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Book Title: Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant|
The author of the book: Ulysses S. Grant
Date of issue: 1999
ISBN 13: 9780914427674
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 38.76 MB
Edition: William S. Konecky Associates
Read full description of the books Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant:There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the Northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him well at the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of. (Rebel Gen. Ewell, May 1861)
Grant’s Personal Memoirs (1885) define understatement but not modesty. Grant shows rather than tells what a badass he is. In recounting the war, Grant rarely quotes himself or relates his conversation but to a drop some tough guy quip or poised martial-arts musing. That kind of thing may have sounded self-effacing in times given to martial speechifying and self-praise in the third person, but nowadays we expect the Hero to be a man of few but compelling words (Hemingway learned his craft under Gertrude Stein, who as a Grant-venerator once planned to co-write the general’s biography with Sherwood Anderson). Here’s Grant shooting the breeze with the third-in-command of a rebel fort he’s just taken:
I had been at West Point three years with Buckner and afterwards served with him in the army, so that we were quite well acquainted. In the course of our conversation, which was very friendly, he said to me that if he had been in command I would not have got up to Fort Donelson as easily as I did. I told him that if he had been in command I should not have tried in the way I did.
Grant as usual understates his point: when he says he “knew” Buckner he really means that he had sized him up while they were fighting Indians and Mexicans together. Grant mentions that while at West Point he “got to know” many future rebel officers; it was a while before I realized this bland statement amounted to saying they’d already measured dicks and he wasn’t afraid of them. Grant knew his opponent at Vicksburg, Pemberton, to be a waffling martinet, and correctly gauged what gambits he could get away with. It’s all very macho, but with none of the overt theater of machismo. Grant is white guy macho: the strong silent type, the unheroic hero, unconscious greatness…all that Gary Cooper shit. After a century of westerns and noir, Grant’s mud-spattered impassivity and hardboiled laconism are pretty familiar, even thought befitting a solider; but his contemporaries strove to appear splendid. Grant’s predecessors in the high command carefully trimmed their Napoleon III goatees, stuck their hands in their coats like Napoleon I (Grant’s doing that on the Penguin cover, alas; at the prompting of Matthew Brady, we’ll say), and believed mastery of military science to inhere in officers who had published cribs of French tactical manuals.
Grant’s heroic citizenship appeared more citizenly than heroic. But for subtle signs (the way he wore his hat, the gleam in his eye) Grant looked what he had been, a tannery clerk and hardscrabble farmer. He was not a physically or sartorially distinctive man. Upon promotion to Lieutenant-General and Commander of the Armies of the United States, an exalted rank last held by George Washington, he made no concession to pomp beyond having the gold-braid shoulder bars sewn to his “traveling suit,” a dusty private’s uniform. Analogously, Lincoln ascended the national Valhalla, the Washingtonian realm of togas and fasces, with little significant softening of his gangly hillbilly mien. Matthew Arnold reviewed Grant’s memoirs and spoke for the times when he said that to foreign observers Robert E. Lee was the heroic figure in the picture—Lee the pious aristocrat, son of Old Virginia and of George Washington’s trusty lieutenant “Lighthorse Harry,” his manner a Castiglionian gloving of aggressive power in courtly self-control and tender sentiment. To Arnold and other Europeans, says Trilling, Americans only made sense as transplanted Englishmen, and so gravitated to Lee and others of cultured colonial stock. But the nation’s animating political genius Lincoln, and its greatest warlord Grant, emerged from demotic obscurity in the middle-west; as did the men of Grant’s and Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee, “tan-faced” settlers’ sons who proved the champion fighters of the war. Mars Robert and the Planter-Cavaliers were being phased out. At Harvard in the tense 1850s, Henry Adams, great-grandson of John, found an unlikely friendship with Lee’s second son Roony, himself later a general of the Rebel cavalry. Their affinity struck Adams, after a lapse of years, as the fraternity of dying eighteenth century dynasties, the last of the mandarin statesmen embracing the last of the commanding Virginians. “As an animal, the Southerner seemed to have every advantage, but even as an animal he steadily lost ground.” (Replace the Southerner with the Indian and it still works.)
Herman Melville toured the front in 1864, even rode with Union cavalry pursuing the Confederate guerilla Mosby. In his poem “The Armies of the Wilderness,” Grant appears as “the silent General,” ominously still, “like a loaded mortar.” Melville’s is an accurate wartime impression of this taciturn man who restricted his self-expression to plainspoken summons of earth-shaking industrial firepower; but the image is inadequate in light of the Personal Memoirs, a work in which policy statement, social observation, and the driest of dry wit combine to make Grant, in the words of a recent biographer, “the historian of the Union cause.” Grant--plainstyle chronicler to Lincoln’s refulgent poet.
Grant articulates the North’s optimistic ideals and progressive prospect, the 19th century American Dream his people brought to the fight. He’s elated by greater speed, better communication, settlement, urbanization, technology, growth, progress, mobility. The military academy that educated him was a cutting-edge realschule; other colleges were founded on Latin and Greek, West Point on engineering and chemistry; instruction in the humanities took the form of lectures on Christian Ethics; graduates bridged rivers and laid railroads across the expanses. A bootstraps meritocrat like Lincoln, Grant beheld with horror the degradation of the slave, and with perhaps greater horror the kinky warping of the master and the feudal immobility of the poor white. The South’s neglect of public amenities like good roads and free public schools seemed, to Grant, as reprehensible as the enslavement of blacks. To Grant the war accomplished two ends, moral and imperial: slavery was wicked, was rightly abolished; also the South was rescued for America, whereas independent, he thinks, it would have in time wilted to an enervated, troglodytic banana republic squatting on exhausted soil, the Sutpen household of Absalom, Absalom! writ large, barren of enterprising whites, vulnerable to Haitian-style revolution, and prey to the incursions of European powers. To Grant the course of empire demanded Union, and I like that the first edition used Grant’s initials in the title, The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. U.S. Grant: federal impersonality joined to a personal name, like G.I. Joe; and having “U.S.” for initials is way better than being called Captain America. I wasn’t surprised when Grant concluded the book with suggestions for American power, in particular urging a strong navy. The fleet thus built in the 1890s came in handy when America bum-rushed the remains of overseas Spain and established itself as a Pacific and an Atlantic power. As pater patriae, Grant is no Washington--but he’s close.
