Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Grant” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  12,197 ratings  ·  247 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 June 29th 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Grant, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,197 ratings  ·  247 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Grant
Mar 01, 2010 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
Feb 24, 2015 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 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
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
May 06, 2013 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
Conor Madigan
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
With one exception, which I found distasteful and heartbreaking, Smith's work rings out with precise intensity on and off the battlefield.

(As a kid, I visited the Gettysburg battlefield sixteen times: maybe ten in the summer, six in spring. We'd always take the train from Chicago to Harrisburg, and my Grandparents lived in New Oxford, not a stone's throw. The second time I had a 'heat-related event', we'd parked our rental sedan under Devil's Den and began our mother and son stroll out to the d
Dec 30, 2008 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
Jun 22, 2013 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
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Prolific biography readers are flipping out about this book and how it's redefined our understanding of Grant and whatnot. I am not a prolific reader of biographies and didn't know much about Grant before this, so I can't comment on that, but I did freaking love this book. Like kept reading parts of it to my longsuffering family, kept quoting it, kept opening Wikipedia tabs on subjects it discussed, loved it. I even dreamed about it.
I probably wouldn't commit to a book this size if it were not a
Jan 15, 2014 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 life (
Jeremy Perron
Nov 15, 2011 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
Jul 11, 2015 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
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A solid and readable, though not comprehensive, Grant bio.

There are a TON of Grant biographies. Because of this, it's often hard to find a new or fresh approach. Grant bios must invariably cover the Civil War and this tends to make up the bulk of their content (understandably so). Given that Grant's autobiography is almost exclusively about his ACW generalship, this reliance on this prmary source material is forgivable. What sets bios apart from each other is how much the biographer looks into O
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I do not know much about Grant. Well not in the great depth that author, Jean Edward Smith provided in this book. At over seven hundred pages, there is a ton of information. A good portion of the book starts out in very detail about the Civil War and the role and type of leader that Grant grew up to become. This played a strong part later in his life when he would become President.

As I stated, there is lots of information in this book. A history buff will enjoy this thoughtful book. If you didn
May 15, 2010 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 for me ...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 18, 2012 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
Bryn Dunham
Sep 19, 2012 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
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
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
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jean Edward Smith is perhaps considered the best biographer of presidents and you can see his talents on display in this one. I've wanted to read about Grant for some time and Smith does a great breakdown of his life and times that is thorough but not dense. The chronicling of his Mexican War career taught me a lot about that detestable conflict, as did the Civil War part, the outline of which I knew well but not specifically Grant's role outside of the big battles.

The main reason I read this w
Joe Topham
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A splendid biography of America’s least-appreciated leader. Like the subject himself, Smith does a masterful job of telling the story without stepping in and inserting himself when unnecessary. A quick and engaging read, you are transported back to the confusion of the first day at Shiloh, the triumph of Vicksburg, the final victory at Appomattox. Smith takes you along nearly in first person perspective through so many familiar battlefields, a refreshing change from many older works on the Civil ...more
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
Oct 12, 2010 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
Robert Sparrenberger
Dec 08, 2013 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
Emmett Hoops
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Stephen Wright
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nice, long read! You can tell Smith is a good political scientist and gave me a greater appreciation for not only the military leadership of Grant, but even more for his two terms as president (underrated, indeed).

My only two criticisms are

1) I would have enjoyed having more light shed on Grant’s family, particularly his children.

2) Smith may have been trying too hard in his descriptions of Civil War battles. Detail of strategy is great, but overkill was in effect.

I would enjoy reading Smith
Joanne Otto
Jul 02, 2014 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.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is well worth a read. Very interesting to read about Grant's successes & his many lesser known failures ...more
F.C. Schaefer
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sadly, this is another book that sat on my shelf a little too long, and with Ron Chernow’s massive new biography just being published – a book I hope to read in the near future – I thought I’d better get busy reading Jean Edward Smith’s bio of the man who won the Civil War and then went on to be President. And having read it, I must confess to some shame at having too long passed by a great book that gives us an in depth look at Ulysses S. Grant, one that goes against some of the harsher judgmen ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: civil-war
Jean Edward Smith shows mastery of his subject in this biography of Ulysses S Grant. It is clear he thinks that Grant has been treated unfairly by earlier biographers and while he shows appreciation he does not ignore Grant's flaws. He had no head for business and was loyal to a flaw. He was spot aggressive in the battle field and honest in politics that he tended to underestimate his enemies. When they attacked he could be caught off guard. despite that, Grant emerges from these pages as a man ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Eisenhower: Soldier and President
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • Theodore Rex
  • John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life
  • The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
  • American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson
  • Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America
  • Master of the Senate
  • The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness
  • Washington's Crossing
  • Means of Ascent
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Colonel Roosevelt
  • American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
  • John Adams
  • Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
  • No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
  • Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full
See similar books…
Jean Edward Smith was 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 served 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 Princeto

News & Interviews

    Pulitzer Prize–winning literary critic Michiko Kakutani, the former chief book critic of The New York Times, is the author of the newly...
47 likes · 12 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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” 1 likes
“Despite Sumner’s vigorous opposition, the Senate, after an all-night debate, adopted a resolution introduced by Senator Oliver P. Morton of Indiana authorizing the commission, and the House followed suit.51” 1 likes
More quotes…