. Bunting shows how the usual slurs against Grant's character (alcohol, butchery, and scandal) were overdone, while many redeeming characteristics (good to friends and family, steady, moral) were overlooked.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Alan Rockman on September 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It has been U.S. Grant's misfortune to rank behind Lincoln and Lee in the pantheon of the major notable Civil War heroes. A Presidency racked by scandal though largely not of his fault didn't help matters. But Grant was a winner - and that's what counts. From defeating the "Marble Man" Lee to his courageous drive to finish his memoirs as Cancer was taking his life, Grant showed nobility and character, which is the foci of Josiah Bunting's brief tome in this volume of "The American Presidents" series.

In focusing on the character and the nobility of Grant, Bunting does take a different perspective, though by no means new view of this subject. Indeed, Mark Feely, Jean Edward Smith, and to a lesser degree Geoffrey Perrett have already covered and done justice to Grant's character in their works - and I would recommend both Feely and Perrett to the Grant novice, not to mention his "Memoirs". I might also note that the late Stephen Ambrose, in his "To America" wrote a very lengthy essay on why Grant was a good President - not just a great General, and how he did do his best to stop the resurgence of segregation and anti-Black animus in the post-Civil War South, and why he could not succeed.

This isn't to say that Professor Bunting's book does not deserve a wide readership - it does. But do check out Feely, Perrett, and Smith first, and above all, get a copy of those "Personal Memoirs" - they are by far the best memoirs ever penned by an American President, and a classic of American Literature.
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