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American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 4, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: So who is buried in Grant’s tomb, anyway? That’s an old and insipid joke, of course, but considering what we think we know about the 18th President of the United States, a question worth asking might be hiding in there. With American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald C. White endeavors over 800 pages (over 100 them being notes referencing primary and secondary sources) to shed light on one of our most influential yet enigmatic figures. This isn’t a revisionist biography; Grant already got that treatment in the early 20th century, when he transformed from a respected Civil War general and public servant into a craven opportunist and failed president, drunk and penniless at his death (just try imagining a destitute former POTUS in this era). White, author of the award-winning bestseller, A. Lincoln: A Biography, first redresses criticisms of his martial prowess—primarily that he exploited a huge numbers advantage by needlessly sacrificing troops in exchange for victory—with detailed accounts, maps, and illustrations of his conflicts, limning a battlefield acumen previously diminished through ad hominem barbs. White resuscitates Grant’s career as a public servant through his presidency and beyond—he was a defender of equal rights and an enemy of the Ku Klux Klan--by placing in the context of the complex postbellum landscape, where the war may have been won but the country was hardly whole. Serious, exhaustive, and likely definitive, American Ulysses is a tricky meld of comprehensive research and readable narrative, worthy of the pantheon of monumental presidential biographies. —Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review
“White delineates Grant’s virtues better than any author before. . . . By the end, readers will see how fortunate the nation was that Grant went into the world—to save the Union, to lead it and, on his deathbed, to write one of the finest memoirs in all of American letters.”—T.J. Stiles, The New York Times Book Review
“Ronald White has restored Ulysses S. Grant to his proper place in history with a biography whose breadth and tone suit the man perfectly. Like Grant himself, this book will have staying power.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Superb . . . illuminating, inspiring and deeply moving . . . The Grant we meet in American Ulysses is richly deserving of a fuller understanding and of celebration for the man he was and the legacy he left us.”—Chicago Tribune
“American political thinking has a way of coalescing around concepts that hold the public’s attention for a time, then fade. ‘Temperament,’ for example, is on many tongues this election season, after years of not being much on anyone’s mind. That may be why [American Ulysses] seems especially relevant. . . . [Ronald C. White] portrays a deeply introspective man of ideals, a man of measured thought and careful action who found himself in the crosshairs of American history at its most crucial moment.”—USA Today
“Magisterial . . . Grant’s esteem in the eyes of historians has increased significantly in the last generation. . . . [American Ulysses] is the newest heavyweight champion in this movement.”—The Boston Globe
“A game-changing biography . . . of one of the most consequential figures in American history.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“In this sympathetic, rigorously sourced biography, White . . . conveys the essence of Grant the man and Grant the warrior. . . . [Grant] deserved better from posterity, and from White he gets it.”—Newsday
“With American Ulysses, White has made a bold new case for immediate reconsideration of its subject on many levels. . . . His effort more than pays off with a fresh, detailed look at a man who, in his lifetime, saw a medal cast with the images of Washington, Lincoln and himself. And that’s pretty damn good company.”—Houston Press
“A fresh, friendly reassessment [of the] . . . military hero who became his country’s leader.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Ronald C. White has written a biography for the ages.”—Real Clear Books
“Certain to be recognized as the classic work on Ulysses S. Grant, American Ulysses is a monumental examination of one of the most compelling figures in American history.”—General David H. Petraeus (Ret.)
