- Hardcover: 781 pages
- Publisher: American Political Biography Press; 1st APB Press Edition edition (July 1, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0945707428
- ISBN-13: 978-0945707424
- Package Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 2.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 307 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Grant Hardcover – July 1, 2014
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Smith makes a strong case that the financial scandals that dogged Grant's second term reflected individual misfeasance rather than structural malaise - Grant was better at judging military subordinates than political advisers. His mediation of the Hayes-Tilden election in 1876 helped avert a national crisis. As a conqueror who was also a healer of war's wounds, Grant stands with no superiors and few equals, Smith forcefully argues. --Publisher's Weekly, 2/12/01
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Grant's resilience was formed in the dark years before the Civil War. Prone to terrible financial luck, every business venture Grant's hand touched was undoubtedly cursed to fail. I was surprised to learn that before the war Grant spent years in poverty. Struggling to live and support his family, he spent hours a day selling fire wood on a street corner. These years molded Grant and prepared him for what was to come.
In battle Grant was resilient. In victory he was gracious. In peace he was principled. Much of Smith's account records the presidency of U. S. Grant (and while I was far more interested in the Civil War) I was pleased to learn that while not a great President, Grant was a good one. He improved relations with England, helped to rebuild the South, supported oppressed people groups (Native Americans & African Americans), and vetoed a dangerous inflationary bill. Much is made of the scandals and bribes that occurred throughout the Grant administration, and perhaps rightfully so. Grant's radical loyalty for his friends and simplistic trust of people proved destructive. However, flawed as he was, I cannot deny that Grant was just the man the United States needed--both during and after the war.
As to the biography itself, I was impressed with Smith's account. I found it to be very scholarly and yet easy to read. My complaints are too few maps, and I found certain parts before and after the war rather dull. All in all a very good--solid account.
In any case, the majority of the biography focuses on the civil war and Grant in the military. It begins in Mexico, covers his desititute years between the Mexican War and the Civil War, and then Grant's rise during the Civil War. While you never get to feel like you know who Grant is on a personal level, the writing lets you see the war Grant did, and just how steady and clear-headed Grant was. You also get the strong sense of honesty that was Grant's great strength, and in some ways, his weakness (he was betrayed in business so many times, I can't actually recall how many times it happened).
As an introduction to Grant, this gives you a good overview of all of Grant's failures and successes. It is interesting throughout, and I always wanted to keep reading more. Great man, great biography.
For me, the most insightful chapters came between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Grant's presidency. I had no idea how much animosity there was for Andrew Johnson among the military and members of Congress. His footnote in history is inevitably tied to his status as the first President ever impeached, but this book does an outstanding job of describing the background behind those soured relationships. It also shows how weak the office of the President was back then. Backed by Republicans in Congress and his own immense popularity, Grant was routinely able to defy his Commander-in-Chief on numerous occasions during Reconstruction. A military officer exhibiting similar defiance to a President today is simply unthinkable.
Finally, this book does a superb job of illuminating the character of Abraham Lincoln. After all that has been written about our greatest President, I did not think this possible, but sometimes the best insights to a personality come from books written about other people who knew him. I was continually struck by Lincoln's humility in his correspondence with Grant, offering "suggestions" that could just as easily have been direct orders, coming as they did from the Commander-in-Chief. The two men became friends in part because both had that unique thirst for success that comes from men who have experienced an abundance of failure. Grant was Lincoln's seventh commander to lead the Union's armies in the East. Lincoln was Grant's ultimate protector - someone who would let him do his job no matter how long it took. Each had faith in the other, and this is one of those very unique partnerships in American history that served the country so well (Roosevelt and Eisenhower/Truman and Marshall also come to mind).
There's something in this book for every interest - military, political, and personal.