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U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (Civil War America) Paperback – August 1, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
How does national memory determine national heroes? Waugh, a UCLA history professor, probes the subject in an engaging study of the making of Ulysses S. Grant's reputation. At the time of his death in 1885, he was perceived as on a level with George Washington by former Unionists and Confederates alike. His memoirs were a bestseller. His image combined the honorable soldier and the generous victor: a heroic war leader who believed in the ideal of national reconciliation in both regional and racial contexts. Even Grant's flaws were part of his greatness, linking him to his countrymen in a distinctively American fashion. That image began to change as lost cause romanticism nurtured reinterpreting the Civil War as not merely tragic but arguably unnecessary. The eclipse of this approach has restored Grant's reputation as a general. Now his presidency is the target of criticism: corrupt, ineffective and above all incomplete in terms of the racial issue. Waugh convincingly interprets Grant as symboliz[ing] both the hopes and the lost dreams of the Civil War. But while that war remains our defining—and dividing—event, Grant's image, Waugh says, will remain ambiguous. 69 illus., 3 maps. (Nov. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Brilliant and unsettling. . . . Part biography, part military history, part social chronicle charting the rise and fall of Grant's reputation, U.S. Grant is a sobering reminder of the vicissitudes of fame. . . . Waugh's well-researched and vibrantly written book . . . restores luster to a lost American hero.--The Chicago Tribune
A well-written and thoroughly researched examination of Ulysses S. Grant's place in public memory. . . . Waugh's enthusiasm for her subject is evident, resulting in an informative and richly detailed study. . . . An invaluable addition to the studies of our eighteenth president.--Southwestern Historical Quarterly
An engaging study of the making of Ulysses S. Grant's reputation. . . . Waugh convincingly interprets Grant as 'symboliz[ing] both the hopes and the lost dreams' of the Civil War.--Publishers Weekly
Throughout, Waugh's narrative is a sensitive and humane account that reveals the strength of combining biography and history, where the depth available in the former compellingly illuminates the larger trends and issues that define the latter.--Civil War Book Review
A fine book. General readers will find it engaging and enjoyable, and historians interested in the memory of the Civil War will find it essential.--The North Carolina Historical Review
As impressively distilled a brief for Grant as one is likely to find.--The Journal of American History
Elegant and wonderfully illustrated book. . . .Waugh's immersion in the literature of Civil War memory is considerable; she does not reinvent this historiography but rather pushes it into new territory with her subject. . . .Waugh's contribution is significant. She has fused the discussion of historical memory to biography and military history." --The Journal of Southern History
Exceptionally thoughtful and valuable. . . . [Written in] clear prose that is readily accessible to the serious general reader. . . . [A] fine study.--Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
The best kind of history: it is a search for truth, and one that deserves the widest possible readership.--Army History
Brings to vivid life a highly contentious political landscape. . . . A readable, worthwhile book which will be interesting to anyone with a desire to learn more about the process of historical memory--and about a forgotten man who deserves to be remembered.--The Journal of Military History
[A] vigorous and highly readable study--The Washington Times
The publication of this book is a major event in Civil War historiography. . . . Masterfully intertwines historical fact about Grant's life with the development of his reputation. . . . A wonderful book.--The Journal of Mississippi History
Engrossing. . . . Grant's full vindication . . . still awaits. But when it comes, we will better understand our complicated history, and historians and citizens will have Joan Waugh to thank for helping to make this belated illumination possible." Sean Wilentz, The New Republic on-line review
Joan Waugh adds fresh perspective on Grant and fills an important void in the scholarship….Waugh has produced a first-rate work that will go alongside other important books on Civil War memory…--Southern Historian
It is rare for readers to wish books to be longer, but this, to its great credit, is one such book.--Louisiana History
An outstanding book. Reminds us that 'cultural wars' are not a recent phenomenon. . . . By insightfully analyzing the myths, emotions, facts, and politics of the public memory of Grant, Waugh demonstrates the critical importance of defining the past.--H-Civil War
In an insightful blend of biography and cultural history, Joan Waugh's U.S. Grant traces Grant's shifting national and international reputation, illuminating the role of memory in our understanding of American history.--McCormick Messenger
An impressive book that will engage both the general reader intrigued by the American Civil War, as well as scholars interested in questions of memory and commemoration.--Journal of Illinois History
A well researched and scholarly work that Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy.--Library Journal
Waugh finds an interesting range of answers to a simple question: Who was Grant?"-The Associated Press
An excellent, tightly concise but full-life biography of Grant. . . . This is not . . . traditional history, or revisionist history, but rather an exquisite act of recounting and balancing those and other perspectives while drawing them all toward a greater understanding.--The Weekly Standard
Excellent. . . . [Has] much of value to offer. . . . As those interested in U.S. history, American studies, cultural studies, and the study of historical memory will quickly discover, in this book [Waugh] has done both Grant and us a great and precious service.--Civil War History
Waugh's love for her subject is palpable. Her story of Grant's last years of life, where he raced to complete his Memoirs before dying, is visceral.--RALPH
An impressive study using the techniques of history and memory. . . . Deserves to be at the top of anyone's list, scholar or general reader, interested in the Grant story. . . . Highly recommended.--Choice
This is a book that should be in any serious Civil War enthusiast's collection. Ms. Waugh writes in flowing prose that makes the pages fly by. There is plenty to learn for the casual reader and more than enough material to satisfy serious scholars of Ulysses S. Grant.--This Mighty Scourge
The definitive work detailing the eighteenth president's rise and fall in the American narrative.--The Review of Politics
Top customer reviews
The entire nation mourned Grant at his funeral in thousands of memorial services across the country yet it took 5 years for his mausoleum to begin construction. Its location in New York City was wildly controversial since it would not just be his final resting place but a national memorial to the great man. It was thought that a national memorial should be in the nation’s capital. It would take 7 more years for the mausoleum to be completed and over a million people attended the massive parade and dedication ceremony. Yet only 90,000 people contributed money to the construction of the memorial and most of those were New Yorkers. Ms Waugh explores all of this in detail and how, by the second decade of the 20th century, US Grant had faded in public memory and his esteem had fallen dramatically.
