Personal Memoirs
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Personal Memoirs

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,470 ratings  ·  198 reviews
"One of the most unflinching studies of war in our literature."--William McFeeley


Among the autobiographies of great military figures, Ulysses S. Grant's is certainly one of the finest, and it is arguably the most notable literary achievement of any American president: a lucid, compelling, and brutally honest chronicle of triumph and failure. From his frontier boyhood to hi...more
Paperback, 736 pages
Published May 4th 1999 by Modern Library (first published 1885)
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Eric
There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the Northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him well at the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of. (Rebel Gen. Ewell, May 1861)


Grant’s Personal Memoirs (1885) define understatement but not modesty. Grant shows rather than tells what a badass he is. In recounting the war, Grant rarely quotes himself or relates his conversation but to a drop some...more
Justin
Twain famously compared Grant's Personal Memoirs to Caesar's De Bello Gallico, to stress not only the quality of the work, but more importantly to increase book sales. The comparison makes sense superficially: both memoirs were written by the leading generals of the day in a concise economy of style; both men were instrumental in cementing their respective nations' transformation from republic to Empire; and the works of both men were celebrated by the foremost men of letters of the day (Cicero'...more
GoldGato
Stunning. I thought Julius Caesar and Winston Churchill could write of war and leadership but Grant's memoirs blew me away. Written while he was dying in an effort to provide future funds for his family, the great American Civil War general created a classic review of his life in a style that reminded me of an old John Ford western. Stoic, efficient, self-effacing. My image of him changed, as I knew only of his victory in war and failure in politics.

They say that managers do the thing right, wh...more
Jan-Maat
I read this because of a review. The reviewer wrote that they had read this book to their Father while in was in hospital. The image of that situation struck me. What with one thing and another it was the kind of thing I could imagine doing myself.

The use of language is very direct and precise, there's a clear sense of narrative direction. The earliest recollection of his West Point years and service during the Mexico War link into the Civil War story. It was of course written partly in reaction...more
Bob Mayer
When he became President, Ulysses S. Grant lost his army pension. After the Presidency, he went into business with his son. They became caught up in a Ponzi scheme. Grant not only lost everything, he was deeply in debt. Then he was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer-- all those cigars. He didn't want to leave his wife destitute so he agreed to Mark Twain's long standing request to write his memoirs. BTW-- in my book coming out April 12, Duty, Honor, Country, I have a scene where a young Mark...more
William S.
This book is often called the finest presidential memoir. It doesn't, however, deal with the Grant presidency at all. Instead, it is his recollection of Civil War events, written in a race of time against his approaching death from throat cancer. With that focus, the book is magnificent - and a surprise. The strategic thinking about his famous battles is clear and comprehensible. Having read many books about the Civil War, I found myself shaking my head many times and noting "so that's how - and...more
Rob
Jan 28, 2013 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Civil War geeks.
An interesting book that is well written but not a personal memoir in the modern sense. This is not a tell all, voyeuristic baring of the soul. Grant is a 19th Century American. I have to admit in liking the 19th Century Americans. They were down to earth blistering realistic people. He assumed that his potential readers were more interested in why he was famous. He was not famous for being famous. He was a not a celebrity and his times were not neurotically obsessed with the famous. He was famo...more
Sea
Surprisingly good read for something written a 100+ years ago. The book's main focus is his military exploits in the Mexican American and Civil Wars. I read the free e-book version from Gutenberg which rendered the maps unusable (too small), and as a result the battle descriptions were difficult to follow. If this is important to you, I'm sure you could pull the maps up on a separate computer when reading these sections.

The most interesting parts to me was Grant's perhaps unintentional revelatio...more
Daniel
Dec 18, 2007 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs and lovers of Biographies
One of the greatest books I have read, it holds a surprising literary quality that few biographies hold. He puts you in the battlefield, and his vivid memory added by his brilliant expression, brings you back to the 1860's. READ IT!
Christopher Shay
This book reads a great deal like a military report. Probably because it's exactly that. But, dry as it is, the material is excellent, compelling, and told with great clarity. And every once in a while, I get the feeling that Grant is making an incredibly subtle understatement of a joke. Maybe. They crack me up, anyway.

