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The Autobiography of General Ulysses S Grant: Memoirs of the Civil War

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The American Civil War, as told by General Ulysses S Grant, who led the Union Armies to victory over the Confederacy. Origianl maps illustrate the battles of Shiloh, Vicksburg, The Widlerness, and the surrender at Appomattox. With 14 pages of photos.


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The American Civil War, as told by General Ulysses S Grant, who led the Union Armies to victory over the Confederacy. Origianl maps illustrate the battles of Shiloh, Vicksburg, The Widlerness, and the surrender at Appomattox. With 14 pages of photos.

30 review for The Autobiography of General Ulysses S Grant: Memoirs of the Civil War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cassondra Windwalker

    It will be a long time before I don't hear Grant's voice in my head. This book shattered all the preconceptions and stereotypes that made up my understanding of this man. He speaks so freely of his fearfulness, until the day that fear finally becomes so commonplace in his hours that he forgets to note it. He speaks of his failings, but when describing other men, he is loath to acknowledge theirs. When he does, he speaks equally of their virtues. He wears his unflagging courage and completely apo It will be a long time before I don't hear Grant's voice in my head. This book shattered all the preconceptions and stereotypes that made up my understanding of this man. He speaks so freely of his fearfulness, until the day that fear finally becomes so commonplace in his hours that he forgets to note it. He speaks of his failings, but when describing other men, he is loath to acknowledge theirs. When he does, he speaks equally of their virtues. He wears his unflagging courage and completely apolitical loyalty to his nation like a comfortable old coat. He was fierce and unrelenting in battle, only because he so desperately wanted for the war to end and the Southern states to be reconciled. He was deeply devoted to his wife and children, longed for them constantly, but always placed his duty above his devotion. His voice is terse and dry, with a wicked sharp humor that surprises. He is thoughtful and patient in his consideration of others, be they friend or foe, black or white, man or woman, loyal soldier or terrified deserter. I expected to learn a great deal by reading this book, but I did not imagine I would enjoy it much. Upon devouring the first chapter, however, I found myself amazed that this was the man's only book. Read it. Read it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    On some level I want to give this at least one star more, but I was maybe just a tad too disappointed. On the one hand I enjoyed Grant's clear writing, which didn't suffer from the wordiness of 19th century writing but was crisp and very modern. Grant had cancer while writing this and probably didn't have time to wax poetical. An interesting feature of this book is its lack of ego. Grant certainly had a measured opinion of himself and spends a lot of time praising those generals who served under On some level I want to give this at least one star more, but I was maybe just a tad too disappointed. On the one hand I enjoyed Grant's clear writing, which didn't suffer from the wordiness of 19th century writing but was crisp and very modern. Grant had cancer while writing this and probably didn't have time to wax poetical. An interesting feature of this book is its lack of ego. Grant certainly had a measured opinion of himself and spends a lot of time praising those generals who served under him, and even some of he went up against. He even defends a confederate general from Jefferson Davis who claimed this general was not dedicated to the cause. He also criticised the US for starting the war in Mexico in the 1840s, which might rattle some people. His descriptions of battles are not detailed from one POV but generally give a good run-down of what happened, and are accurate, and how war is generally a terrible business even if you're on the winning side. Though infrequent, his humour is sometimes very on-point and hilarious. Two paragraphs stood out: "Some of these critics claim that Shiloh was won when Johnston fell, and that if he had not fallen the army under me would have been annihilated or captured. IFS defeated the Confederates at Shiloh. There is little doubt that we would have been disgracefully beaten IF all the shells and bullets fired by us had passed harmlessly over the enemy and IF all of theirs had taken effect." and "It may be that Longstreet was not sent to Knoxville for the reason stated, but because Mr. Davis had an exalted opinion of his own military genius, and thought he saw a chance of "killing two birds with one stone." On several occasions during the war he (Mr Davis) came to the relief of the Union army by means of his SUPERIOR MILITARY GENIUS." What disappointed me was the lack of personal details that one would expect from a memoir. Grant keeps a lot of his life from his readers; for instance, I learned that his wife traveled with him on many of his campaigns, but he alludes to this only a handful of times and never explains how or why this happened. Similarly, he doesn't dwell on his own presidency even briefly, only alluding to it once in the end. The detail of his overall story was impressive, but this deliberate keeping of arms length did irk me more than it should have. On the one hand you could argue that its the product of our modern minds wanting to put people on couches and dissect their thoughts, and maybe our whole 'tell all' mentality have also influenced my expectations. But Grant not wanting to do either is in line with the character I've gleamed from the book. This is a good read for someone interested in the history of the American Civil War.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Solid autobiography, all the more interesting because of how (and when and why) he came to write it - a nifty Mark Twain anecdote. A unique perspective on the Civil War, leadership in the Army at a VERY different time, and life in a very different country.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Several remarkable passages particularly Vicksburg and Chattanooga. He writes well, although by contemporary standards it's tedious at times.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    I've only read a bit of Julius Caesar's Commentaries, but I think Mark Twain was right to put this on the same level. I gained a huge amount of respect for Grant for his clear, perceptive, and honest account of his service in the Mexican and Civil Wars. It really is a marvel of lucidity, and makes you respect the power of a plain prose style when it comes to such bloody subject matter. He doesn't talk about his Presidency or Reconstruction at all, which is sort of a shame, because while I would I've only read a bit of Julius Caesar's Commentaries, but I think Mark Twain was right to put this on the same level. I gained a huge amount of respect for Grant for his clear, perceptive, and honest account of his service in the Mexican and Civil Wars. It really is a marvel of lucidity, and makes you respect the power of a plain prose style when it comes to such bloody subject matter. He doesn't talk about his Presidency or Reconstruction at all, which is sort of a shame, because while I would eagerly have read about him kicking rebel ass for hundreds of pages more, I was also curious to see what his takes on the huge challenges the country was undergoing during his tenure would have been. But it's plain to see that he was more of a soldier than anything else, and unlike Eisenhower he had some actual domestic challenges to deal with, so he wisely sticks to his strengths and delivers one of the more powerful books I've read by a President. Why are 19th century authors so good?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    Couldn't of been better. Grant makes you feel like you are there. Interesting background - Grant never wanted to write his memoirs, he felt that was what narcissist did to pound their chest. Following a financial scandal, tough presidency and what we know today as throat cancer he felt like he had to do something to support his family. Cool story of how he collaborated with Mark Twain on the production and even Mark Twain at a certain point was blown away and had few if any edits. Don't quote me Couldn't of been better. Grant makes you feel like you are there. Interesting background - Grant never wanted to write his memoirs, he felt that was what narcissist did to pound their chest. Following a financial scandal, tough presidency and what we know today as throat cancer he felt like he had to do something to support his family. Cool story of how he collaborated with Mark Twain on the production and even Mark Twain at a certain point was blown away and had few if any edits. Don't quote me, but 90%+ of the book is his military life not the Presidency. This is telling - I think many of our great war time leaders presidents (Washington, Eisenhower event Truman) would agree their experiences that met the greatest to them was not in the White House but on the battle field. A great, great book that makes Grant and the Civil Wat come alive.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wilson

