Review by Kyle S.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Ron Chernow added another hit to his bibliography with this epic biography of our 18th President Ulysses Grant. Chernow takes a sledgehammer to the claim of the lost cause that Grant was a drunken butcher who only defeated the Confederacy through sheer numbers and luck. Grant was a military genius who carefully planned his defeat of the South. Another myth that gets busted is Grant’s presidential administration was nothing more than corrupt and incompetent when rather there is much to admire. Grant pushed for the ratification of the 15th Amendment that gave black men the right to vote. He and his entire cabinet lobbied for the passage of the Ku Klux Klan Acts which helped demolish the first iteration of this terrorist group. Chernow does fairly point out the instances where Grant’s almost naively trusting nature caused him to appoint people who were in fact corrupt, but Grant was personally incorruptible and rarely hesitated to dismiss those who were guilty of corruption. The end of the book, which details how he became practically penniless, is both sad and inspiring. How he labored to complete his memoirs before succumbing to cancer so his family would be ok financially is given great detail and, when reading he died just a few days after completing it, I felt strangely happy that this old warrior finally found peace. Grant was not a perfect person, General, or President, but this biography makes a powerful case for why he deserves to be remembered as a brilliant military hero and an underrated President.