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VINE VOICEon November 13, 2011
There are certain people in the world who seem to achieve success no matter what obstacle is thrown in their way. Ulysses S. Grant is an example of this type person. Charles Bracelen Flood has chosen to focus on the final turbulent year of Grant's life. In doing so he paints a picture of Grant who despite many set backs in his last year of life rises above the occasion to yet again leave his mark on the world.

In the early 1880's Grant seemingly had the world in his hands. He was the victor of the Civil War, having defeated the great Robert E. Lee. He was the former president of the United States. He and his wife Julia moved to a nearly $100,000 townhouse in New York City after having returned from a yearlong tour of the world where he was met with adulation. He was a partner in the seemingly successful financial firm of Grant & Ward.

This partnership would be the financial undoing of Grant and many others as the 40% dividends that were being paid were lies. Grant had been caught in what now is called a Ponzi scheme. Author Flood does an admirable job of explaining what happened and the resulting fall out. Faced with financial ruin many offers came to Grant in his time of need. Attempts were made in Congress to restore Grant's rank of General (forfeited when he became President) that would allow him to receive pension benefits. Individuals from across the country sent donations to the Grant family, many of these coming from soldiers he had led in battle just a few years prior. Perhaps most important was Century Magazine and their offer to publish first hand war articles from Grant.

Unknown to Grant however was that his biggest challenge was yet to come. Cancer. Grant had been a cigar smoker for years and after finally going to the doctor for a pain in his throat was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the tongue. This diagnosis coupled with the Grant family financial situation set in motion the last great challenge of Grant's life.

Here, author Charles Flood does an excellent job of describing the struggles of Grant's last year. Eventually Grant decides he must write his memoirs in order to take care of his debts and to provide income for Julia. He finally decides on a company owned by Mark Twain to publish his work. The rest of the book traces the painful journey of Grant's last months. With the help of others he wrote on average 750 words a day despite his worsening condition that forced a move to the private cottage of Joseph Drexel at Saratoga Springs, NY. In the face of his declining health he completed his work just three days before passing away on July 23, 1885.

In my view Flood leaves it to the reader to decide what is Grant's REAL final victory. Was it finishing his memoirs before cancer was able to take his life? Perhaps it was being able to repay his obligations and also leave income for his wife and family? His memoirs eventually brought the Grant family over $600,000. Could it have been the respect and admiration shown to the General from soldiers and civilians from both sides of the "late unpleasantness"? Possibly it is just the story of triumph over adversity? I highly suggest reading this book and make your own determination.

This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Those interested in the Civil War and it's participants will no doubt find this of interest. Those with an interest in Presidential history should take a look as well. For readers who like an uplifting story with a positive message this is a book for you. For book clubs there is much to discuss and Grant's Final Victory would make an ideal read.
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VINE VOICEon October 6, 2011
An affecting story of U.S. Grant's productive months before dying of cancer.

While no new factual ground is plowed, this book by the capable Charles Bracelen Flood reminds one of (or introduces one to) the importance of General Grant's life. It also serves to underscore the value of both personal character and a supportive family and friends in responding to life's body blows. Here, after being at the pinnacle of fame and success, the former president found himself dead broke and under a scandalous financial scheme's cloud. He quietly fought back, even though stricken with a wasting disease, by writing one of the clearest and best of military memoirs.

General Grant's reputation has enjoyed a resurgence over the past decade and this book will add still further support to those of us who think of him as one of our country's most decent, effective, and important historical figures.
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on October 22, 2011
I really knew nothing about Grant as a person when I started this book. It provides a huge amount of insight as to what he was thinking and doing throughout his life, but selectively to suit the purposes of covering the last year.

What surprised me the most was the tremendous outpouring of popular support and love for the man. We get so used to politicians (after all, he was President) being reviled during and after they leave office that it is remarkable to read about the newspaper stories, banquets, ceremonies, etc. He was revered and beloved, even after the scandals of his administration. The book left me interested in reading more about that era.
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on November 23, 2011
The period of Grant's life captured in "Grant's Final Victory" was timely for me, having recently finished "General Ulysses S. Grant: The Soldier and the Man" (unfortunately, neither provides the details of his years as president). I read Flood's Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War , and while I thought it contrived to support the premise, I enjoyed reading it. Likewise, I enjoyed his treatment of Grant's final years.