“In this thorough and engaging new book, Ronald C. White restores Ulysses S. Grant to the pantheon of great Americans. As a soldier and a president, Grant rendered his nation invaluable service, and White’s epic biography is invaluable as well.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A fresh assessment of this enigmatic leader, who, like his Homeric namesake, failed at many things before he succeeded in life. . . . . [White] ably [portrays] a sense of the transformation of his subject from civilian to soldier and, from there, to reluctant hero. . . . An engaging resurrection of Grant featuring excellent maps and character sketches.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A remarkable biography of a remarkable life . . . [White’s] style is fluid and engaging. . . . His mastery of history is clear on every page.”—Publishers Weekly
“This thoughtful and sympathetic portrayal will be appreciated by Civil War enthusiasts and readers of presidential history alike.”—Library Journal
“[A] necessary and large-scale reevaluation of one of America’s greatest—and most underappreciated—presidents.”—Brooklyn Magazine
“Bestselling author and historian Ronald C. White combines exemplary scholarship and storytelling in this monumental and well-illustrated re-evaluation of an extraordinary character, life and career. . . . [An] inspiring biography.”—Shelf Awareness
“White at last solves the Grant Enigma—reconciling in character and ability the hero of Appomattox with the (allegedly) failed president. This is the biography that Grant deserves.”—Richard Norton Smith, former director of the Lincoln, Reagan, Eisenhower, Ford, and Hoover presidential libraries
“Ronald C. White is a master biographer, and his American Ulysses is the beautifully told culmination of a major revival of Grant studies; rarely has an epic life met so fruitfully with its talented author.”—David W. Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: A Life
“In the generations after his death in 1885, Grant’s reputation as a general and president spiraled downward until a current generation of biographers and historians has persuasively resurrected it. American Ulysses represents a culmination of that process.”—James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“Ronald C. White’s superb new study of Ulysses S. Grant completes the vindication of one of the greatest Americans. More than biography, American Ulysses is a revelation.”—Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy
“With this sweeping, exhaustively researched biography, Ronald C. White has done justice to the remarkable life and turbulent times of Ulysses S. Grant.”—Joan Waugh, author of U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth
“Ronald C. White’s extensive earlier work on Lincoln prepared him to capture Lincolnian elements in Grant that many have missed: quiet charisma, measured confidence, concern for equal rights, and unusual literary skill. White’s own writing talent makes this book impossible to put down.”—Richard Wightman Fox, author of Lincoln’s Body
“This refreshingly new comprehensive study of a genuine American hero rises above overworked analyses of Ulysses S. Grant.”—Frank J. Williams, president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association
“No one reading this marvelously researched and superbly written book will ever again be able to see U. S. Grant as other than a great person.”—John F. Marszalek, executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association’s Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library
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Top Customer Reviews
Ronald C. White Jr. based this biography, in a large part, on all 33 volumes of "The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant". Even though I have read countless other Grant biographies, and Grant's own wonderful memoirs several times over, "American Ulysses" was full of surprises and new insights. Grant's relationship with his wife, Julia, and his entire family, is depicted in great detail. The author's in-depth treatment clearly reveals that Grant's marriage, family, and loyal friends were his anchor during the personal and professional challenges he weathered.
Mr. White's description of Grant's accomplishments (and frustrations) while serving under President Andrew Johnson was eye-opening. And both terms of Grant's presidency are given vivid, accurate, and (thankfully) unbiased detail. Likewise, the section on Grant's world tour was a treasure, and I found myself grateful that fate had finally given this untiring servant of the people a gift for himself.
Near the end of the book, there were tears in my eyes when reading about Grant's last day. Mr. White not only brought Ulysses alive for me, but, more than that, helped me to see him as if he was my own friend. For that, I am extremely grateful. Surely, however, the author's greatest accomplishment is that he has given present and future generations of historians and scholars the definitive tome on the life of Ulysses S. Grant. And for that, the world is extremely grateful.
While I've learned the real history since then, I probably had not learned it in such an in-depth way that Ronald White presents here.
This is of course a Grant-focused biography. Gettysburg gets a sentence or two, while the Vicksburg campaign gets a chapter - but that gives a deep look into aspects of the Civil War I barely knew or had long forgotten. White does a great job giving lots of details while never feeling overwhelming the reader.
White's narrative is totally readable and engaging. This is not a "dry and academic" history (not that there's anything wrong with that in proper setting) but an exciting and poignant and epic biography of an overlooked giant of American history. The "revisionist historians" of yesteryear marginalized Grant - because they were motivated to present a racist and white supremacist worldview - and a biography like this is a chance to revise it back.
In school, I had also "learned" that Grant was essentially an accidental president, put up by the era's powerbrokers as someone they successfully manipulated - again, not a true version of history. While Grant's presidential administration had it's share of scandals, both personal and professional, White gives enough context so they make sense in the 1870s standards of behavior. More importantly, Grant's consistent attempts at supporting the freedmen were often stymied by the Democratic politicians of the time (including the odious Andrew Johnson), and while he did his general best, the people of the US weren't up to it - the choices made in the 1870-90s represents our nation's darkest hour, and it's no wonder revisionists try to hide that era's evil.But Grant was always big, it's the country that was small.
I read the kindle version and there were several transcription errors -- in the first few pages 1600 dates often showed up as 1800s and in the Mexican war story of Grant having his men haul a cannon up to the roof we went from knocking on the door to watching our shots fall among the enemy. I know Amazon does ebook updates and hopefully these are on the short list for repair (though frankly these are very minor items).
The author provides extensive notes an an excellent bibliography.
I highly recommend the book,