“GRANT” Thoughts on Chernow’s book

I just finished reading the latest “sensation” in Civil War history, Ron Chernow’s “Grant.”  At 1074 pages (including notes, etc.), it was a grind, but for someone interested in the war and nineteenth century American history, it was an enjoyable and interesting grind  — for the most part.    https://civilwarhistory-geneschmiel.com

There is no question but that I have a far better understanding of Grant’s character and personality now than before, thanks to this book.  He was a complicated man with many elements of greatness and probably an equal number of faults.  His blind spots were legion — e.g. he defended friends/relatives-turned-criminals repeatedly; he seemed incapable of introspection; he accepted gifts with no understanding of the motivation of the givers.  But his achievements on the battle field are his rightful badges of honor.

The book’s problems include numerous small errors of fact and all too much emphasis on Grant’s drinking problem and his efforts to combat it.  Also, despite the appearance recently of two books documenting Grant’s prejudices and distortions in his memoirs, especially against certain generals like William Rosecrans, Chernow takes no notice.   He rightly says that Grant’s writing the memoirs while at death’s door was a monumental achievement.  But while the memoirs are an important document, a more balanced view of that book’s problems would have been helpful.

In sum, every student interested in an in-depth understanding of this man and his times should read this book — and of course other books with different points of view.

 

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