U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

By Joan Waugh
U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

Started reading: 7th December 2010
Finished reading: 30th December 2010

Review

Rating: 9

This is one of the most illuminating books I have read in a long time.

To his contemporaries, U.S. Grant was a human titan. More than any one person (perhaps even Lincoln), was responsible for the preservation of the United States during the Civil War. He was the victorious general, the subduer of the South, and the magnanimous victor at Appomatix courthouse. For these reasons, he was consistently ranked in the holy trinity of great presidents: 1. George Washington, Father of the Nation, 2. Abraham Lincoln, Savior of the Union, 3. Ulysses S. Grant, Defender of Freedoms.

Yet, for all the esteem in which he was held during his own time, U.S. Grant has come to be regarded as an incompetent simpleton, butcher, and failed president. This book explains how such a dramatic shift in perception has occurred, and why it may be one of the grossest injustices of history.

It also introduces one of history’s most interesting personages.

Grant was a common man who rose from humble beginnings and overcame a great deal of personal adversity. He knew what it was to struggle, fail, and to suffer at the hands of friends and family. And yet, he was still rose, with all of his baggage, to accomplish great and noble things. If there was ever a president that was “misunderestimated,” it was U.S. Grant.

Over the course of the book, I found my opinion of Grant doing a 180 degree flip. Whereas I bought into many of the stereotypes, I have come to realize that most of my assumptions were wrong. Horribly, deeply, and unfairly wrong. Grant was a truly remarkable person, and I should fairly rank amongst the greatest Americans in history. (And the fact that he was nearly removed from the $50 dollar bill in favor of Ronald Reagan is simply criminal.)

His life is inspirational, and the story of his death and memory highlight the importance of historical vigilance. Thus, for making me think and reconsider my own biases, this book comes highly recommended.