cover image Grant: A Biography

Grant: A Biography

John Mosier, . . Palgrave, $21.95 (193pp) ISBN 978-1-4039-7136-4

Palgrave's Great Generals series continues with this sketchy, unbalanced homage to the Union war hero. Military historian Mosier (The Myth of the Great War ) focuses on Grant's Civil War exploits, emphasizing his brilliant early victories and glossing over the bloody 1864 campaign when his generalship dimmed. A brief section on his presidency dubiously calls Grant "our most undervalued president." Mosier offers a good précis of Grant's virtues: his ability to translate penetrating strategic insights into vigorous, well-coordinated operations; his imperturbable coolness in the face of reverses; an energy and combativeness unmatched by other Union generals (especially his nominal superior, the conniving "good for nothing" Henry Halleck). But he flirts with hagiography, portraying Grant as both a military genius who eclipsed even Napoleon and as a great commoner whose very ordinariness made him the personification of American democracy-in-arms. His reverence leads to a number of historical misjudgments, like his contention that Grant never lost a battle, which overlooks Union set backs at Cold Harbor and Petersburg, and his baffling claim that "no Union general besides Grant was able to mount successful offensive operations." Indeed, Mosier's severest criticism is of the general's "too trusting belief in the goodness of his fellow men." Grant's achievements were real enough to make such obfuscating overstatements unnecessary. Photos. (June)