A conscientious biography of a controversial figure whom Lincoln feared, Grant admired and Cleveland reviled, is carefully documented but the author's anxiety to be scholarly and fair slows the tempo considerably. Apparently a colorful combination of warring drives led him to do things quite out of synchronization with previous actions; his failure to be admitted to West Point through lack of political pull, he nevertheless worked his way up to a general's rank in the State Militia in the Civil War and delighted in outmanoeuvering West Point graduates and, in later years, holding that America was slated for a war in each generation, sent one of his sons to the Point. A stalwart Democrat in the heart of Republican Massachusetts, he fought fearlessly for what he considered right but there seems to be no doubt that he was not above stuffing ballot boxes when he tried, to get the presidential nomination from Cleveland, not above other cheap forms of chicanery, too. Shortlegged and fat, his actions had heroic proportions. A fair perspective on, and vivid facts about, a fascinating figure (in spite of the inclusion of other people's opinions on the man) bring out the worst -- and the best -- of this 19th century storm center.