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American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  2,549 ratings  ·  402 reviews
From the author of the New York Times bestseller A. Lincoln, a major new biography of one of America’s greatest generals—and most misunderstood presidents

In his time, Ulysses S. Grant was routinely grouped with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in the “Trinity of Great American Leaders.” But the battlefield commander-turned-commander-in-chief fell out of favor in the t
Hardcover, 864 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Random House
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Henry The author acknowledges Grant's ideals and how some changed, using the subject's own words.

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4.50  · 
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 ·  2,549 ratings  ·  402 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
”Grant ‘moves with his shoulders thrown a little forward of the perpendicular, his left hand in the pocket of his pantaloons, an unlighted cigar in his mouth, his eyes thrown straight forward, which from the haze of abstraction that veils them, and a countenance drawn into furrows of thought, would seem to indicate that he is intensely preoccupied.’

‘The soldiers observe him coming, and rising to their feet, gather on each side of the way to see him pass--they do not salute him, they only watch h
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Another thought-provoking book during this forty days of biography reading takes me into the life and times of Ulysses S. Grant. Deemed one of the three greatest presidents at the turn of the 20th century, Ronald C. White takes the reader behind the scenes and offers a detailed account of the man and his journey through to the White House. Much might be known of his battles during the Civil War, though the reader is sure to find many other nuggets that help shape the man who defeated Robert E. L ...more
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Revisionist and largely appreciative biography of the 18th president of the United States, attempting to rescue him from political scandal and rumors of drunkenness, and restore him to a higher rank among American presidents.

General Grant, to the author, is a personal cipher - White has access to Grant's collected papers and even his correspondence with his beloved wife, Julia, but what he can determine as Grant's intense privacy and introversion - so much so that his troops called him 'the sil
Oct 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I had high hopes going into this book, as White is a respected historian and Grant is an underappreciated president. Unfortunately, I walked away feeling somewhat disappointed by the experience.

White's book gets off to an excellent start in detailing Grant's early years. In fact, I'd say it's one of the best depictions of the young Grant I have yet to come across. I felt as if I knew Grant as a man in ways that no author has been able to capture. Once we get to the war, White's writing slips no
Bill Powers
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A first-rate and refreshing new look at one of the greatest leaders in American history - Ulysses S. Grant. White focuses on Grant's pre-Civil War life, his life as one of America's great military leaders, his presidency years in which he battled for rights for the freed slaves and native Americans and his post-presidency years, culminating in one of the greatest autobiographies of an American leader.

Without U.S. Grant, American would look vastly different today and perhaps not even exist. If yo
Sean Chick
Jun 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Ethan Sepp Rafuse recently wrote that studies of Ulysses S. Grant are bordering on hagiography. Rafuse is too kind. Where once Robert E. Lee was the "marble man" of perfect morals, now Grant has been foisted into that position. As of 2017 his wikiquote page is little more than platitudes, either by or for Grant. You will never see quotations from disgruntled soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, nor anything about the rampant corruption of Grant's military and political life. All of which is not ...more
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, bio
A fine biography of a man who is both modest and audacious. A fascinating bio of an unusual person.

This is a very thorough bio of Grant, which covers both his personal life and his life as a war general and President. The body of the book is about 650 pages, with another 150 of notes and bibliography. We learn about a modest man, with strong convictions, a knack for personal friendships, though he sometimes appeared stiff and standoffish. We also learn about a man who grows into the roles circum
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it

Ronald White’s “American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant” was published in 2016, two years after I spent eight weeks reading six other biographies of Grant. White is a well-known historian and the author of nine books (including one of my favorites on Abraham Lincoln). He is currently working on “Abraham Lincoln’s Diary” which is a collection of notes and reflections left behind by Lincoln (due out in 2020) and a biography of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlai
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-biography
Any review of this book has to be a review of Grant too, because the opinion you bring to this book will largely influence whether you enjoy it.

I'm a Yankee. I want to think well of Grant (I actually own two framed pictures of him). This biographer also thinks well of him, so I enjoyed it the same way the way I enjoy anything that gives intellectual heft to notions that I already hold.