Flood's portrayal of the successful Civil War figure racing to document his memoirs and provide for his family before cancer takes him was personal and touching. He presents a very human side of his protagonist. The reader is introduced to Grant's immediate family - wife Julia, sons Fred, Buck and Jesse and their families, Grant's caretakers and close friends. Period "celebrities", such as Mark Twain and Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Civil War alumni, such as Sherman and Longstreet, also appear, along with hordes of the everyman. I had not previously realized Grant's universal popularity across the North as well as the South and internationally.

My perception of Grant was reinforced by "Final Victory": he was a good - but not great - man, unremarkable; but yet with some qualities that were perfect for the time and place. While his pre-war and post-war political and professional accomplishments were by no means stellar, his Civil War reputation and his personal characteristics were worthy of the admiration bestowed upon him. Yet the reader does not get the full essence of the man, and, in my opinion, not understanding his foibles and weaknesses actually diminishes one's appreciation of him.

"Grant's Finally Victory" is certainly a well-written look at the last chapter of Grant's life, and while enjoyable, it certainly does not capture his record. It is best enjoyed as a complement to other Grant biographies or accounts of his war exploits. Yet the title leaves no doubt as to its time-boxed coverage, thus I have to rate Flood's book highly.
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The basic outline of this story are well-known: in the last years of his life Grant suffered fatal throat cancer and labored mightly to complete his two-volume memoirs in order to provide financially for his family after his death. The details, as researched by Charles Bracelen Flood and revealed in this compelling account, are fascinating.

Several elements of the Grant story parallel events in our own time. Grant and his extended family were brought to financial ruin by Ferdinand Ward, the "Young Napoleon of Wall Street," and the Bernie Madoff of his day. Madoff's financial skullduggery, and its impact on his victims, is essentially a re-play of the Ward saga. One of those "the more things change, the more they remain the same" experiences.

I also recommend the book for its poignant recounting of the tremendous admiration and respect the nation had for Grant. And that includes former Confederate leaders who were always grateful for Grant's magnanimity in his treatment of Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. I learned that Grant played a prominent role during and after the Civil War in re-uniting the nation
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on December 7, 2011
This is an excellent account of Grant's last year of life. It does include some information from earlier in his life, too. It is not a long book. I found it a compelling story. Charles Bracelen Flood does an excellent job revealing the very human side of U.S. Grant and the context of the times in which he lived. As a child of the South, I realized that I had never been taught anything about Grant. I bought the book for my brother who reads history all the time. I decided to read it myself before passing it on to him. I am glad that I did. I recommend it to anyone who wants a fuller picture of a critical time in American history and one of the people who shaped a significant part of it.
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on November 9, 2011
You do not have to be a Civil War buff for Charles Bracelen Flood's books.This is the second one of his that I read in a day! That should say it all. Intriguing, extremely well-researched, yet written with a flowing style and eloquence. I have a deeper understanding of U.S. Grant ; his personal greatness, strength and dignity , even in the throes of cancer , still pressing on to complete his writings.

This book would even inspire teen-agers and young adolescents . Real life filled with courage and determination without anger and resentment.
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on January 9, 2012
I enjoyed the chance to get a glimpse of General Grant's struggles in the last year and a half of his life. The term "heroic last year" hardly does him justice. I have wondered about the authorship of parts of the Memoirs, although in reading them I certainly got a sense of the man as I think only he could have revealed. Having read Mr Flood's Grant and Sherman I felt he somewhat filled up this book with lengthy passages from that book, but still found the new information useful.
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on October 7, 2012
This is the seventh non-fiction book that I've read concerning U.S. presidents in the last year and it ranks right up there with books about Presidents' Garfield, Cleveland, Mckinley, T. Roosevelt and FDR. Author Charles Bracelen Flood penned equally as well as his fellow historians Candice Millard, Scott Miller, and James Bradley did. In fact this book was so well written that I felt like I was part of General Grant's inner circle. This book is a attention grabber that doesn't let you go and fills the reader with sympathy and admiration for the General and his family during his last year of life.