But this book is about much more than that. It covers his childhood, education at West Point, military career before the Civil War, his movement into civilian life, military career during the Civil War, his post war activities, his time as president, the often overlooked struggle for reconstruction and the writing of his classic autobiography. It examines the many myths surrounding him such as: Was he a drunk? Was he a failure at everything he did in civilian life before the war? Was he a butcher who threw away lives needlessly during the Civil War? Was he a corrupt president? The author covers all of this and does it in a very readable and entertaining way.
It is remarkable to me how poorly Ulysses Grant had been viewed by historians in the 20th century and that continues into the 21st century. In the Siena Institute ranking he moved from 35 in the 2002 survey to 26 in 2010. Still too low in my estimation but it shows that current historians, political scientists and presidential historians are being influenced by modern scholarship. However, in 2010 they listed Polk, Jackson, Cleveland, Van Buren and Arthur above him. That is way too high for those presidents and Grant should be rated much higher. Of all the surveys that are done to rate presidents Siena seems to survey the most credible sources but I still feel those sources are incorrect in their evaluations of many of the presidents. When historians are not focusing on Grant and reconstruction they overlook the tremendous effort Grant put into attempting to secure true freedom and unobstructed suffrage for the freedmen. This quote from Joseph Ellis’ “His Excellency George Washington” struck me. When discussing the extraordinary difficulty Washington faced when he first entered office Ellis writes, “Looking back over two hundred years of the American presidency, it seems safe to say that no one entered the office with more personal prestige than Washington, and only two presidents- Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt- faced comparable crises.” Well that overlooks the enormous personal prestige Grant enjoyed as the savior of the Union and the crises of reconstruction. I am so glad that Joan Waugh covers both of those topics in some detail.
Ulysses S Grant is in my top ten list of presidents and I think Professor Waugh does an excellent job of illustrating why that should be so. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Ulysses S Grant.
I guess I was looking for some new revelation on US Grant that I did not know but found no new information in her book.I am now 65 and have spent many year reading and studying the Civil War. My great grandfather and one of his brothers were privates in the 3rd Iowa Cavalry, another brother was in the 4th Iowa Cavalry, two great uncles on the other side were with the 3rd Wisconsin Light Artillery. An old collector gave me a copy of the 1st Edition of Grant's Memoirs to study when I wrote a term paper on Vicksburg as a college sophmore.
It has always been a mystery to me why Grant seems to be so poorly thought of when he accomplished so much both as a General and as a President in a very difficult time. I doubt any of the Presidents I have known could have done as well. He is truly the type of man that one could use as a model or example.
He had one short-coming and that is that he did not like and was not proficient at public speaking. I have wondered if this limitation is why he is not more favorable remembered-there are no famous speechs to quote.
As many other reviewers have mentioned, this book is not a strict biography of his life--Waugh clearly explains that and does not try to re-hash what has been extensively written about Grant by historians such as Brooks Simpson and Jean Edward Smith, to name a few. It is because Waugh looks at the historiography of Grant in a way that, almost surprisingly, has not been done that makes her account exciting and as I put it, timely. In addition, many other reviewers also have commented on Waugh's writing style; in addition to the exciting premise and dynamic scholarship, this is one of the most readable (with great pictures) page-turning history novels I have ever read.
All in all, as a graduate student studying American History, I've read many books on the Reconstruction time period and on Grant, and this is by far my favorite book on Grant and one of my favorite history books, period. For those who criticize the books favorable account on Grant, it is important to understand that this is so because of the historical truth--Grant was far from perfect, something that Waugh clearly states and that Grant states himself, but history verifies his good intentions and great actions in what he thought was best for America (and his under-appreciated advancement of civil rights) during an unprecedented time period. Overall, pick this book up and enjoy this stimulating account on one of the most interesting figures in history!