For me, the coolest thing about this book is its portrayal of the American Civil War as unique in the history of conflicts. And I say this as a guy who's trying to make a living o...more
Steve Van Slyke
I thoroughly enjoyed this and at only 95 cents on Kindle it was a bargain as well. I am not sure if the hard copy book contains more maps than the Kindle version (which had only one), but if reading the Kindle version you may want to take advantage of the many campaign and battle maps available on the internet, because Grant's description of the various campaigns references many cities and rivers that may well be unfamiliar to the reader not living in the SE United States.

It was amazing to me ho...more
Jeff
I liked this book overall but found the detailed recounting of Civil War battles a bit monotonous. I would have liked Grant to write more about his personal life and presidency, the latter was barely mentioned. I'm sure a Civil War buff would have got more out of the parts that dealt with this war, a lot of it started sounding the same to me. Having driven through some of the South, I could place an image with some of the battle locations and I would like to see more sites some day. That being s...more
Ron
I've read abridged versions of Grant's Memoirs before, but this is the first time I've read the unabridged version. It is even a little more interesting because I also got Twain's Autobiography for Xmas and it begins with a description of the publication of the Memoirs.

The abridged versions I've read cut out the parts that are the most fun, and concentrate on his versions of the battles. I'm not saying that those are not fascinating, but the discussion of the abilities of the various generals a...more
Mark
Ulysses S. Grant may be one of the most underrated American heroes. Although he was a hero in his own time, history has not been kind to Grant.

The myths that he was a butcher who needlessly sent his troops to their death and that he was always drunk are simply fabrications. Did Grant have alcohol problems in his life? Yes, he became alcoholic while stationed away from his family in the army. Did that affect his generalship? Not at all. Having read a couple biographies about Grant, I only recall...more
Jeremy Perron
Ulysses S. Grant is one of the most famous figures in American history. He was the Union general who had successfully led the nation's troops to victory in the Civil War. Grant wrote these memories while dying and trying to provide an income for his wife. Mark Twain, who was his publisher and is not exactly unbiased, compared the work to that of Julius Caesar. Well having read and reviewed CaesarThe Conquest of Gaul (Penguin Classics)The Civil War (Oxford World's Classics), I have to say that I...more
Will
This is primarily a book about the Civil War. One can tell that Grant is adding his account to an existing literature on the subject, often seeking to offer what he views as corrections to the conventional wisdom. However, the best parts are precisely when Grant departs from this subject. The passing observations he includes are fascinating, such as the wonder of his first 15-mph train ride, and the perilous state of the fill over San Francisco Bay in 1851. I am not sure that Grant is always a r...more
Herbert Lobsenz
Grant started this two volume memoir in the fall of 1884 after he'd been diagnosed with terminal throat cancer. Earlier that year his business partner had defrauded Grant and others by turning their partnership into a Ponzi scheme. Now penniless, in order to provide for his family after he died, Grant entered into an agreement with his friend, Mark Twain, under which Grant would write and Twain would publish the memoir.

The memoir begins with Grant's service in the Mexican War, which he considere...more
Ellis
This book contained, what seems to me, a very good account of the Mexican and Civil War battles that General Grant was involved in. Be warned, that if you aren't up for 700+ pages of logistical and operational details, then you may want to hold off on reading this book until you find yourself craving for just such a treatment.

The title of the book doesn't suggest that it will cover only the military aspect of Grant's life, but that is basically the case, except for a short bit at the end of the...more
Eduardo
Wonderful book! I didn't know whether to expect a boring account of lots of battles and dates, but I didn't find that to be the case. I found the first half of the book to be fascinating. It was full of interesting accounts of himself and other people. It's a great, engaging, first person narrative of important history and a great story.

It did later get to be too much battle-account for me.

