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This authoritative biography of an obscure failure and occasional drunkard who became a Civil War generalissimo and the 18th U. S. president is a study in two kinds of moral courage. The first infused Grant's military leadership with decisiveness, confidence in his own judgment, and a usually well-calculated willingness to gamble men's lives on risky maneuvers. The second inspired his presidency to a principled and effective support of the rights of freedmen in the South (sometimes at bayonet point) that politically consolidated the war's fragile verdict. Unfortunately, Grant's judgment failed him on business matters, from bad horse trades in his youth to the loss of his fortune in old age to a Wall Street ponzi scheme-and failed the nation's economy when his tight money policies exacerbated the depression of the 1870s. This new biography by University of Texas-Austin history professor Brands (Traitor to His Class) is comprehensive but well-paced and vividly readable; his narrative of Grant's military campaigns in particular is lucid, colorful, and focused on telling moments of decision. His Grant emerges as an immensely appealing figure-though except for a wartime outburst of anti-Semitism, later repented, which the author relates-with a keen mind, stout character, and unpretentious manner. The result is a fine portrait of the quintessential American hero. Photos. Agent: req. (Oct. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War general and two-term president, has been the subject of much historical scholarship, with historians often awarding Grant higher praise for his military than his political career. In this extremely sympathetic portrait, Pulitzer finalist Brands (Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History, Univ. of Texas at Austin; Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) treats Grant's entire life, showing its full arc. He breaks with earlier interpretations to give Grant good marks for his presidential leadership, concluding that Grant did the best he could in trying circumstances, particularly in the area of civil and minority rights. VERDICT This is a well-researched and comprehensive study-much broader in scope than, e.g., Edward H. Bonekemper's Ulysses S. Grant: A Victor, Not a Butcher: The Military Genius of the Man Who Won the Civil War-as well as an engaging book. Essential for both popular readers and scholars. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12.]-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
With the Grant-biography market full of scholarly works by William McFeely, Brooks Simpson, and Jean Edward Smith, Brands' entry, like Geoffrey Perret's Ulysses S. Grant (1997), is designed for a wide readership. Synthesized from basic sources, such as Grant's memoirs, and informed by Brands' knowledge of nineteenth-century American history, about which he's written numerous popular titles, the narrative straightforwardly presents Grant's life, from his boyhood love of horses to his stoical perseverance in finishing his memoirs during his terminal illness in 1885. From extensive quotation of his correspondence, Brands depicts his devotion to his wife, Julia, and friction with his father, for whom, at the nadir of his life in the 1850s, when he was forced to resign his officer's commission, he was reduced to working. These sections well prepare the reader for the vertiginous reversal in Grant's fortunes during the Civil War. Opining on matters for which critics attacked Grant (being surprised at the Battle of Shiloh, scandals during his presidency), Brands' able portrayal captures the immense popularity that enveloped him in both life and posterity.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist