If there ever was a time when our country needed a genuine hero, today might rival any other time. There's a real darkness that pervades our pathetic politics -- with too few figures to lift our nation's psyche. Looking back over 150 years ago in the early 1860's, we can now see a past that was proving prologue. The United States experiment was evaporating into excruciating animosity. "The South" wanted out. Blood was running in the streets and fields. No one seemed capable of turning the tides. Until Grant.
In the past five years, there have been at least two epic books written about Ulysses W. Grant. And yet now, another by Ron Chernow Why Grant? The man is the perfect hero. Someone who grew up from deep obscurity in the middle of nowhere. A brilliant strategist who humbled even the best of foes. In fact, a person dedicated to humility -- and to simply "doing the right thing" regardless. But maybe one of the most important factors for Chernow was that over 50 thousand "Grant's papers" were recently released in 32 rather massive volumes for historians to pour over -- all chock full of new insights about this fascinating man.
Chernow is a terrific storyteller. He starts at square one. And leads you through over 60 years of American history in 960 pages. So if you're thinking of curling up with a good book for the entire winter, this could be your best bet! And what would you learn? How some persevere against all odds. Why Grant has been rightly compared in the same breath with Napoleon. Why Robert E. Lee never had a chance. Why Lincoln was saved at last by an ex "tanner boy". Why Washington could be called the creator of The U.S. -- and Grant earned credit for preserving it. How to succeed by taking the high ground when dealing with intractable issues like ending slavery. How to breed endless loyalty, especially with one's partner in life.
But on loyalty, if Grant had a short suit, it was being blindly loyal to a few who deserved less. Against stiff head winds of reality, Grant would simply not be able to see the bad sides of certain "friends"... friends who ended up fleecing him mercilessly. Another fault line Chernow mines is Grant's genetic inability to drink. Evidently, even the smallest dose of evil drink would turn Grant tipsy -- which gave his detractors endless opportunities to try to cut him down and drown him. Grant always came up for air, and he eventually mastered an ability to "just say no". Unlike other books on Grant, Chernow exposes all of this tendency to imbibe faithfully and fully -- something even Grant didn't do in his classic 1885 two volume Memoirs.
So get the book. Read what Walt Whitman waxes poetic. What Frederick Douglass has to say. And how Mark Twain saved Grant's legacy in the end. Grant truly is a towering figure in world history. Just don't try to compare him to today's frightful lack of true heroes -- particularly Presidential ones.
Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.
Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members.
More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.” After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.
With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic... and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant's lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America's greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.
Named one of the best books of the year by Goodreads •Amazon • The New York Times• Newsday• BookPage • Barnes and Noble • Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Ron Chernow is the prizewinning author of six previous books and the recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. His first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award, Washington: A Life won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and Alexander Hamilton—the inspiration for the Broadway musical—won the George Washington Book Prize. A past president of PEN America, Chernow has been the recipient of eight honorary doctorates. He resides in Brooklyn, New York.
“This is a good time for Ron Chernow’s fine biography of Ulysses S. Grant to appear… As history, it is remarkable, full of fascinating details sure to make it interesting both to those with the most cursory knowledge of Grant’s life and to those who have read his memoirs or any of several previous biographies… For all its scholarly and literary strengths, this book’s greatest service is to remind us of Grant’s significant achievements at the end of the war and after, which have too long been overlooked and are too important today to be left in the dark… As Americans continue the struggle to defend justice and equality in our tumultuous and divisive era, we need to know what Grant did when our country’s very existence hung in the balance. If we still believe in forming a more perfect union, his steady and courageous example is more valuable than ever.”—Bill Clinton, New York Times Book Review
“Grant is vast and panoramic in ways that history buffs will love. Books of its caliber by writers of Chernow’s stature are rare, and this one qualifies as a major event…. Chernow is clearly out to find undiscovered nobility in his story, and he succeeds; he also finds uncannily prescient tragedy. There are ways in which Grant’s times eerily resemble our own…Indispensable.”—The New York Times