What Mark Twain said of the book: "I had been comparing the memoirs with Caesar's Commentaries... I was abl...more
Pam Davidson
Excellent! US Grant was a professional soldier and conducted himself as such. One of the interesting parts of the book was when he was made head of the army of the United States by President Lincoln. Lincoln gave him his thoughts on conducting the war but told Grant that he was not to consider this an order. Grant was to pursue the war in the way that he thought best. Lincoln also asked Grant not to tell him how he planned to proceed. Lincoln admitted that he had a very difficult time keeping a...more
Nooilforpacifists
Unexpectedly lucid and thoughtful, Grant manages to communicate the talent that made him the North's most successful general: logistics. He could view terrain, and see, instantly, not just how it should be assaulted, but how the attacking army must be supplied. (Yes, he also actually would attack, unlike McClellan.). Famously, the book was written to provide a legacy for the Grant family, and completed in two sections, the second under severe pain after jaw cancer surgery. But, unlike others, I...more
Ann
Obtained this book at the gift shop at Grant's cottege on Mt. McGregor, NY. I've read this book before as William McFeeley's edition, titled simply "Grant" Grant's narrative is interesting and revealing. The only true fault I find with the edition are the maps, but using maps from other sources gave a much better reading experience. I've read a lot of military history and every one has one similar element that boggles the mind. The majority of high ranking officers and politicians are really inc...more
Darrel
Nov 19, 2013 Darrel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the US Civil War
I have read this AND listened to it as an audio book from Libravox.org with Jim Clevenger. As an avid student of the Civil War, it is most satisfying to hear the story from those who were actually there and in the fight. This memoir is well written and easy to follow. I would also say that Grant is fairly honest in his assessment of things with, of course, some self serving analysis occasionally. If you want to see the war from the perspective of the man who most influenced it, this is a must re...more
Xander
Aug 30, 2009 Xander rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Xander by: Dad
I now see Grant in a whole new light. I was surprised to find him thoughtful, philosophical, and surprisingly lukewarm about warfare as a whole. Grant gets bogged down in times with the minutiae of particular battles, but I figure that's what Grant felt was expected of him. But what lies in between these accounts, particularly in the beginning, is incredibly insightful.

If this isn't one of the greatest memoirs written, I don't know what is.
Jim Hahn

"Yours of this date , proposing armistice and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." - U. S. GRANT
Jeff
This book gets 3 stars for primary history, but really only deserves 2 stars. Nonetheless, Grant wrote this book out of duty, desperation, and ill-health. That being the case, I probably should give this 5 stars!
Marilyn Pronovost
This was one of the best autobiographies I have read. I knew very little about Grant but after reading it, I felt that I knew and admired the man. An imperfect and modest man who accomplished what no one else did|. winning the war and saving the Union. Through his effort and determination, he crafted a method of being victorious with the hope of reuniting the Union. As a young man he was involved I the MexicanAmerican war, one at he did not believe in. He saw the US as being an imperial govt tha...more
Jim
Well written auto biography by the Union General and President.
Ed Clinton
This is an excellent book. U.S. Grant was the general that Abraham Lincoln turned to to win the American Civil War.

Grant describes his early life, West Point education and service in the Mexican-American war, a war Grant believed was unjust. Grant rose from obscurity in the civil war. He began in the West where he won several victories over the Confederate armies, culminating with the successful capture of Vicksburg, a fortified confederate base. Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863 the same day that...more
Edward
It’s a long slog through the Civil War battles described by General Grant, and unless the reader is a Civil War buff, it’s easy to get lost in his accounts of his strategies in planning and moving troops in battle. But in an odd way, his technique works because after the seemingly endless battles, momentum finally begins to shift and the reader, by this time weary himself from reading, senses that the end is near. The Seige of Vicksburg succeeds, the campaign the battles at Chattanooga and Chick...more
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Ulysses Simpson Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant) was general-in-chief of the Union Army from 1864 to 1869 during the American Civil War and the 18th President of the United States from 1869 to 1877.

The son of an Appalachian Ohio tanner, Grant entered the United States Military Academy at age 17. In 1846, three years after graduating, Grant served as a lieutenant in the Mexican–American War under W...more
More about Ulysses S. Grant...
Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters (Library of America #50) Personal Memoirs, Vol. 2 Personal Memoirs, Vol. 1 The Autobiography of General Ulysses S Grant: Memoirs of the Civil War Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant - Volume 1

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“The distant rear of an army engaged in battle is not the best place from which to judge correctly what is going on in front.” 3 likes
“But my later experience has taught me two lessons: first, that things are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that the most confident critics are generally those who know the least about the matter criticised.” 3 likes
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