cover image To Rescue the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876

To Rescue the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876

Bret Baier, with Catherine Whitney. Custom House, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-303954-4

Fox News anchor Baier (Three Days at the Brink) paints a flattering portrait of Ulysses S. Grant in this breezy revisionist history. Drawing analogies to today’s partisan discord, Baier focuses on “Grant’s resolve and heroism in times of unparalleled turmoil,” including his command of the Union Army during the Civil War; his two-term presidency (1868–1876), which encompassed the most hard-fought years of Reconstruction; and his controversial brokering of a “grand bargain” in the contested 1876 election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Baier claims that “we are so accustomed to dwelling on the failures of Reconstruction that we often overlook its successes,” including the 15th Amendment, which Grant helped push through in 1870, the election of the first Black U.S. senators, and the passage of the Enforcement Act, which Grant argued was necessary to curb racist violence in the South. Baier also refutes critics who fault Grant for supporting the withdrawal of federal troops from the South by claiming that Democrats and Republicans “were ready to give the Southern states a chance to do the right thing on their own,” and that “it’s unclear what more could have been done... short of permanent military occupation.” Though many readers will disagree with that assessment, Baier succeeds in humanizing Grant and clarifying the complex factors behind his decision-making. This is an accessible and nuanced introduction to an oft-misunderstood figure American history. (Oct.)