Among the autobiographies of great military figures, Ulysses S. Grant’s is certainly one of the finest, and it is arguably the most notable literary achievement of any American president: a lucid, compelling, and brutally honest chronicle of triumph and failure. From his frontier boyhood, to his heroics in battle, to the grinding poverty from which the Civil War ironically rescued him, these memoirs are a mesmerizing, deeply moving account of a brilliant man told with great courage as he reflects on the fortunes that shaped his life and his character. Written under excruciating circumstances—Grant was dying of throat cancer—and encouraged and edited from its very inception by Mark Twain, it is a triumph of the art of autobiography.
Grant was sick and broke when he began work on his memoirs. Driven by financial worries and a desire to provide for his wife, he wrote diligently during a year of deteriorating health. He vowed he would finish the work before he died, and one week after its completion, he lay dead at the age of 63.
Publication of the memoirs came at a time when the public was being treated to a spate of wartime reminiscences, many of them defensive in nature, seeking to refight battles or attack old enemies. Grant’s penetrating and stately work reveals a nobility of spirit and an innate grasp of the important fact, which he rarely displayed in private life. He writes in his preface that he took up the task “with a sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to anyone, whether on the National or the Confederate side.”
Public Domain (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“The best [memoirs] of any general’s since Caesar.” (Mark Twain)
“One of the most unflinching studies of war in our literature.” (William McFeeley, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Ulysses S. Grant)
The writing and reading went together seamlessly. It felt as if I was listening to Grant tell his own story.
I haven't listened to other performances by Field, but I will be!
With a story as grand and terrible as that of a civil war it's hard to choose one moment. Grant's dismay at the loss of life at Cold Harbor is particularly poignant as he recognized its futility and his responsibility for it.
To get the full picture of Grant's story, be sure to listen to the Appendix. These official reports offer insight into his decision making process that is sometimes missing from the narrative in the Memoirs proper.
The fact that this is Grant's personal account of events is compelling.
Details, of course!
Sadness, at the grand scale of losses, on both sides.
Absolutely loved the accounts from a personal view. Even though Grant was not an "average" man, we must keep in mind that the accounts were written 20 years after the fact. I'm referring to accounts of personalities, etc. Anyone interested in Civil War history would enjoy this book.
Best account yet.
Grant was a great commander in the Civil War. In his memoirs, he discusses his successes and surprisingly is even more frank about his failures
The book takes him from a militia Colonel all the way to a Lieutenant General commanding an Army.
What brought him success was meticulous planning, a great understanding of how the terrain shaped the fight and an ability to accurately assess what options were available to his opponent.
If you study the civil war or study the art and science of command, then this book should be one to own. Keegan's book was really good. Lee's Lieutenants really good, But Grant's Memoirs is in a class by itself.
I consistently found Grant's humor in his stories about his personal experiences and later in the war to be irrestible. Add the real life perspective of each campaign that brought the war home to me.
His revelation that by acting quickly he usually benefitted much more than he did for waiting for the preparations to be perfect was intoned in nearly every decision he describes after that.
I have not but I enjoyed him immensely. I would have rated him a 5 but had to knock something back a bit. His dry humor honestly made this a book I have recommended about 10 times since listening to it.
It made me laugh out loud many times, which is not what I expected from a Civil War biography. Grant's writing is very clever and humble in a way that has you empathizing with every situation.
This biography rings true because while his achievements are numerous, he consistently is humble about his role and his comparative talents. He is able to explain his actions and strategies with the eye witness perspective that is not found in most "history channel" narratives. He continually brings the plight of the struggling soldier into view so that it does not seem a chess game but a real life and death struggle with lives in the balance.
I gravitate toward detail when it comes to military histories. So this was right up my alley. However, if you don't stay away. I found it very helpful to go to Google Earth to keep up with deployments, battles, etc. The narration was spot on.
On substance, Grant does not go into any detail about losses but does so with victories. I had to continually remind myself this book was written in the 1880s and that might have passed muster then, but not now. Even with that drawback I found myself liking Grant as a person more as chapter followed chapter. He comes off as a decent human being notwithstanding the ghastly horrors of which he was part, especially in the final two years of the war.
The story itself and the narrator
When Lee's Army surrendered, I cheered! I was so sad by the part when Grant learns about the death of Lincoln. Recently saw the movie Lincoln, tied back to Grant's autobiography nicely.
Simply, "US Grant"
It's long, no doubt. It never got boring to me and it's amazing to listen to Grant writing in the first person about things that happened 150 years ago.
Who doesn't love authentic history and an account of an American hero written by the hero himself.
President U.S. Grant
The narrow escapes of the protagonist from the battles of war.
Yes. It is so mush more entertaining than I expected. A first hand account of history, yes, but also just a really good book. I will listen to it over and over again because it's so chuck full of information presented in a down to earth manner.
When I realized what a talented author Grant was. The book isn't dry as one might expect from a military man.
It made me appreciate how lucky this country is to have had Grant lead the troops in the Civil War. The book isn't dry because of Grant's self deprecating humor. He made me laugh throughout the book.
Highly recommend it!
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is the story more of generalship than the story of Grant or of the Civil War. It is not really much of a biography at all. It is a book of logistics, personalities, politics and public opinion. There is little about suffering and less about glory. Although Grant lays out a number of battles (with quite a bit of detail, perhaps too much for some), the most interesting aspects are why Grant is doing what he is doing. There is little about personal relationships except as they relate to how a general must seize every advantage and how personalities sometimes dictate what is, or is not, possible in war. I left this reading with increased respect for Grant as a general, and as a writer. I think I detected quite a bit of Twain???s influence on this writing. I had not expected Grant to be much of a writer and I was pleasantly surprised.
A transplanted Englishman, I spend my time on biography, history and military books. I appreciate good English and good narration.
I thoroughly enjoyed Grant's writings. His consummate military brilliance; sense of morality; care for his fellow man; assessment of human qualities; fair mindedness; all spring from the words in stark relief. His style echoes the clipped, no nonsense, "...facts only please..." methodology: observations; assumptions; decisions. His orders to his fellow Generals are totally unambiguous; his respect for, and effective use of, authority unquestioned.
So...5 stars for performance, 3 for story? Well, I had expected more of his life outside his military experience. Books two and three are 100% committed to the Civil War, but a few years of his life. I find it difficult to digest the vast numbers of those killed, promoted, cashiered, wounded and missing. Following the battles probably requires a map. But it is a stunning description of battle and a wonderful insight into the complexity of waging war. Any student of history sits in our Commander's tent at night, joining with him in solving complex logistics, personal rivalries, communicating with politicians in Washington. I imagine cadets at West Point have this book as required reading. Grant's recollection of his meetings with Lee at Appomattox are sensitively portrayed.
The narrator succeeded in making me feel I was listening to Grant himself. An acid test, I'd say.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel I understand military strategy, tactics and above all, leadership. I gained an immense respect for Grant and will read more about him, probably by those with a broader context for his life outside war, his family and achievements.
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