Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero

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Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 176 pages
4 Reviews

One of the first two volumes in Harper's Eminent Lives series, Korda brings his acclaimed storytelling talents to the life of Ulysses S. Grant – a man who managed to end the Civil War on a note of grace, serve two terms as president, write one of the most successful military memoirs in American literature, and is today remembered as a brilliant general but a failed president.

Ulysses S. Grant was the first officer since George Washington to become a four–star general in the United States Army, and the only president between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson to serve eight consecutive years in the White House. In this succinct and vivid biography, Michael Korda considers Grant's character and reconciles the conflicting evaluations of his leadership abilities.

Grant's life played out as a true Horatio Alger story. Despite his humble background as the son of a tanner in Ohio, his lack of early success in the army, and assorted failed business ventures, his unwavering determination propelled him through the ranks of military leadership and into the presidency. But while the general's tenacity and steadfastness contributed to his success on the battlefield, it both aided and crippled his effectiveness in the White House.

Assessing Grant both within the context of his time and in contrast to more recent American leaders, Korda casts a benevolent eye on Grant's presidency while at the same time conceding his weaknesses. He suggests that though the general's second term ended in financial and political scandals, the fact remains that for eight years Grant exerted a calming influence on a country that had only just emerged from a horrendous civil war. Ulysses S. Grant is an even–handed and stirring portrait of a man who guided America through a pivotal juncture in its history.

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There really was not much on Grant as President and Korda seemed to rely on Nevins for perspective rather then have a thorough modern evaluation. Let's see there was Civil Service Reform, the Prosecution of the Whiskey Wing, the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, settling the Alabama Claims, Prosecuting the Klan, attempting to get to the North Pole, treaty with the Kingdom of Hawaii. Grant's Presidency was complicated. He enforced voting rights for blacks when Southerners and Northerners practiced extreme racism. Grant also got rid of the Treaty system and treated Indians as individuals. Grant reduced Indian Wars. These are issues that Korda just did not take the time to investigate. 

Review: Ulysses S. Grant

User Review  - Dana Kraft - Goodreads

A nice, compact history of Grant that I read in a day. I definitely had only heard of Grant's Tomb and the stories of drunkenness. A great example of how a person can be very well suited for one job ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Michael Korda is the author of Ulysses S. Grant, Ike, Hero, and Charmed Lives. Educated at Le Rosey in Switzerland and at Magdalen College, Oxford, he served in the Royal Air Force. He took part in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and on its fiftieth anniversary was awarded the Order of Merit of the People's Republic of Hungary. He and his wife, Margaret, make their home in Dutchess County, New York.

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