In 1884, the ex-president and ex-Union commander Ulysses S. Grant became bankrupt, having trusted his money to swindlers; soon after, he felt the first agonizing throat pain from the cancer that would kill him. Desperate to save his family from destitution, he wrote his memoirs, finishing days before his 1885 death. Veteran historian Flood (Lee: The Last Years) delivers a blow-by-blow narrative, full of colorful characters, accounts of earlier triumphs , and an upbeat ending. Grant's book became a critically acclaimed bestseller. Much credit goes to aggressive marketing by Mark Twain, who published the book and insisted on paying far more than the usual royalties. Inevitably, Grant's illness provoked an obsessive media deathwatch that seems very contemporary, plus innumerable tributes, honors, speeches, editorials, and letters from schoolchildren, admirers, and cranks. Liberal quotes from these as well as extensive flashbacks reveal Flood straining to fill the pages, but this is a moving if painful portrait of a dying national hero. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A lucid, often somber account of the sad but noble decline of Ulysses S. Grant. . . . A welcome addition to the literature surrounding Grant and his time." Kirkus
Flood (Grant and Sherman) writes movingly of the last months of Ulysses S. Grant's life, 1884–85, when, in the wake of financial ruin from a failed investment and suffering from terminal throat cancer, he labored to complete his memoirs (which would be published by Mark Twain) so that his family might once again prosper after his death. Flood paints a vivid picture of Grant's earlier achievements and of the United States in the decades after the Civil War, moving back and forth between the turmoil surrounding Grant in 1884 and his conduct of the war, paying special attention to his relationships with his family and friends, the troops he commanded, and his humane treatment of Confederate troops in the terms of surrender. Flood has great respect for his subject and succeeds in transmitting it to the reader. VERDICT Those who like presidential or post-Civil War history will especially enjoy this book, aimed at general readers, with its compelling portrait of a well-known historical figure. Grant's Personal Memoirs has never been out of print and is recommended, with this one, for readers from high school to undergraduate students and history buffs.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L., GA
A lucid, often somber account of the sad but noble decline of Ulysses S. Grant.
Though he had served two terms as president, writes Flood (1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History, 2009, etc.), Grant was universally known as "General Grant." He had left office under a shadow, several key members of his administration having been found corrupt, and he was determined to set an example as an honest businessman. And so, strangely, he went to New York to become an investment broker, where his partner swindled him out of his fortune and besmirched his name even further. With scarcely a cent to his name, Grant briefly entertained a magazine editor's proposal that he write a series of articles on the Civil War but rejected it, saying, "I have no idea of undertaking the task of writing any of the articles the Century requests." Yet eventually the thought of writing his own view of events became more appealling—notably when he was shortly afterward diagnosed with cancer. In excruciating pain, he wrote what has been considered one of the most important military memoirs ever produced, spurred along by friend and publisher Mark Twain (who, Flood notes, had been a deserter from the Confederate army). Writes Flood, with considerable elegance, "By deciding to give his work the full titlePersonal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, [Grant] did himself a great favor. He could write about the things he wished to put before the reader, and omit those he did not. At one stroke, he relieved himself of the obligation to include everything he might know about a battle or a person, while reserving the right to dwell on a smaller matter or fleeting perception." And so he did, writing of the hell and chaos of battle while suffering a second hell of his own. Upon learning of his death, Grant's former opponent James Longstreet called him "the truest as well as the bravest man who ever lived." In this swiftly moving narrative, Flood ably shows why he deserved the accolade.
A welcome addition to the literature surrounding Grant and his time.