But I also recognize the value of viewing my most cherished preconceptions critically. It's hard to read this b
Steven Peterson
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a really fine biography of Ulysses S. Grant [sic]. That was not his real name, but in a clerical error, that is how we know him today. This is a well written book that reads nicely. We see the trajectory of his life from childhood through his West Point experience to his army career (featuring a very solid performance in the Mexican War and a career clothed with questions about drinking in the Northwest) to his floundering in private life (ending up working for his father in Galena, Illi ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it

A well written & readable book about a man not well known by Americans. White cuts through all the false facts about Grant that are accepted in other biographies, and tells the story of the man himself.
Recommended reading.
Carol Storm
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved the details on Grant's reading as young man, and also his relationship with his wife Julia and his friendship with Mark Twain!
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I started watching a documentary on Netflix about the Civil War and it spiked an interest in the time period and people involved. I decided to start with an author I’m already familiar with and have enjoyed in the past.

I’m someone who needs an easy introduction to topics like these, before recently I wasn’t that interested in history and I’m trying to play catch up on years of ignoring the topic. I find that Ronald C. White writes in a way that’s engaging and also entry-level for those people wi
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This detailed biography of Grant has excellent coverage of Grant’s role in the Civil War, but also a great deal of exposition about Grant’s character. The author presents Grant as someone who consistently surprised both friends and opponents by his humility, modesty, and magnanimity.

The author is trying to rectify the reputation of a man now known primarily for military genius (or at the least, military perseverance). For many years before recent times, however, Grant was regarded as one of the
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American Ulysses is a new biography of General Ulysses Grant, written by an author who has written extensively on the time, including a biography of Abraham Lincoln. It is a very good biography, although a bit constrained by the author's focus on telling a clear story about the life of Grant, who was a more complex man than the story lets on. I don't disagree with White's analysis but wish that his frequent summing up and foreshadowing could have been more attenuated and the reader give more of ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Note: This review replaces the much shorter one I posted a couple of weeks ago


Another in a series of books attempting to restore the life and career of Ulysses S. Grant into proper historical perspective. Undoubtedly the most popular man in America at the time of his death in 1885, his reputation has taken a beating in the years since the end of Reconstruction. Due to a combination of Northern exhaustion after 15 years of Civil War and Reconstruction, and a purposeful campaign by Southern his
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
An engaging and well-written biography.

White’s assessment of Grant is largely favorable. White’s Grant comes off as decent and fair, with a strong sense of morality and a certain sophistication. Assessments of his presidency tend to go back and forth; White appears to conclude that he was average at worst, while emphasizing his personal commitment to his sense of justice. The Civil War tends to be the best part of White’s book. The narrative here is smooth and energetic.

White’s treatment of Gran
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
American Ulysses was a good biography of Civil War general and the 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant. I learned alot about Grant's personality and character in this book. He was an introvert, who was calm, self-less, loving to his wife, and a fighter for the rights of Native Americans and African Americans. I first learned of this book when I heard the author, Ronald White, in an interview about the book on C-SPAN's Q&A. I was drawn to it because White mentioned how Grant ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
Ulysses S. Grant was a general and a President. Today he is better remembered as winning general, but his reputation as a President is middling at best. His presidency is remembered more for the scandals that emerged among members of his cabinet, than his efforts to protect and extend civil rights to African Americans recently freed from slavery, and his attempt to create a humane policy toward Native Americans. What President Grant needs is a careful but sympathetic biographer. He has found tha ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
What a great general
.... he won the Civil War and impressed us with his humility.
New York Times Best Seller 2016
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The passage of time has not been good to Ulysses Grant's reputation thanks to Lost Cause writers who, in order to paint the Confederate cause as glorious, began chipping away at Grant's reputation after Grant's death. During Grant's lifetime, he was much admired and considered one of three greatest American leaders along with Washington and Lincoln. Ronald C. White's excellent biography has helped revive this reputation. The portion of the book that stood out for me was the section on the Civil ...more
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! It was interesting to read a book about the Civil War that was just focused on one man. Grant was such a exceptional person - it was wonderful to learn more about him. Very well written biography.
Brian Willis
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Grant is one of the few American heroes or Presidents who really need a multiple volume biography. There is so much to cover: the Mexican-American war, the Civil War, a two term Presidency, and the heroic writing of his memoirs while emaciated by cancer. In fact, all of the above have evoked massive single volumes on those areas alone. In 659 pages, White accomplishes a breezy, engaging, revelatory read, one that finally re-engages areas of Grant's persona that were long since assumed settled.

Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
White writes a powerful and moving biography of a great man. Many people made out at one time to be heroes may at another time be discovered as corrupt, or may falter in fortitude to right principles, and be the cause of scandal and disappointment. But Grant remained a man of steadfast integrity. He embodied a calm yet forceful determination to see responsibilities and chosen tasks to their end. Most highly regarded characteristic of his was a gentle demeanor animated by a grand, warm heart, whi ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
White is redeemed from my unfavorable opinions of A. Lincoln with American Ulysses, as he succeeds in bringing the general to life again and relighting his legacy. His portrayal of the relationship between Ulysses and Julia is as heartwarming as the couple's love was adorable. He reveals that Grant was loved throughout the country more at his death than Abraham Lincoln, despite being nearly lost in the shadow of his predecessor today. However, Grant's world tour was terribly rushed, but would ha ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Never knew how awesome US Grant was, but he was in many ways. An exhausting read tho.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Cabinet Member speaking to Grant’s Character as President:

"[Secretary of State] Fish penned an impromptu tribute to his commander in chief. Not one for hyperbole, he wrote: "No man living is more tolerant of honest and manly differences of opinions, - is more sincere or single in his desire for the public welfare, -is more disinterested or regardless of what concerns himself, - is more frank and confiding in his own dealings …”"

On leadership:

“Grant wanted Phil Sheridan to press an assault in the
Rod Zemke
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Probably the definitive bio of Ulysses Grant. I learned that he was a much better president that I previous thought. He was a true progressive on race relations in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So many rumors were passed around about Ulysses S. Grant, even in his lifetime, it's difficult to separate myth from reality. Today we will have an image of Grant as rather shallow, a heavy drinker, a general who carelessly sacrificed soldiers, and an easily-manipulated politician. This new biography from Ronald C. White gives a more balanced and more positive perspective on a man who, when he died, was considered the equal of Lincoln and Washington.

Grant is shown as someone who was generally in
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Writing this elegant is a skill. If, as history, "American Ulysses" isn't as hard and sharp as I might want it, it's still quite an accomplishment.

It doesn't get a whole lot better than this. By which I really do mean, it can be done better and has been — Jean Edward Smith's "Grant," for instance — but not all that often.

This is presented as an agenda biography, a latest entry in a decades-long softening/rehabilitation of U.S. Grant's reputation: i.e., he's a better man than you thought. Ronald
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Ronald C. White is the author of American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant (2016). General David H. Petraeus (Ret.) wrote, “Certain to be recognized as the classic work on Ulysses S. Grant.”

White is also the author of three books on Abraham Lincoln. A. Lincoln: A Biography [2009], was a New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times bestseller. USA Today said, “If you read one book abou
“One day during the siege, Grant was observed walking the outer line when he encountered a mule-team driver beating and cursing one of the mules. He ordered the man to stop. The animal’s abuser, seeing a man with a blouse and no sign of rank, turned and began to swear at him. Grant had the man arrested and brought to his headquarters. Only then did the mule driver realize whom he had insulted. The man was ordered to be tied up by his thumbs. When released, the contrite soldier apologized for his language, telling Grant he did not know to whom he was speaking. Grant explained that he had punished the soldier not because of what he’d said to his commanding general: “I could defend myself, but the mule could not.” 6 likes
“I will not hesitate to exhaust the powers thus vested in the Executive…for the purpose of securing to all citizens of the United States the peaceful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and laws. —ULYSSES S. GRANT, Proclamation, May 3, 1871” 2 likes
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