    I read this because it is considered by many to be the best presidential autobiography of all time. I thought it was very interesting to hear directly from Grant but obviously he is not the writer that Chernow or Toland are and you are only getting his perspective on things. I would have much preferred if Grant spent more time discussing the civil war and less time on his life before the war.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Raegan Butcher

    Good stuff. All writers should be faced with imminent death while writing their memoirs; it cuts through a lot of the bullshit.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Ross

    Excellent historical picture from a field general's level of the Civil War

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie Daraska

    I read it after hearing and interview with Rob Chernow. He talked about how much he enjoyed Grant's writing. I thought I'd read it before reading Chernow's biography. Much of it is "this happened then this happened then this happened" accounts of battles and maneuvers. But just when you've had enough, you'll hit a passage of character, military and political observation that knocks you out. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't a Civil War buff, but for anyone who is, it offers insight i I read it after hearing and interview with Rob Chernow. He talked about how much he enjoyed Grant's writing. I thought I'd read it before reading Chernow's biography. Much of it is "this happened then this happened then this happened" accounts of battles and maneuvers. But just when you've had enough, you'll hit a passage of character, military and political observation that knocks you out. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't a Civil War buff, but for anyone who is, it offers insight into Grant and shows just how inadequate the conventional wisdom that he was a butcher who won the war because he had the men to sacrifice in battle.

