Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865

Brooks D. Simpson, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $35 (544p) ISBN 978-0-395-65994-6
Here is a superb first in a projected two-volume study of the Union general and president. Serving as neither his subject's advocate nor his prosecutor, Arizona State University historian Simpson provides an eminently informed and finely balanced portrait of Ulysses S. Grant as man, husband, failed entrepreneur and shrewd, victorious general. Simpson (Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868) uses carefully excavated facts and anecdotes to reveal an individual far more complex than the caricature (drunken, barbarous in battle, corrupt when given opportunity) handed down to us by popular history. At the same time, Simpson does not gloss over Grant's shortcomings. Although a fan of the general's, Simpson is not in the business of writing apologetics, and therein lies his strength. Appropriately, Simpson dispenses with Grant's pre-Civil War life in the first 70 pages of his book, devoting the balance to his name-making and often controversial Civil War exploits. Most importantly, Simpson shows in Grant the vital trait he shares with every great warrior-leader before or since: a hatred of warfare. War, said Grant, ""is at all times a sad and cruel business... and nothing but imperative duty could induce me to engage in its work or witness its horrors."" History Book Cub main selection. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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