I'm sure most Americans didn't know that General Grant was a victim of a early Ponzi scheme, shortly after serving his second term as President of the United States and just before he was stricken with throat and mouth cancer. Did he really smoke twenty five cigars a day? Grant's son Buck had worked on Wall Street in finance with Misters' Ward and Fish. These people formed a investment banking firm with the General even though Grant knew nothing about the business. But Ward and Fish knew they could draw in many investors using the General's name. They did, but they bankrupted the company and left the General broke just as he found out that he had cancer. Suddenly he was destitute and dying! How would his family survive? He didn't even have a military pension since he waived his right to it when he became President of the United States and there wasn't a pension for that job at the time. Can you believe that?

Grant started writing articles about his Civil War campaigns for the Century Magazine to earn some money for his family. It was later suggested by the magazine that he write his 'Personal Memoirs', but it became apparent that Grant's stipend wasn't fair. To the rescue comes the great writer Mark Twain! He has his own publishing firm, Webster and company, that publishes his own novels. He offers a generous deal that will make his family well-to-do after Grant passes. The race is on...can Grant finish this two volume memoir before he dies? He hunkers down at his house on three east sixty-sixth street in Manhattan and starts the task. One thing I learned reading this book is that Grant was a very loyal and trusting man, which is why he had so many scandals when he was President ( how about eleven? ). He was such a fair man that he insisted General Lee and his officers not be tried for treason after they surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. I wonder what Grant would have thought about Mark Twain had he found out that Twain was a deserter from the Confederate States of America? We will never know.

As an symbolic progenitor for a young America, Grant refused financial help from people like William H. Vanderbilt, the richest man in America, and P.T. Barnum because his pride deemed that he earn every dollar on his own. Grant was truly a honorable and dependable man. As a ex-Marine I say "Semper Fi, General". I enjoyed the anecdotes pertaining to his Civil War soldier friends on both sides. The recollections of Grant's granddaughter Julia was both informative and enjoyable. As the final chapters close on Grant, he moves to Mt. McGregor in Saratoga, NY to finish his memoirs relying heavily on his doctors and his son Fred to finish the books. This book is a must for any Civil War historian or strategist. If you want to read a top-notch book that is both somber and intense, then this is it!
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on March 4, 2012
In 1884 Ulysses S. Grant, the general who won the Civil War and the sixteenth President of the United States, fell victim to a financial swindle and had nearly lost everything. He lost his entire fortune and that of many of his family members as well. He was broke. A few months later he was diagnosed with tongue and throat cancer which would prove fatal. He died July 23, 1885.

Charles Bracelen Flood details Grant's last year in his book, "Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year." Beginning with the financial collapse of the investment banking firm of Grant and Ward (in which Grant was a partner, but had no active role in its day to day business operations), Mr. Flood's well written, linear narrative moves to his diagnosis of terminal tongue and throat cancer, and finally to the writing of his memoir, the proceeds of which, being posthumously published, would later restore the Grant family's fortune.

Grant, most modern American's would likely be surprised to learn, was the most popular person in America during the nineteenth century; more popular even than Abraham Lincoln. His financial misfortune made headlines across the country, and shortly thereafter his terminal diagnosis, and his race with death to complete his memoirs, would also make headlines. The eyes of the public, North and South, friend and former foe alike were cast upon the General, and former President, in a macabre death watch, as he worked to finish his memoirs.

Four days after finishing his memoir, Grant died surrounded by family. Published after his death, by his friend Mark Twain, Grant's memoir is looked upon today as a literary classic, and Mr. Flood demonstrates Grant's steadfast determination in completing his memoir combined with his honesty in dealing with his vanquished foe, Robert E. Lee, at Appomattox Court House, and his bravery during the war and in facing his own death, helped bind up the wounds of the nation as it came together to mourn his passing.

"Grant's Final Victory" is the thirteenth book written by Charles Bracelen Flood, who has also authored the bestselling "Lee: The Last Years" and "Grant and Sherman." It is a very well researched book and is written in a style that is easily read. In the one hundred fifty years since the outbreak of the Civil War there have been many books written about Grant, and "Grant's Final Victory" is certainly one of the finest.
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