American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant's reputation nosedived in the 20th century, but a new generation has begun to rehabilitate his legacy. Historian Ronald C. White (A. Lincoln) combines exemplary scholarship and storytelling in American Ulysses, a monumental and well-illustrated re-evaluation of an extraordinary character, life and career.

White begins with the strong influence on Grant of the Puritan "priority of the community over the individual." His father was a slavery opponent and successful tanner; his mother was kind, pious and reserved. Grant was a sensitive, introverted child, patient, hardworking, studious and athletic. He hoped to teach mathematics, but ended up in the Mexican-American War, where he became default commander of a company mid-battle and won his first victory. He was promoted to captain, but after several failed business ventures and years of separation from his beloved wife, Grant resigned his commission and went home broke. The outbreak of the Civil War made him re-enlist as a clerk, and he rose to become one of the greatest generals in U.S. history. After the war, he reluctantly accepted an appointment as Secretary of War and then was "forced into" running for president, refusing to campaign because "he believed it unseemly to talk about himself."

Through detailed objective evidence, White explores how Grant's character laid the foundation for both his achievements and his humiliations. He tells of the "extraordinary long-running drama" between Grant and his equally skilled adversary Robert E. Lee, his occasionally successful attempts to champion African Americans, Indians and Jews, and his adventurous world travels with his wife--brilliantly conveying the life of a national hero. --Sara Catterall

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