McFeely won the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1982, but the conclusions he reaches about his subject have drawn fire ever since. Those sympathetic to Grant correctly point to errant assumptions and mistakes in character analysis. Most glaring is McFeely's insistence that Grant gloried in carnage, was insensitive to death and suffering, and was an incompetent chief executive.
Actually Grant was one of the most exquisitiely sensitive men ever born and was nothing like the 'butcher' that McFeely describes. However, the research in the book is quite good and there are very few factual errors to be found, though his chapters on the civil war are relatuvely weak. This contrasts markedly to Geoffrey Perret's 1997 Grant biography, which contained inaccuracies on nearly every page. McFeely is most solid in the period of Reconstruction, though he is usually overly prone to criticize the hapless Grant. Throughout many chapters, it seems the General can't buy a break.
McFeely's greatest admiration for Grant is contained in two areas of his life: his family relationships, specifically his loving marriage to wife Julia, and his abilities as a writer. McFeely leaves no doubt that he regards Grant's 1885 Memoirs as one of the great books ever written and the best part of this biography is in explaining the processes Grant used to produce such a masterpiece, while dying of throat cancer.
With its flaws and uneven treatment of Grant, McFeely's book cannot be considered definitive, but it is still the only complete biography of Grant written in the past 30 years. Perret's limping entry isn't even in the same league as this book, in accuracy, writing or research. To sum up: overly critical, but a must read for Civil War buffs.