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Grant by Ron Chernow

Grant by Ron Chernow

For most of the past century, the consensus among historians was that Grant was an effective but unimaginative general and a mediocre president whose administrations were soiled by financial corruption. In recent decades, there have been several more positive reappraisals of Grant as a soldier and politician. Chernow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, most notably, of Alexander Hamilton, presents a massive and beautifully written portrait that may well be a culmination of that revisionist trend. Chernow views Grant as a modest man who, unlike any of his West Point contemporaries, sought neither fame nor glory. Instead, he regarded the winning of the Civil War as a test of duty, and he pursued that with dogged determination. Perhaps he lacked the flair of some other commanders, but he was a master in coordination of troop movements and supply of ordinance and other essential materials. Like his friend William Sherman, Grant knew the war had to be waged against the farms and factories that supplied Confederate soldiers. Chernow doesn’t gloss over Grant’s struggle with alcoholism or his tendency to trust shady operators. However, his willingness to protect the gains of freemen and to fight the KKK was an example of the moral courage he consistently displayed. This is a superb tribute to Grant, whose greatness is earning increased appreciation. – Booklist

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