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5.0 out of 5 stars U. S. Grant memoir,
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This review is from: Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (Hardcover)
A classic. The amount of detail and the feel it gives you for life at that time is pretty astounding. Led me to purchase William T. Sherman memoir.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and readable memoirs,
Grant here gives a consistently interesting account of his role in many of the major campaigns of the Civil War. His prose is clear and his accounts of battles and strategies quite readable, even to those without particular expertise in military history. He sticks to the story, making few attempts to even scores with his numerous critics in the Army or the press.
One thing that should be noted is that these 'personal memoirs' are in many ways remarkably impersonal. There is only a quite brief account of Grant's youth, and his wife, to whom he was apparently quite devoted, is barely mentioned. Grant tells the story of his career as an officer with increasing levels of responsibility, but says little about himself. Also, the memoirs end with the assassination of Lincoln, and do not at all discuss his presidency.
The edition I read was lacking in maps, which was a serious drawback, however it was a different edition than the one discussed here. Because so much of the book focuses on the tactics of specific campaigns, a good set of maps is a very valuable addition, and would be advisable to check for in any edition you consider reading or buying.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reading,
By A Customer
I'm not a Civil War or military fan, but I really enjoyed reading these memoires. I expected a very dry book, but General Grant provides a great narrative, slipping in a sly sense of humor at times. My recommendation is that the publishers provide better maps. I needed to use an atlas and detailed maps off the internet.
4.0 out of 5 stars Old wine in new bottles,
I'm a little irritated at the usually terrific Modern Library. They have hatched a new series of volumes on "War", with a general introduction by Caleb Carr. Apparently, however, aside from the slick covers, no attempt was made to provide the reader with any original material, such as maps, appendices, notes or other scholarly material. The edition of Grant's memoirs contains a new, curt, unhelpful introduction by Geoffrey Perret. (Perret offhandedly mentions that Grant's memory diverges from the facts on more than one occasion, but makes no attempt to further elucidate a matter that would obviously be of high interest to the reader.)The maps are old, crabbed and often difficult to follow; the geographically-challenged reader, such as myself, is often obliged to consult a road atlas to follow the Western campaigns. The memoirs themselves are terrific. Grant's plain, homely soldier's style, with dashes of self-deprecation and dry irony, is engrossing reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great American History from two great Americans,
This review is from: Personal Memoirs (Paperback)
This book is alive! How many 125 year old books are still page turners? This one is. This was Grant's last great effort (and ghost-written with Mark Twain). What could be better? Twain has an energetic writing style that is still highly readable and Grant had an amazing life! It was a best-seller in its day and still makes for great reading today. No lover of American History can say their library is complete without this book. Want to splurge? Get the original through [a rare used book seller].
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Moving,
A must read for all Civil War buffs and those even remotely interested in history. The 600+ pages in this book (both volume I and II are included together) articulately spell out the military career of one of the United States' greatest generals. Grant's Memoirs are well-written, thoughtful, insightful, and offer more than a glimpse into the mind of U.S. Grant.
Volume I opens with a heartfelt preface where Grant explains how his diminishing health pushed him to complete this work and "asking no favor but hoping (his remarks) will meet the approval of the reader." They most definitely do. Following the preface, the reader is given a (very) short review of his early childhood, life at West Point, and early Army life. The next one hundred pages are dedicated to the Mexican War followed by his resignation from the military and civilian life in Illinois. The remainder of Volume I and all of Volume II extensively deal with the War Between the States.
I found Volume I (written before Grant realized he was critically ill) to be rich in detail of the various military campaigns (perhaps too detailed) and his ascension through the military ranks, but it is somewhat lacking in personal observations and insights. It even drags at times--but stick with it. The patient reader will not be dissapointed. Volume II hurls the reader into the conflict, reads rapidly, and is rife with Grant's personal observations and insights.
This second volume picks up where the first left off--following Vicksburg to the campaigns in Tennessee to the Battle of the Wilderness to Sherman's March to the Sea to the Battle of Franklin right up to Appomattox and all the events of April and May 1865. These campaigns are told from the commanding general's perspective with great overview and detail. However, what really makes Volume II (and this volume is much more fast paced than the first) special are all the personal observations and insightful (rarely negative and always humble) comments about those Grant served with and against. Grant is thoughtful and displays much about himself as this great book draws to a close. An eloquently written, detailed, first-person account of the Civil War that offers much to those who read it.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
5.0 out of 5 stars A book valuable to contemplate,
Civl War afficianados will be fascinated by Grant's detailed discussion of battles. The general reader will find value in the discovery of General Grant's personality. He doesn't boast of his attributes, but the fact that he succeeded as commander of the army of the Patomac where others dithered and failed -- even unusually able and intelligent men -- must make one wonder why, and the answer is revealed in the pages of this book. His discussion of the qualities of various generals is also valuable. Those of us who occupy competative professions will necessarilly find useful the discussion of the qualities of perserverence and courage it takes to successfully prosecute any difficult endeavor -- whether it is a battle for national unity, a jury trial, or even a sales campaign. Lest one think the answer is simply self-confidence, one must pause before Grant's humility and his revealed trepedation at the prospect of high command. Grant is also frank about his dread of his first military engagement of the Civil War, but he learned a valuable lesson when his enemy, who knew he was coming, melted away before he arrived to engage him. Grant learned that his enemy feared him as much as he feared his enemy, and this tempered his fright in future engagements. A person can be better for reading this book and absorbing its lessons, not to say that the book is at all preachy.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books Available on the Civil War,
I have never been much of a Civil War fan, but after reading "The Killer Angels" by Shaara, a historical fiction about Gettysburg, I was interested in following up with some non-fiction about the most important event in US History. This book kept me turning the pages from end to end. Despite its bulk (some 618 pages) I simply couldn't put the book down, as Grant's matter-of-fact description of the events that surrounded him was completely engrossing.
