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Ulysses S. Grant : Memoirs and Selected Letters : Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant / Selected Letters, 1839-1865 (Library of America) Hardcover – October 1, 1990

4.7 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

While the complete writings of this pair of Civil Warriors would fill several shelves, the material contained in this two-volume boxed set offers a good selection of their letters and personal reminiscences. Though both of these men are certainly not the most inspirational figures of American history, as two of the paladins of the Union Army, however, Grant and Sherman offer firsthand insights into the waging of the war that cannot be found elsewhere. As historical documents, the significance of these papers is obvious, but the texts also score high points for the quality of the writing itself; Sherman's reflections were hailed by Mark Twain as "a model narrative that will last as long as the language lasts." The hub of the material, of course, focuses on the war years, but Sherman's volume also contains memoirs of his pre-Civil War life in California, and unique to this edition is the inclusion of 175 of Grant's personal letters. More than a reprint of readily available material, these volumes include the same scrupulously detailed notes on the text by recognized scholars that make the Library of America editions superior to their predecessors. This fine set belongs in most history collections. Highly recommended.
- Michael Rogers, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Perhaps the most revelatory autobiography of high command to exist in any language. -- John Keegan

Ulysses S. Grant wrote his Personal Memoirs as he was dying of throat cancer in order to secure his family's financial future. In doing so, the Civil War's greatest general, and who went on to become President of the United States, won himself a unique place in American letters. His character, sense of purpose, and simple compassion are evident through this deeply moving account, as well as in the letters to his wife, Julia, included here. Ulysses S. Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters is published on acid free paper to insure longevity and is a wonderful addition to any academic, personal or public library collection. -- Midwest Book Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1199 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (October 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940450585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940450585
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Connor on August 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Grant's Personal Memoirs and Selected Letters 1839-1865 Library of America Edition
This is one of the most important books written an American. There is something huge and seething about these memoirs. To be sure it is not from the cool tone; Grant was old fashioned in that way, and these are not confidential memoirs. This is the story about a down at the heels middle-aged man working as a clerk in Galena, Illinios shop when the Civil War started and how that man would become the nation's first four star general. But don't think of this as a success story in the ordinary sense. This lucid and clear story is one not of a man's success but of a nation's torment. Throughout the book Grant goes out of his way to praise his subordinates for his successes. Grant's modesty however does not obscure or hide his ability. There are many reasons why Grant was the best general of the Civil War, but one that is often overlooked is that Grant wrote the best orders. We know from others that he would haunch over his desk for hours writing. These orders, some of which are included in the autobiography, are models are concise and breviloquent writing. From these orders we can tell that he was involved in every element of his troop's victories and defeats. Grant gave great attention to details, and was meticulous in his preparations, and planning.
There are a number of editions of Grant's "Personal Memoirs" in print, but I am recommending the Library of America edition because it contains the Report of Lieutentant-General U. S. Grant of the Untied States Armies dated July 22, 1865 and a selection of his letters. The letters to his family are particularly valuable because they show Grant at his most personal and intimate.
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Format: Hardcover
I originally read this book as part of a Masters Level History course at the University Of New Orleans (I wasn't in the program, I just took the class for fun). 2 months, and hours and hours of research later, I turned in a 22 page book report.

This is one of the best 'autobiographies' that you will ever read, as well as one of the finest books on the Civil War.

Grant was poor, having lost most of his money on poor financial decisions, when he set out to write this. He undertook the project as a way to provide for his wife, however after beginning the writing process, he grew to like it, and his 'memoirs' evolved into a classic.

One should note, that this book is really his memoirs about the Civil War. There are only a couple dozen pages dedicated to his childhood and West Point years.

Through his memoirs, one gets a better glimpse into the decision making of the general that they called a butcher. On his decision to assault Vicksburg in 1963, Grant wrote "There was no telling how long a seige might last. ...it was the beginning of the hot season.... There was no telling what the casulaties might be among Northern troops working and living in trenches". Grant understood war. He understood that most deaths weren't caused by bullets, but by desease. He also understood that in a battle of attrition, the North would prevail.

This is not to say that there aren't any flaws in this book. As with all memoirs, certain accounts can be a little self-serving. Grant's accounts of Cold Harbor and Shiloh are somewhat different then James McPherson and Shelby Foote would have you believe, and in fact in describing his actions at Shiloh he almost contradicts himself. Over all though Grant's writing reveals a very humble person.
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Format: Hardcover
Grant's memoirs are the greatest books in American literature. Gore Vidal, Gertrude Stein and other literary figures have acknowledged their preeminence. Even if you know or care nothing about the American Civil War, these books are essential reading for any educated person. Grant wrote simply, yet beautifully, and he was dying in agony of throat cancer when he penned these books. The story of the writing of the Memoirs is one of the most amazing and courageous tales in American history. Imagine racing against death to complete an epic story, the proceeds of which would provide for his family after his death. What an amazing man!
This edition of Grant's memoirs is wonderful because the appendix contains several hundred letters he wrote over the years. Most of these missives were written to his wife, Julia, and they shed an enormous light upon this shy man's character. Grant's letters show him to have been a tremendously gentle, decent man, with a great sense of humor and profound love in his heart for his wife and family.
This is an excellent edition, which will bring to you only one of the greatest books written in the English language, but also a selection of Grant's letters. Both make for engrossing, gripping reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Encompassing Grant's entry into West Point, his participation in the war with Mexico, and the surrender of General R.E. Lee in 1865, Grant's memoirs are an outstanding first-person look at American history. Most significant are Grant's strategic overview of his Civil War commands, his interaction with superiors and subordinates, and his tactical decision making processes. But, do not look for frontline battlefield blow-by-blow. Grant commanded from a distance and, thus, describes from one, too. His view is decidedly birds eye.

While Library of America is a fine publisher, their uniform page size does not lend itself to the reproduction of maps. One can go blind vainly attempting to decipher the maps included in this edition. This just doesn't fly in a Civil War memoir and so I deduct a star from what is, otherwise, an outstanding piece of American narrative history. 4 stars.
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