From Publishers Weekly
Here is a superb first in a projected two-volume study of the Union general and president. Serving as neither his subject's advocate nor his prosecutor, Arizona State University historian Simpson provides an eminently informed and finely balanced portrait of Ulysses S. Grant as man, husband, failed entrepreneur and shrewd, victorious general. Simpson (Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868) uses carefully excavated facts and anecdotes to reveal an individual far more complex than the caricature (drunken, barbarous in battle, corrupt when given opportunity) handed down to us by popular history. At the same time, Simpson does not gloss over Grant's shortcomings. Although a fan of the general's, Simpson is not in the business of writing apologetics, and therein lies his strength. Appropriately, Simpson dispenses with Grant's pre-Civil War life in the first 70 pages of his book, devoting the balance to his name-making and often controversial Civil War exploits. Most importantly, Simpson shows in Grant the vital trait he shares with every great warrior-leader before or since: a hatred of warfare. War, said Grant, "is at all times a sad and cruel business... and nothing but imperative duty could induce me to engage in its work or witness its horrors." History Book Cub main selection. (Feb.)
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From Library Journal
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Ulysses S. Grant (Grant: A Biography), historian William McFeely portrayed the soldier-statesman-president as a liar, a battlefield butcher of men, and a racist. Sixteen years later, Geoffrey Perret's hagiographic work (Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President, LJ 7/97) cast Grant as an ethical, intelligent, and spiritually introspective man ill served by back-biting staff officers, incompetent field commanders, and self-aggrandizing political hacks. This balanced contribution from Simpson (The Reconstruction Presidents, LJ 6/15/98) offers a finely nuanced view of Grant as sometimes petty and vindictive, stubborn, partial to favorites, politically expedient, and willing to sacrifice principle in pursuit of results but nevertheless always the determined foe of slavery and Southern nationalism. The author dramatically traces his "triumph over adversity" theme through Grant's adolescence in Ohio, tenure at the Military Academy, tour of duty in the Mexican War, failed business ventures and exasperating domestic life, and grueling ascendancy to the pinnacle of the Union army and closes with his painful attempts to forestall Radical Republican legislation aimed at punishing the postwar South. The author's excellent afterword persuasively explains the complexities and seeming contradictions of his subject's character and genius. An auspicious beginning to Simpson's planned two-volume study; highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.
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---John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.