U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

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Univ of North Carolina Press, Nov 15, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 384 pages
12 Reviews
At the time of his death, Ulysses S. Grant was the most famous person in America, considered by most citizens to be equal in stature to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Yet today his monuments are rarely visited, his military reputation is overshadowed by that of Robert E. Lee, and his presidency is permanently mired at the bottom of historical rankings.

In an insightful blend of biography and cultural history, Joan Waugh traces Grant's shifting national and international reputation, illuminating the role of memory in our understanding of American history. Using a wide range of written and visual sources--newspaper articles, private and public reminiscences, photographs, paintings, cartoons, poetry, and much more--Waugh reveals how Grant became the embodiment of the American nation in the decades after the Civil War. She does not paper over Grant's image as a scandal-ridden contributor to the worst excesses of the Gilded Age. Instead, she captures a sense of what led nineteenth-century Americans to overlook Grant's obvious faults and hold him up as a critically important symbol of national reconciliation and unity. Waugh further shows that Grant's reputation and place in public memory closely parallel the rise and fall of the northern version of the Civil War story--in which the United States was the clear, morally superior victor and Grant was the symbol of that victory. By the 1880s, Waugh shows, after the failure of Reconstruction, the dominant Union myths about the war gave way to a southern version that emphasized a more sentimental remembrance of the honor and courage of both sides and ennobled the "Lost Cause." During this social transformation, Grant's public image changed as well. By the 1920s, his reputation had plummeted.

Most Americans today are unaware of how revered Grant was in his lifetime. Joan Waugh uncovers the reasons behind the rise and fall of his renown, underscoring as well the fluctuating memory of the Civil War itself.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mybucketlistofbooks - LibraryThing

Very good overview of Grant's life and career as well as a very good review of how Grant's reputation has changed over the years Professor Waugh does a really good job showing how unbelievably popular ... Read full review

Review: US Grant: American Hero, American Myth

User Review  - Goodreads

Rather interesting since I really did not know a whole lot about US Grant before his presidency and his role as a soldier, general and president of the US Also interesting was the perception the public had of Grant. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Youth
9
The Magnanimous General
49
A Great Soldier Might Be a Baby Politician
103
The Most Famous Living American
155
Historian of the Union Cause
167
Pageantry of Woe The Funeral of U S Grant
215
The Nations Greatest Hero Should Rest in the Nations Greatest City
261
Whos Really Buried in Grants Tomb?
303
Notes
309
Acknowledgments
359
Index
361
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Joan Waugh is professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is author or coeditor of three books, including Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War.

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