a fish. . .a gun. . .a smoking barrel. . .
How many generals have a writer's ear for prose and an artists eye for telling detail? The prose is the man, unadorned, straightforward and honest.
There are so many. Let's see: a page long justification about why he was so sloppily dressed at Appomattox (he hadn't meant to slight Lee, he notes); Lincoln's jokes; Grant's discussion of Sherman's March to the Sea (as I understood it, this was an army stranded in alien territory, performing the then revolutionary maneuver of cutting itself loose from supply lines); Grant's detailed explanation of how telegraph wires were set up at each command post.
Well, who could outshine Grant himself?
That would be one long sitting.
My husband and I listened to this memoir together with great interest. Grants's writing is easy to understand. Having maps of areas he was referring to would have been helpful but not necessary. This memoir begins with Grant's early life, covers his military service in the American-Mexican War, then continues on into his distinguished service in the Civil War. It does not cover his terms as U.S. President. The more I listened to this memoir the more my respect for this great man grew. Grant was given a job to do, that is to defeat the confederacy, and he did it in much less time than previous generals who occupied his position prior to him.
The narration of this book by Robin Field was excellent. I highly recommend this book.
You can see why Grant won the Civil War. His writing is direct and clear - which must have been essential before and during battles. The book - read by Robin Field in a clear and engaging style - shows how the childhood lessons paid dividends when Grant became a Lieutenant General and commander of the Union Armies. It also displays his humility and forgiveness. While the Confederate commanders and politicians could have been executed for treason, Grant laid a different path and helped to bind the wounds torn open by the war.
Grant's ability to remember the details if the war and his personal insights if matters that effected the men and himself are eye opening. I learned several things about our history other than the war
The detsil was somewhat overwhelming, and the story stopped with the end of the war. But I was surprised and gratified with Grant's subtle humor and dry wit. It made him all the more human. I'm glad I listened!
You really get to experience the mind of a General, and how he experienced "the war for the preservation of the Union". I was surprised at how straightforward and humble he is in these memoirs, written after he had served two terms as President. He has good things to say about almost all of the men who appear in the memoirs, and when he doesn't have much good to say, he says nothing (e.g. about McClellan). He settles no scores, but rights injustices that he believes have been done to others in the press and the histories written before his. There are even rare moments of mild humor or irony. He is at all times respectful of his opponents, and praises their gallantry when he thinks it appropriate. He seems an even greater man than I gave him credit for.
The siege of Vicksburg and the surrender at Appomattox were the two most dramatic passages in the book for me. I find them compelling partly because Grant's simple, direct unembellished description. He wrote as if everyone already knows the grandeur and significance of these events, so there is no need for him to wax dramatic about them. His confident and modest understatement lets the reader recreate the drama internally for himself.
Grant of course is the only real character. But I have to say that I LOVE this narrator. He really sounds as I imagine Grant's voice would sound. The reading is direct, low key, and perfectly in tune with the plain style of the writing.
Many passages are recountings of troop movements and tactical issues (muddy roads, fog, cold, supply problems, logistics, topography, railroads, etc.) which in and of themselves are only semi-interesting except to a specialist. Still, as I listen even to those passages and stop paying attention to the detail, I still enjoy the book because the voice of the reader really conveys the subtext of the memoir, which is how complex and exhausting the war really was.
One thing I expected is detailed, emotional descriptions of the hell of war. But Grant, while not denying it, never really addresses it either. The story of the bloody massacre by the South of "colored" prisoners, or of the horrible fiery deaths in the Wilderness, are mentioned, but matter-of-factly, without dwelling on them. It is as though Grant knows that we all know these stories, so there is no need for him to hype them. And as a General, he had to put aside such considerations as best he could in order to do his job.
Who knew that U.S. Grant was such a witty fellow? This book, while obviously is not a work of humor, is interspersed with little gems. Now, we should note that Mark Twain was his publisher, so maybe he might have helped Grant out a bit in that department.
The big thing I took away from this book, is that Grant displayed a tremendous amount of common sense. Common sense that was derived from experience, whereby in his formative military years, he was smart enough to shut up and pay attention.
The other thing one takes away, is the notion that Grant with no formal training in how to run the most sophisticated army of the day, did so. Again using common sense, fortitude to see the thing through, and probably most importantly, relying on his lower ranking officers who were in the field to use their intelligence to achieve victory, So many generals are filled with such vanity, that leads to disastrous ends.
A great book, by a very underrated general.
This is an engaging narrative along the lines of Shelby Foote's Civil War, but from one it's major players. Grant is a good writer who gives you the benefit of his insight which includes the War with Mexico and his interpretation of the political context surrounding the Civil War and reconstruction. Grant also offers his opinion of leaders and their decisions on both sides of the conflict.
I've owned the printed version of this book for years and only sampled it at various parts. The audio version was like sitting with Grant on his porch as he recalls what he saw and felt during his life.
Grant's assessments are blunt, but not cruel. It was particularly interesting to get his perspective on the military strategy in the Mexican War since he offers the unique opinion of both a soldier who fought in many of its battles and of a successful Lt. General who led many more complex and consequential campaigns during the Civil War.
Grant doesn't spend a lot of time examining himself or getting too personal. For example, he doesn't address the questions raised during his life about his drinking and the narrative does not encompass his Presidency or much of his personal life. He also doesn't dwell too long on the extreme loss of life during the Overland Campaign.
If the Civil War interests you, and you haven't read this book, then you're missing a large chunk of information.
Famous account of Mexican and Civil Wars. Extremely detailed and frank. But nothing about author's notorious drinking, the infamous Order No, 11, or his scandal-plagued presidency. I guess 19th century memoirs were not the tell-all confessions to which we are currently accustomed.