Nowhere does he mention his surrenders to bourbon; but I heard he drank when bored, so whenever he mutters about the loss of momentum during lulls in campaigning, I assume he’s coping with the frustration of inactivity by getting wasted. I like Grant. Magnanimous and unselfish in life; reliable and clear-headed in war; subtle and funny in prose. A solid guy, indispensable like Lincoln. He’s touchingly curious and keen on travel. A restless and wondering boy, he spent his free time away from the plow on horseback, exploring. His chapters on the Mexican War are an adventure story like The Voyage of the Beagle or In Patagonia. Leaving the White House in 1877, he launched upon a world tour. Joyce has the British army brat Molly Bloom remember the thunderous salute that greeted Grant’s flotilla, when it touched at Gibraltar.
It is also impressive that he emerged unbroken from the humiliating hardscrabble prewar decade to lead the nation’s armies in its most desperate struggle. When I read about Grant pawning his watch to buy Christmas presents for his kids one bleak prewar December, I understand Gertrude Stein’s remark that the thought of Grant made her weep, though she probably had his drawn-out death from throat cancer in mind. Grant commenced these memoirs for money, after a Ponzi scheme ruined his family; in same month, he received the terminal diagnosis; he wrote racing death. It is one of the great pictures of American history, the cancer-wracked old man, writing all day out on the porch, under blankets, his throat sealed after decades of cigars, unable to speak or eat, and refusing morphine in order to keep his mind clear for writing (he didn’t refuse the cocaine-laced ice water, though). Meanwhile press and public keep vigil over the former president’s deterioration…newspapers fill with the tributes of former comrades and former foes.
But Grant was always his best under pressure; the Union is the proof. A staff officer once saw a shell explode over him as he sat on a log writing out an order; Grant continued writing; when he handed the order over, its perfect flow of penmanship betrayed no sign of the shellfire interruption. If any dying pauper was to write a cool, calm, lucidly funny memoir, it was Grant; and he must have been heartened by the 400,000 prepublication orders gathered by Mark Twain, his publisher. Twain hired on thousands of Union veterans who dressed in faded uniforms and old medals to canvass the North for subscriptions. Grant died a week after putting down his pen, and posthumous bestsellerdom gathered a fortune to his widow.
You shall not be
The grave of your deserving. Rome must know
The value of her own. ‘Twere a concealment
Worse than theft, no less a traducement,
To hide your doings and to silence that
Which, to the spire and top of praises vouched,
Would seem but modest. Therefore, I beseech you—
In sign of what you are, not to reward
What you have done—before our army hear me.
Coriolanus, I, ix
Grant more nearly impersonated the American character of 1861-65 than any other living man. Therefore he will stand as the typical hero of the great Civil War in America.
Read information about the authorUlysses Simpson Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant) was general-in-chief of the Union Army from 1864 to 1869 during the American Civil War and the 18th President of the United States from 1869 to 1877.
The son of an Appalachian Ohio tanner, Grant entered the United States Military Academy at age 17. In 1846, three years after graduating, Grant served as a lieutenant in the Mexican–American War under Winfield Scott and future president Zachary Taylor. After the Mexican-American War concluded in 1848, Grant remained in the Army, but abruptly resigned in 1854. After struggling through the succeeding years as a real estate agent, a laborer, and a county engineer, Grant decided to join the Northern effort in the Civil War.
Appointed brigadier general of volunteers in 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln, Grant claimed the first major Union victories of the war in 1862, capturing Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. He was surprised by a Confederate attack at the Battle of Shiloh; although he emerged victorious, the severe casualties prompted a public outcry. Subsequently, however, Grant's 1863 victory at Vicksburg, following a long campaign with many initial setbacks, and his rescue of the besieged Union army at Chattanooga, established his reputation as Lincoln's most aggressive and successful general. Named lieutenant general and general-in-chief of the Army in 1864, Grant implemented a coordinated strategy of simultaneous attacks aimed at destroying the South's armies and its economy's ability to sustain its forces. In 1865, after mounting a successful war of attrition against his Confederate opponents, he accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House.
Popular due to the Union victory in the war, Grant was elected President of the United States as a Republican in 1868 and re-elected in 1872, the first President to serve two full terms since Andrew Jackson 40 years before. As President, Grant led Reconstruction by signing and enforcing Congressional civil rights legislation. Grant built a powerful, patronage-based Republican Party in the South, straining relations between the North and former Confederates. His administration was marred by scandal, sometimes the product of nepotism; the neologism Grantism was coined to describe political corruption.
Grant left office in 1877 and embarked upon a two-year world tour. Unsuccessful in winning the nomination for a third term in 1880, left destitute by a fraudulent investor, and near the brink of death, Grant wrote his Memoirs, which were enormously successful among veterans, the public, and critics. However, in 1884, Grant learned that he was suffering from terminal throat cancer and, two days after completing his writing, he died at the age of 63. Presidential historians typically rank Grant in the lowest quartile of U.S. presidents for his tolerance of corruption, but in recent years his reputation has improved among some scholars impressed by his support for civil rights for African Americans.
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