Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant / Recollections and Letters, Robert E. Lee (Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions)

Overview

More than one hundred fifty years after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, the writings of these two remarkable men continue to spark interest in the Civil War. Grant's Personal Memoirs and Lee's Recollections and Letters remain not only decisive histories of the Civil War and its military leaders, but also fundamental texts for understanding the character of the United States and her heroes.
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Overview

More than one hundred fifty years after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, the writings of these two remarkable men continue to spark interest in the Civil War. Grant's Personal Memoirs and Lee's Recollections and Letters remain not only decisive histories of the Civil War and its military leaders, but also fundamental texts for understanding the character of the United States and her heroes.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760775097
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 10/24/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions Series
  • Edition description: Genuine Bonded Leather with Ribbon Marke
  • Pages: 1104
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 2.26 (d)

Introduction

More than one hundred fifty years after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, the writings of these two remarkable men continue to spark interest in the Civil War. In fact, Grant and Lee both rise above the events of the bloodiest episode in United States history -and the tumultuous years that followed-to share, in a broader sense, a place as all-American icons. Their lives in many ways were remarkably similar: Both graduated from West Point; both fought in the Mexican War; both moved up the ranks of the U.S. military; both were asked by President Abraham Lincoln to command Federal forces; and both were present at Appomattox at the war's close. Following Lincoln's lead, General Grant was particularly generous to Lee in the terms of surrender, offering Confederate soldiers clemency as long as they honored their commitment not to take up arms. Ex-Confederates were surprisingly cordial toward Grant: In one telling post-war incident, Lee admonished and embarrassed a man who began denouncing Grant; the ex-Confederate commander said that he would not permit such remarks about Grant in his presence.

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in 1822 in Ohio and graduated from West Point in 1843, ranking in the middle of his class. He faced combat for the first time in 1846 in the Mexican War, a conflict he denounced but during which he was promoted for bravery. Grant's military career ended in Virginia in 1865 at Appomattox. During the intervening nineteen years, the lethality and range of weapons increased dramatically while the technological advancements afforded by the telegraph and railroad revolutionized military response and tactics, at which Grant proved particularly adept. Grant began the Civil War as a regimental commander and was later promoted to Brigadier General, commanding units of several hundred men. Further promotions led him to the rank of Lieutenant General and finally to appointment as General in Chief of all U.S. armies. Hailed as the greatest hero of the war, he then served as the eighteenth president of the United States for two terms.

These great accomplishments stand in stark contrast with his equally enormous failures and disappointments. He was forced into a military career by a father he disliked. As a cadet at West Point he hated the institution and hoped for its abolishment. He became an alcoholic in the early 1850s and a failed businessman and farmer. As president, his administration is regarded as one of the most corrupt in U.S. history. He lost his life savings in the 1880s and fell heavily into debt. While other prominent Americans looked to publishing their memoirs in the leisure of retirement, Grant was compelled to write his Personal Memoirs to pay his debts and feed, clothe, and shelter his family. In some measure, Grant's revived stature stems from the remarkable story of his struggle to write Personal Memoirs, which became a model for an entire genre of American literature.

He began writing Personal Memoirs in September 1884; during the same month, he was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer. Dying, he threw himself into writing for the purpose of providing for the love of his life, Julia Dent Grant, his wife of thirty-six years. Writing with a pencil several hours a day and struggling against incapacitating pain, Grant's health deteriorated rapidly during the spring of 1885. Publication arrangements were handled by his friend, the widely popular author Mark Twain. Grant penciled in the finishing touches on July 19, 1885. Three days later he died. Grant remains one of the giants of American history, revered and respected by his contemporaries, but viewed ever after as one of the country's most enigmatic and controversial figures. Grant's Personal Memoirs tell more than how his great military feats were accomplished. Between the lines, there is another story: how a single individual rose from a reputation of irresponsibility to be the man whom Abraham Lincoln entrusted with the fate of a nation. It is perhaps this unstated and underlying drama that has made this book an American classic.

Robert E. Lee was born in 1807 in Virginia and graduated second in his class from West Point in 1829. As an army officer, Lee distinguished himself during the Mexican War and later served as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy and commanded the forces that captured John Brown at Harper's Ferry in 1859. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln offered Lee field command of all Federal forces, but the Virginian declined, choosing instead to leave the Union with his home state. Though he realized the inherent dangers of secession, he said that he could never take part in an invasion of the South. Lee served as a military advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and led the Army of Northern Virginia. He orchestrated a number of stunning victories during the conflict, but his 1863 defeat at Gettysburg marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. In February 1865, Lee was finally given command of all Confederate forces, but the move came far too late. After the war and in poor health, Lee accepted a position as president of Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) in his beloved Virginia, and under his leadership the institution prospered. In 1870, the former general succumbed to heart disease and was entombed in Lexington, Virginia. The entire South mourned the passing of their greatest war hero.

After the war, Lee underwent a remarkable transformation from Confederate icon to national icon, in part due to his exemplary conduct, and, in part, to his son's publication, in 1904, of The Recollections and Letters. From his post at Washington College, Lee advocated reconciliation between the North and the South. He urged the South to accept defeat, counseled moderation, and helped to facilitate reunion. Lee became, oddly enough, a quintessential American hero to many despite the fact that he had taken up arms against the United States. When Robert E. Lee, Jr., published Recollections, made up primarily of the general's personal correspondence-much of which was written to his wife and children-the book concentrated more on Lee's character than on his military career. While Lee's image as a commanding general was familiar, the book provided touching insights into the general's family life, allowing already admiring readers to connect with him on a more human level.

In defeat and acceptance the former Confederate general became the South, or at least the personification of an image of itself that the South desperately wanted to project. Lee's name became synonymous with chivalry, humility, dignity, and all that was right within the human spirit. A century after publication, Rob Lee's affection for his father is still apparent in the pages of The Recollections and Letters. More important, the book brings the general's image back to life today just as it did the day it was first published. Robert E. Lee's words still resonate, and he continues to demand attention as a larger-than-life figure in American history.

Grant and Lee captured the devotion and admiration of the American people in their day, and both continue to fascinate historians and general readers alike with their extraordinary dignity, valor, military genius, and leadership qualities. Grant's Personal Memoirs and Lee's Recollections and Letters remain not only decisive histories of the Civil War and its military leaders, but also fundamental texts for understanding the character of the United States and her heroes.
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