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4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  6,550 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
Ulysses S. Grant was the first four-star general in the history of the United States Army and the only president between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson to serve eight consecutive years in the White House. As general in chief, Grant revolutionized modern warfare. Rather than capture enemy territory or march on Southern cities, he concentrated on engaging and defeating th ...more
Hardcover, 781 pages
Published 2001 by Simon & Schuster
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked an interesting moment to read this book. Right now, all across America, people are subverting history to their own political ends. Some - I'm looking at you Rick Perry - are actually advocating succession, as though treason is some kind of joke. Others are wrapping themselves in the banner of our nation's revolutionaries, though I'm pretty sure most of them couldn't tell me the difference between the Battle of Princeton and the Battle of Brandywine Creek for all the tea in their tea par ...more
Jean Edward Smith's Grant is an impressive achievement in biography. Smith is a thorough researcher, thoughtful writer, and a first-class prose stylist. With this biography, he expanded the conventional picture of Grant, revealing him as a heroic figure who was strong, dedicated, resilient and persevering, yet also flawed. Grant was a tight-lipped stoic who seldom showed his feelings – but beneath that shell was a warm and sensitive man with artistic sensibilities, dedicated to his family, loyal ...more
Steven Peterson
Apr 01, 2012 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read other biographies of U. S. Grant, but this ranks very high. The most important difference between this version and others is the more nuanced treatment of his presidency.

The book follows a pretty standard path. The guiding theme can be summarized thus (Page 15): "The biography emphasizes the continuity in Grant's life. The common thread is strength of character--an indomitable will that never flagged in the face of adversity."

The book adopts a chronological approach: It begins with h
Sep 13, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“Grant” is Jean Edward Smith’s 2001 biography of the eighteenth U.S. president. It was the 2002 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography. Smith taught at the University of Toronto for 35 years before joining the faculty of Marshall University where he is Professor of Political Science. The most recent of his dozen books are FDR and Eisenhower in War and Peace.

Smith’s biography is the most widely read of all the Ulysses S. Grant biographies and with goo
Ulysses S. Grant may not have been a great president, but he was far better a president than I had ever before recognized, and he was unquestionably a great general, great American, and perhaps a great human being. I don't write off moral shortcomings of historical figures by claiming that "you can't hold them accountable to today's standards" - the heck we can't! We should indeed hold past leaders accountable to today's standards, just as we should have to answer to future generations. But even ...more
Donna Davis
What, another one? Yes friends, every time I find a noteworthy biography of Grant, it leads me to another. This is not a recent release; I found it on an annual pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books in my old hometown, Portland, Oregon. I always swing through the American Civil War shelves of their history section, and I make a pass through the military history area as well. I found this treasure, originally published in 2001 when I was too busy to read much of anything. It was a finalist for the ...more
Aug 30, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engaging, it reads more like narrative history than biography. Grant was a man of strong character, modesty,formidable intellect, and rock-solid self-confidence. Although littered with typos, and the fact that many passages actually read almost verbatim like other books on Grant and the Civil War, in all I enjoyed the book.

Grant's military genius is indisputable , as is Smith's strong appreciation for it. Some of it was actually simple ( such as that instead of concentrating on the advantages he
This was one of the most enjoyable biographies I've read. This is how biographies should be written: in such a way that the narrative flows and doesn't get bogged down in minutiae; further information about certain events or people mentioned in the main text is supplied through concise & pertinent footnotes.

The only thing I regret about this book is that I didn't read it sooner - it sat on my book shelf for over a year!

While it was interesting to learn about U.S. Grant and his remarkable li
Jeremy Perron
Nov 15, 2011 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All he really wanted to be was a mathematics professor. Had the life plan Ulysses S. Grant made while at West Point came true, the world would have never heard of the man who would become our eighteenth president. Moreover, the whole world would have been worse place then it is today. Grant's life is in itself a remarkable story that sparks an interest form the curious: a compassionate man who becomes one of world's most feared generals.

Smith brings to life an incredible Grant, one who is so ea
Aaron Million
This is a really good biography of a great general and an under-rated president. The writing is clear and concise - much like Grant's own writings were. Smith, unlike William McFeely in his earlier biography of Grant, does not engage in psychoanalysis. Grant's boyhood is dispatched with quickly, as is his time spent at West Point. The chapter on the War with Mexico is good - focusing on what Grant learned from Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor, as well as his keen observations of the fe ...more
Regina Lindsey
The very first presidential biography I read was one on Grant when I was ten years old.

