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4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,882 Ratings  ·  155 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. As president, he brought stability to the country after years of war and upheaval. Yet today Grant is remembe ...more
Paperback, 784 pages
Published April 9th 2002 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2001)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2015 Manray9 rated it really liked it
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
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

“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
Dec 30, 2008 Jack rated it really liked it
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
Jun 07, 2015 Martin rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 03, 2016 Aaron Million rated it really liked it
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
Aug 30, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 28, 2012 Caroline rated it really liked it
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
Joanne Otto
Jul 02, 2014 Joanne Otto rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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
Robert Sparrenberger
Jun 22, 2015 Robert Sparrenberger rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 28, 2016 Marty rated it it was amazing
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
Scott Cox
Jan 18, 2016 Scott Cox rated it it was amazing
Jean Edward Smith's biography of Ulysses S. Grant was an engrossing read. Perhaps this is because two-thirds of the book covered his civil war battles and military leadership. Not unlike the fictional "Master and Commander" series by Patrick O'Brian, the battle scenes are “page-turners.” However most of the attraction is due to Grant as a leader. He was quiet, unassuming, loyal, knew how to delegate, yet always assumed final responsibility for decisions and was quick to take the offensive. This ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Well, I found a new chapter for Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me". In school I got the standard treatment of Grant as a general and a president - the brutality, the drunkenness, the corruption, the et cetera. Smith's biography shows how far off base that treatment is. Under Grant's administration, the civil rights amendments (14 & 15) were enforced vigorously to the point of sending the Army in to put down the Ku Klux Klan and related groups, reversed longstanding policy of perpetually relo ...more
David Oskutis
Nov 23, 2015 David Oskutis rated it really liked it
The story of Ulysses Grant really should be far better known in American History. While his exploits in the Civil War are well documented, not nearly enough is mentioned about his handling of the Reconstruction of America after President Johnson nearly tossed the country back into Civil War again. Grant's ability to make a slow moving army and government actually move and accomplish tasks is nearly unheard of in modern day politics. His generosity, his undeniable honesty (and to think, they call ...more
Jun 16, 2014 C A rated it it was amazing
Ulysses Grant in my opinion is often one of the most misunderstood Presidents in our nations history. A failure in many business pursuits, he excelled only in military service. He was not a businessman, but was elected President because of his popularity for having won the Civil War.
Grants true passion was his family, and his reports of drinking during battles was brought on by his severe loneliness and desire to be with his family. A true testament to this man's character was the fact that w
Dave N
Oct 30, 2015 Dave N rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book itself is very well written, and seeing the Civil War through Grant's eyes is certainly illuminating, but the book feels just shy of hagiography. The reason that I chose this biography over McFeeley's Pulitzer-prize winning book is because I'd read that McFeely's book was overly hard on Grant, almost to the point of being prosecutorial. However, what I found was that Smith's went to the other extreme, with a lot of Grants errors glossed over or justified through somewhat faulty logic, i ...more
Lewis Smith
Oct 06, 2014 Lewis Smith rated it it was amazing
I rarely read biographies twice, but this one is an exception. It is an enthralling tale of one of the most complex and consistently underestimated men in American history; a brilliant general, a devoted husband and father, and a tireless crusader for equality and civil rights for African-Americans at a time when such a stance was unpopular in the North and South alike. Smith not only looks at Grant's many achievements, but at his shortcomings as well, and analyzes why Grant has been consistentl ...more
Jun 20, 2016 Emily rated it liked it
My life-time non-fiction reading goal is to read a bio of every US President and happy to say I ticked Ulysses S. Grant off the list! Overall, even though this took me what seemed like FOREVER to read, I enjoyed it. Grant was an amazing general yet someone who seemed like a very soft-spoken and sensitive dude, to the point you would think that would make him a disaster as a military leader but it was def his strength yet a weakness once he got to the presidency. The author gave scant details abo ...more
Jerry Dawson
Jun 15, 2016 Jerry Dawson rated it really liked it
I would venture that most folks have a picture in their mind of Grant as President that is neither flattering nor accurate. Although I had read Grant's own "Memoirs," this objective, historian view painted a picture of a man and a President to admire.

I am working my way through select prez bios, and have now completed Eisenhower, Teddy R., Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Pierce, Lincoln, and now Grant (read in that order).

Grant was a modest man with a formidable will who became arguably this c
Feb 12, 2016 Katy rated it it was amazing
I had read a shorter Grant biography (Korda) and decided that I wanted something that went a lot more in depth and also treated the subject with the respect and fairness he does not or has not typically received, so after a little research, I decided to give this one a try. A majority of my reading happens on work lunch hours or during the commute to and from work each day; so this book ended up being quite the lengthy reading "project" but certainly very enjoyable. Besides simply the historical ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Terri rated it really liked it
This book took me a long time to read, but I'm glad I read it. It's a great story of a man who didn't have two nickels to rub together when the Civil War started but who became general in chief of the Union Army by the end of the war and then was twice elected President of the United States. I had a little difficulty following when the details about some of the individual battles got too detailed and also with some of the details about some of the political issues of the time during his presiden ...more
Bryn Dunham
Sep 26, 2014 Bryn Dunham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books, history
"Grant" is a wonderful biography of an amazing figure in American history. Jean Edward Smith has written a book that should appeal to everyone, not just history scholars. It is easy to read, flows well, and without a doubt paints a lucid and favorable portrait of Ulysses S. Grant. He was an amazing soldier, a respected president, and a loyal to a fault.

Liked: Besides covering his military campaigns and career, Smith expresses clearly and gives the reader a true sense of his personal character, c
Sep 19, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent biography by Mr. Smith. His writing is so clear and fluid with just the right level of detail. At times he drills down on really interesting historical questions that other biographers gloss over. Smith also excels in his battle descriptions - giving the reader enough detail about troop formations to understand how each conflict evolved the way it did. The best examples of this are the discussions of Forts Donelson and Chattanooga.

Each phase of Grant's life is presented in a h
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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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