  11. 4 out of 5

    William Strong

    Extraordinary work that has a great publishing history as well as a remarkable window for viewing the many military campaigns that Grant participated in or directed. For one so powerful in his time,as conquering general and President, he is impressively modest and even keeled in his observations and opinions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joe Rodeck

    The most spectacular autobiographical publishing phenomenon of all time, and a surprise that Grant was such a great writer. A realist, he never boasts or takes credit. Ex: when promoted to Lt General it's his good fortune, expressing no emotions. He gives interesting character portrayals of other famous generals. The controversial Sherman ranks high in his estimation. Nathan Bedford Forrest gets the highest marks. It's interesting that he has not a bad word to say about anybody (Napoleon III of F The most spectacular autobiographical publishing phenomenon of all time, and a surprise that Grant was such a great writer. A realist, he never boasts or takes credit. Ex: when promoted to Lt General it's his good fortune, expressing no emotions. He gives interesting character portrayals of other famous generals. The controversial Sherman ranks high in his estimation. Nathan Bedford Forrest gets the highest marks. It's interesting that he has not a bad word to say about anybody (Napoleon III of France the exception). Is this PC? Certainly there were higher generals who tried to do him in. His career was plagued with accusations that he was a drunkard, but he doesn't even mention it. Because it wouldn't be presidential? That makes this appear to be cleaned up. He does show how Lincoln had his back from the start, and what a funny quipper Lincoln was. Grant also has a sense of humor; he's glad to talk about the Virginia governor who is on such a liquid diet that he can't even tolerate water.

  13. 5 out of 5

    William P.

    I understand that the President was suffering from the last and worst stages of lung cancer and was in such pain that he could only write for short stretches at a time. I have seen a sketch of General Grant which is supposed to show him writing on a front porch wrapped in blanket. When General Grant started this book he and his family were financially destitute he had to finish his book so that his family could survive. He did that then died. He did save his family. I have read several civil war I understand that the President was suffering from the last and worst stages of lung cancer and was in such pain that he could only write for short stretches at a time. I have seen a sketch of General Grant which is supposed to show him writing on a front porch wrapped in blanket. When General Grant started this book he and his family were financially destitute he had to finish his book so that his family could survive. He did that then died. He did save his family. I have read several civil war autobiographies by various Generals. In my view this is a pretty honest one with just a small amount of self serving entries . He has a few problems with Shiloh , Cold Harbor and the Wilderness. I have read the autobiography of General Longstreet and in it the General is still fighting Gettysburg. This is a great read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Grant wanted to set the record straight before his death, as I understand it. Therefore there is a lot in this autobiography about what really happened and who really was to blame for this or that controversial decision. Hilarious portrait of the Army of the Potomac and its leadership; very respectful portraits of Sherman and Lincoln. Like many wartime autobiographies it certainly helps to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the war beforehand or easy access to Wikipedia. This was a book quite out Grant wanted to set the record straight before his death, as I understand it. Therefore there is a lot in this autobiography about what really happened and who really was to blame for this or that controversial decision. Hilarious portrait of the Army of the Potomac and its leadership; very respectful portraits of Sherman and Lincoln. Like many wartime autobiographies it certainly helps to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the war beforehand or easy access to Wikipedia. This was a book quite outside my experience (although I had read a bit of Thucydides, and Churchill) but extremely interesting in terms of giving a general's insight into a colossal war. I felt much enlightened after reading it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    William Lubold

    Grant was America's first modern general, the first to fight like he wasn't replaying Napoleon Bonaparte's campaigns. But that's the least important thing about this book. He demonstrates that--to both the Union and the Confederacy--that the U.S. Civil War was undoubtably about not only slavery, but white supremacy. The Confederates were the villians in this conflict, fighting against the freedom of almost half of their population. The "lost cause" is a reprehensible concept, one driven by willf Grant was America's first modern general, the first to fight like he wasn't replaying Napoleon Bonaparte's campaigns. But that's the least important thing about this book. He demonstrates that--to both the Union and the Confederacy--that the U.S. Civil War was undoubtably about not only slavery, but white supremacy. The Confederates were the villians in this conflict, fighting against the freedom of almost half of their population. The "lost cause" is a reprehensible concept, one driven by willful ignorance. This book would have earned a higher rating, if it had included more about his life after the war, and of course, his presidency.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    The general tells the tale of the Civil War in a way only he can as someone intimately involved in the conflict. Incredibly vivid, this book is widely regarded as the best presidential memoir of all time. Oddly enough, Grant did not want to discuss his time in the White House; was it more horrific than war? All in all, out of the many contemporary stories of the war, Grant is an excellent place to start as it is well written and informative.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roger Williams

    Great book with some very interesting topics covered.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Blinn

    Honest, intelligent, and insightful.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve Clark

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ted Greiner

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Harry

  23. 5 out of 5

    A.J. Richard

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Carlson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike Roach

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jstevens

  27. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  28. 5 out of 5

    Industrygiant

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sally

  30. 4 out of 5

    Edacious

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