While historically ranked near the bottom in lists of effective presidents, Grant was the only man re-elected between Lincoln and Wilson. He even came close to being nominated for a third term. What is most surprising is that the presidency was Grant's first forray in elected office.

Smith provides a good, readable overview of Grant. However, he falls into the easiest trap for a biography. I can appreicate ad
Jun 28, 2012 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ulysses S. Grant has always been one of my favourite Civil War-era historical figures, along with Lincoln and Sherman. I always admired his courage and his honesty, his iron will and determination, his willingness to try unorthodox strategies, and most of all, his magnanimity to his defeated foe at Appomattox.

History has remembered him as a truly great general, a man who revolutionized modern warfare, the man who more than anyone else won the Civil War for the Union. But he also been remembered
General Grant is moving up the ranks as one of my favorite historical people. This was an amazing book covering the full life of Grant from his early days, through the Civil War, his presidency, and his death. The narrative style is superbly done, and you can't help but respect and admire Grant throughout his life. The Civil War years probably take up about half of the book and these were easily the best parts. His presidency is covered topically and while interesting, it is not as fascinating a ...more
May 15, 2010 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians; presidential buffs
Recommended to Doug by: Strand Bookstore, NYC
After reading David McCullough's biographies of Truman and Adams, every other bio I read suffers by comparison. In this case, I feel as though I knew nothing of Grant's relationship with his wife and children. Nor do I understand much about the beginnings of his life. I now understand why McCullough spends so much time on these topics with JA & HT. Smith basically picks up during Grant's time at West Point, at which point he is already an established man. These were two large shortcomings fo ...more
Emmett Hoops
Aug 10, 2016 Emmett Hoops rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt, this is one of the most surprisingly good books I've ever come across. I wasn't all that interested in the post-Civil War period in our history. And I know a lot about the war. And we all know Grant was a failure as President. What did I know, or care?

I am exactly the kind of person for whom this book is the perfect read. It will blow away any notions you have about Grant, and he will become so real to you that you'll very nearly be able to hear his quiet, honest voice next to y
Robert Sparrenberger
Very solid telling of General Grant's life. I've read this author before and found his treatment of FDR and Eisenhower to be well balanced and not preachy or suffering from biography worship.

The majority of this book however focuses on the civil war which is fine but i was hoping for a bit more on his presidency. I did learn about that time and how many of the scandals that befell his presidency were without his knowledge.

A worthwhile read on a forgotten president. His exploits during the civi
Nov 30, 2010 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Very much enjoyed it...Jean Edward Smith is a capital biographer and his writing style is lively and engaging. I also really enjoyed FDR by JES. The strongest part of the book for me were the sections devoted to Grant's Civil War record. I thought some of his presidency seemed very glossed over, almost as if he were rushing to all though it makes a very compelling case that Grant's presidency was very much underrated and under-appreciated. I would highly recommend the book to anyone ...more
Joanne Otto
Jul 02, 2014 Joanne Otto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This well researched, insightfully written biography has introduced me to a man I now consider to have been among our nation's greatest presidents. Again and again I found myself thinking, "Wow! I had no idea." Smith has done a great service for anyone interested in reading about American history in general, and specifically about the difference that a single resourceful and morally courageous individual can make in the course it takes. I highly recommend this book.
Gabriel Riekhof
Nov 03, 2016 Gabriel Riekhof rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the Union Army was outmatched during the first half of the Battle of Shiloh, William Tecumseh Sherman thought it was time to retreat. He went to find Grant to tell him.