“Chernow tells all this rapidly and well; his talent is suited to Grant’s story… He is extraordinarily good on what could be called, unpejoratively, the Higher Gossip of History—he can uncannily detect the actual meaning beneath social interactions… Fluent and intelligent.”—Adam Gopnik, New Yorker “Marvelous…. Chernow’s biography gives us a deep look into this complicated but straightforward man, and into a troubled time in our history that still echoes today.”—Thomas E. Ricks, Foreign Policy
“Chernow rewards the reader with considerable life-and-times background, clear-eyed perspective, sympathy that stops short of sycophancy, and gritty and intimate details.”—The Boston Globe
“A triumph: a sympathetic but clear-eyed biography that will be the starting point for all future studies of this enigmatic man… Chernow [is] one of the finest biographical writers in American history.”—Foreign Affairs
“Ron Chernow's monumental biography of the 18th president is essential to understanding our race-conscious nation today.”—Bloomberg
“Ron Chernow...has written an expansive new life of Grant. It is a work of striking anecdotes, skillful pacing, and poignant judgments.”—David W. Blight, The New York Review of Books
“Arriving at a moment when excitable individuals and hysterical mobs are demonstrating crudeness in assessing historical figures, Chernow’s book is a tutorial on measured, mature judgment…. Chernow’s ‘Grant’ is a gift to a nation much in need of measured judgments about its past.”—George Will, The Washington Post
“Chernow’s Grant is as relevant a modern figure as his Hamilton. His Grant is a reminder that the very best American leaders can be, and should be, self-made, hard-working, modest for themselves and ambitious for their nation, future-looking, tolerant, and with a heart for the poor ....Chernow turns the life of yet another misunderstood figure from U.S. currency into narrative gold.”—Slate
“Eminently readable but thick with import... Grant hits like a Mack truck of knowledge.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
“Ron Chernow’s biography reminds our 21st-century selves of the distinction between character and personality.”—National Review
“Chernow’s special gift is to present a complete and compelling picture of his subjects. His biographies do not offer up marble deities on a pedestal; he gives us flesh and blood human beings and helps us understand what made them tick. Just as he did with George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Chernow brings Ulysses S. Grant to life. At the end of the book, the reader feels as if he knows the man…. A magnificent book… ….This is richly rewarding and compelling reading.”—Christian Science Monitor
“In 1948, a survey of historians ranked Ulysses S. Grant as the second-worst American president. Corruption had badly tarred his administration, just as it had that of the man at the bottom, Warren Harding. But recent surveys have been kinder. Grant now lands in the middle, thanks to his extraordinarily progressive work on race relations….Ron Chernow’s 1,100-page biography may crown Grant’s restoration….Mr. Chernow argues persuasively that Grant has been badly misunderstood.”—The Economist
“Chernow writes definitive biography of Ulysses S. Grant… [An] essential read… restores Grant to the pantheon of great Americans.”—Newsday
“A landmark work….Chernow impressively examines Grant’s sensitivities and complexities and helps us to better understand an underappreciated man and underrated president who served his country extraordinarily well…. monumental and gripping...in every respect, which even at nearly 1,000 pages, is not a sentence too long."—American Scholar
“Grant's true story needed desperately to be told. Thanks to a great historian, it has.”—Chris Matthews, Parade Magazine
“Full of personal and professional insights into a president and military leader that readers will find simultaneously flawed, relatable, and inspiring.”—Money Magazine
“Reading Ron Chernow's new biography, a truly mammoth examination of the life of Ulysses S. Grant, one is struck by the humanity - both the pitiful frailty and the incredible strength - of its subject.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“Masterful and often poignant .… Chernow's gracefully written biography, which promises to be the definitive work on Grant for years to come, is fully equal to the man's remarkable story.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Reading this compelling book, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll continue to define Grant by these scandals rather than all he accomplished in winning the war and doing his best to make peace, on inclusive terms that would be fair to all.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[A] beautifully written portrait….Chernow doesn’t gloss over Grant’s struggle with alcoholism or his tendency to trust shady operators. However, his willingness to protect the gains of freemen and to fight the KKK was an example of the moral courage he consistently displayed. This is a superb tribute to Grant, whose greatness is earning increased appreciation.”—Booklist, Starred Review “A stupendous new biography...Fascinating and immensely readable…. uncommonly compelling and timely…. Chernow’s biography is replete with fascinating details and insightful political analysis, a combination that brings Grant and his time to life…. put Grant on your must-read list.”—BookPage
“The definitive biography for the foreseeable future.”—Publishers Weekly