Grant was not an extraordinary man or brilliant tactician, his soldiers did not have the same obsession with him that the South held for Lee, he simply saw the war for what it was, a campaign against a rebellion. He looked at the entire war in its entirety, from battlefront to battlefront, and he repeatedly used that to his advantage. Many times he makes reference to deploying troops to no clear end other than to occupy an enemies flank, this often as a junior with no authority over the battle as a whole. Grant was a man of action, who realized he had to take a step in order to walk a mile. He took the battle to the enemy, divised clear and necessary steps which were needed to win the war as a whole. He was a general who did not just see the war as independent sets of battles, but saw those battles as a means to ending the Civil War.
One of my favorite parts of the text was watching the scope of Grant's vision widen. Starting with his actions in the Mexican American War his vision is very limited: he sees only the immediate battle, and his descriptions focus on minutiae reflecting his low rank. His vision escalates with his rank, until the end of the book, with the surrender of Lee, he sees and describes the entire army, and battles that would have once taken chapters to described are now dismissed in single sentences.
My one disappointment with the book was that it ended with the surrender of Lee at Appomatox. I would have liked to learn more about his actions after the war, and especially learned more about his presidency. I wish that there were similar autobiographies by other presidents, and certainly feel that this one elevated my expectations of all other autobiographies!
"It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service." - Grant (page 368)
"All he wanted or had ever wanted was some one who would take the responsibility and act, and call on him for all the assistance needed, pledging himself to use all the power of the government in rendering such assistance." - Grant on Lincoln (page 370)
"Wars product many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true." - Grant (page 577)
"To maintain peace in the future it is necessary to be prepared for war." - Grant (page 614)
"The war begot a spirit of independence and enterprise. The feeling now is, that a youth must cut loose from his old surroundings to enable him to get up in the world." - Grant (page 616)
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, Humble and Well-Written,
Grant's memoirs are a must-read for any serious student of the Civil War. While praise is heaped upon Confederate generals such as Lee and Jackson, Grant's legacy has always been a little more uncertain. His reputation has been associated with allegations of drunkenness, and with an apparent unflinching ability to send men to their slaughter which this book helps to dispel.
Lincoln loved Grant, as he was the first Union commander who seemed willing to fight it out with Lee's army, and who enjoyed any consistent success. When one considers Grant's predecessors at the helm of the Union army, one can understand Lincoln's enthusiasm. You had McClellan, who never read an exaggerated report of the enemy size he didn't believe; "Fighting Joe Hooker", flanked and embarrassed at Chancellorsville; Burnside, who foolishly sent wave after wave of Union soldiers across the Rappahanock to attack an impregnable stone wall at Fredericksburg; and Pope, who was soundly beaten at Manassas. Meanwhile, Grant caught Abe's attention with his successful siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, as Meade was beating Lee at Gettysburg.
Reading Grant's Memoirs is a fascinating experience, as the war, at least that part of it involving Grant, comes to life in the hands of a thoughtful commentator. Grant was obviously there, and he shares informative communications with his inferior officers (such as Sherman) and with the President. Grant sent many men to their doom to be sure, (the Wilderness campaign comes to mind as being especially bloody and ineffective), but overall you get the sense that Grant was respected by his men, who were happy to be marching forward and not backwards after a battle. He restored a sense of pride and accomplishment that was sorely lacking in the Union rank and file. He gave cogent reasons in his memoirs for the actions undertaken, sometimes admitting mistakes in humble fashion, and sometimes explaining why a siege would accomplish the same overall goal without unnecessary bloodshed.
My only regret is that Grant didn't live long enough to write a companion memoir about his presidency, which was clearly outside the scope of this book. Readers who have gotten this far in the Amazon review process are no doubt aware that a broke Grant, stricken with painful throat cancer, wrote out his Memoirs of the Civil War right up until the end of his life to provide financially for his family, finishing the book days before he died. We should all be grateful that he was able to preserve these pages for prosperity, they are truly a model of military memoirs that I consider an extremely rewarding reading experience. When one considers the circumstances in which Grant composed this work, the end result is nothing short of miraculous.
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling from start to end,
Almost without funds Ulysses S. Grant was aware that on his death from throat cancer his family would find themselves in a serious financial crisis - thus developed the impetus for putting pen to paper to write his Personal Memoirs. Shortly before his death he completed his memoirs and it is to our benefit that he was able to finish the task.
I read Personal Memoirs with a fascination that was at times bordering on obsession. The book held me from first page to last, this due to the power of the words and the images that they painted. Grant writes with both eloquence and simplicity on his subject matter. He is clear and concise when other memoirs often flit about without a clear focus.
For this reader as a non American who has not been raised with a Civil War bias - and I accept that not all US citizens will have such a bias - Personal Memoirs is refreshing in it's lack of romanticism - here is a man who 'tells it like it is!' Grant it would seem felt that he had nothing to prove with his Memoirs, thus what he wrote is a no frills, honest account devoid of moralising and self-adoration.
When communicating with the Confederate General who held Fort Donelson there was no ambiguity in Grants words "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." It is this direct approach which Grant was able to convey with such clarity within his memoirs. It is this that is so compelling about Personal Memoirs and indeed in itself gives us an insight into Grant the man
Grant ends his introduction to Personal Memoirs by commenting "With these remarks I present these volumes to the public, asking no favor but hoping they will meet the approval of the reader." This book met my approval on every count and I recommend it to you highly.
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Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant (Paperback - Jan. 25 1999)
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