“The rain was coming down in buckets, punctuated by heavy thunder and lightning in the background. In this surreal setting Sherman found Grant standing alone under a large oak tree, dripping wet, hat slouched down over his face, coat collar up around his ears, a dimly glowing lantern in his hand, cigar clenched between his
Mark Carley
Dec 27, 2016 Mark Carley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read two presidential biographies this year - this one and Wilson, by A. Scott Berg. Both were excellent historical biographies, but they left me with impressions that are almost diametrically opposed to the rankings these two presidents typically get from the so-called experts (mostly leftist history professors, I suspect). The intelligencia always place Wilson in the near-great category while assessing Grant as more-or-less a failure as president. The two biographies made the opposite case t ...more
Dec 28, 2016 Kyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
For some reason, I did not enjoy this as much as I thought I would. The first Jean Edward Smith book I read was his recently published 'Bush' - I was quite impressed with that one but not as much with this one. My feeling after reading it was that it focused too much on his Civil War career. Perhaps that is fitting because the war really does characterize and define Grant in many ways but I personally have a tough time envisioning the nuanced troop movements that Smith writes about in great deta ...more
Steven Voorhees
Jan 16, 2017 Steven Voorhees rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ulysses Simpson Grant's one of my heroes. I'm drawn to his stoicism. Grant never gave up and stared down misfortune with an iron will. With cunning and tactical brilliance, Grant fired the North's triumph over the South in the Civil War. He saved the Union just as much as Lincoln did, Smith writes -- Lincoln through action and eloquence; Grant via plain action. He was a hardened soldier -- yet a generous person (to a fault). Grant wore down Lee and the Confederacy. But Grant also worked hard to ...more
Jan 03, 2017 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! More detail than earlier biography. More civil war battle information. I get on a civil war jag every so often and this was part of that craving. Highly readily and a must for civil war buffs.
Joshua Barton
Oct 13, 2016 Joshua Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really well written and researched biography of Ulysses Grant. Jean Edward Smith looks at Grant's military career and presidency, highlighting both Grant's strengths and weaknesses. While Grant's military accomplishments are fairly well known, Smith's analysis of Grant's presidency is what set this biography apart for me. The Grant years are often dismissed as a dismal presidency due to the scandals undertaken by the people and subordinates that Grant trusted. Smith looks into the issues that ...more
Nov 30, 2016 Tina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
One of the best biographies I've read. Follows very closely Grant's memoirs.
Oct 11, 2016 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best biographies I've read in a long time. Smith provides insight into Grant's character which, in turn, helps the reader understand what made him such a great leader (both military and political) while also overseeing an administration which is synonymous with scandal. I now have more well-rounded view - an admiration for - a man who I previously viewed primarily as a tenacious general.
Kyle Bunkers
Oct 01, 2016 Kyle Bunkers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
An excellent and illuminating biography of an underrated president, and good man. I had heard good things about Grant, but was also aware that Grant did not have a great reputation with some historians. This book showed me that while Grant was not a perfect president, he was a good and honest one. He fought for Reconstruction, he fought for Plains Indians, and he did his best in all he could for his country. He could have been elected for a third term for president even!

In any case, the majorit
May 28, 2016 Marty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Separating the personal from the professional in my experience reading this book will be impossible. So let me just state right up front that I loved reading this book and I can’t tell you how much of that is due to the writing and how much is due to my fragile emotional state right now. You see, my dad passed away two months ago. It was unexpected and harder than I ever thought possible. My angel wife struggled knowing how to best comfort someone in such a state. She overheard me say that the l ...more
Sep 26, 2016 Straker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Readable but clearly biased biography of the 19th Century soldier and president. Smith exaggerates Grant's virtues, glosses over his faults and, in my opinion, deliberately downplays his drinking problem. Like too many other leftist historians, Smith is of the view that as long as an individual is on the "right" side of certain social issues then all other faults can be dismissed as trivial. I don't share that view and therefore cannot recommend this book.
Feb 01, 2009 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abraham Lincoln was the President the nation needed at its darkest hour, the beginning of the Civil War and Grant was the general that Lincoln needed to win that war. Smith covers Grant's leadership, first in the west then as general of the army and defacto commander of the Army of the Potomac with detailed descriptions of both the strategy and the tactics that won the war for the North. He is particularly good on Grant's relationship with his subordinates--Grant was a very "hand's off" commande ...more
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Currently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto after having served as professor of political economy there for thirty-five years. Smith also currently serves as professor of history and government at Ashland University.

A graduate of McKinley High School in Washington, D.C., Smith received an A.B. from Prin
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“Lincoln responded: I have just received your dispatch of 1 p.m. yesterday. —I begin to see it. You will succeed. — God bless you all. A. LINCOLN6” 0 likes
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