THE MAN WHO SAVED THE UNION by H.W. Brands

THE MAN WHO SAVED THE UNION

Ulysses Grant in War and Peace
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unabashed admirer of the great Civil War general portrays the most unlikely, reluctant American hero since George Washington.

While there are moments of frustrating small-picture detail to veteran biographer Brands’ (The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr, 2012, etc.) book, his portrayal of his subject’s essential humanity proves truly compelling. The author sticks to Grant’s own words, through letters and contemporary records, rather than relying on what later historians wrote. Since Grant was so unassuming and unprepossessing, this can be a torturous exercise. From his initial reluctance to consider himself a candidate for West Point, to his taking up farming in Illinois and business out of desperation to support a growing family, largely relying on filial indulgence and always uncomfortable managing his wife’s slaves, Grant never displayed a sense of self-confidence, except in handling horses. The breakout of the war saved Grant from drifting, and he was soon swept up in preparing his local militia in Galena, Ill., where he was employed in his family’s business. In his methodical fashion, Brands shows how Grant’s quiet proficiency continually caught the attention of his superiors. His ability to organize, discipline and inspire his men gained him swift promotions and earned him accolades in a series of signal battles, especially Vicksburg. Though President Lincoln doubted some of his strategies, Grant was the general that Lincoln needed (“[H]e makes things git! Where he is, things move!” Lincoln declared), and with William Sherman as Grant’s right-arm scourge, the Rebels were ground into the sea. Brands also considers Grant’s reputation for drinking, his deep devotion to his wife, his aversion to speechmaking and politics and his moral center.

A direct, engaging approach to Grant’s life that would have pleased him.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-53241-9
Page count: 736pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2012




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October 11, 2016
H.W. Brands

As noted historian H.W. Brands reveals in his new book The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, at the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. “An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis,” our reviewer writes in a starred review.

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