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Publisher's Summary

A major new biography of the Civil War general and American president, by the author of the New York Times bestseller A. Lincoln. The dramatic story of one of America's greatest and most misunderstood military leaders and presidents, this is a major new interpretation of Ulysses S. Grant. Based on 7 years of research with primary documents, some of them never tapped before, this is destined to become the Grant biography of our times.

©2016 Ronald C. White. (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

What listeners say about American Ulysses

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An Absolutely Superb Work

This is the most insightful and instructive biography I have ever read. Not only does it give overdue credit to a truly great military leader and president and genuinely kind and humble man of extraordinary accomplishment, but it also provides the reader of a more complete and compelling picture of the monumental challenges faced by the nation and it's leader following the Civil War and it's aftermath. This work is must read history.

44 people found this helpful

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Absolutely wonderful.

I was uncertain about buying this book since I had already read all the volumes of Grant's autobiography as well as quite a few books about Grant's and Sherman's campaigns during the Civil War and I feared that purchasing it would be a waste of my time and money. I was wrong. When I was in public school the history classes that covered the Civil War referred to Grant as a poor commander, someone who wasted human lives and only won because of the overwhelming numbers of Federal troops, and that was a view I carried with me as I became an adult, and it only began to change as I started to read newer books covering the war. Shelby Foote's multi-volume history made me start to believe that perhaps what I had been taught in school was wrong and, as I read more and more books about the campaigns in the West, I became increasingly convinced that my what I thought I knew of Grant and his generalship was wrong, and badly so. American Ulysses is so well written that in spite of all I had previously read about Grant and his campaigns my interest never flagged and I found it difficult to stop listening. Arthur Morey's narration is so well suited to the material that time flew as I listened to the book and I found myself looking forward to listening to more the next day. The book is more of a biography than a retelling of the battles of the war and the narrative never gets bogged down in military details of how the battle progressed, but still manages to cover what happened and why. A large part of the book covers Grant's life after Appomattox, his issues with the Johnson administration and his two terms as President and covers his efforts to insure that those freed by the Civil War were able to exercise their rights as citizens. All of this was new to me as it was never covered in my public school classes and was not in any of the Civil War books I read, but Grant was committed to insuring real freedom and citizenship for those freed by the war and his battles to try to insure the former slaves their freedom is covered in detail, as are the reasons for the failure of that effort. Perhaps the most poignant parts of the book cover the period of his life when this man, so able to sort the wheat from the chaff in his generals, failed to see how he was taken advantage of by those he trusted. Mr White, and history, have shown that although Grant's administration was plagued by financial scandals, he himself was never touched by a hint of those scandals and left office with his honor and honesty intact. The final scandal, which bankrupted him, again involved those he trusted and his actions in trying to repay those debts that fell on him, only again proves how honest a man he was. This is a wonderful biography, full of information new to me, wonderfully written and wonderfully narrated, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in General Grant and his life.

15 people found this helpful

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A New Campaign to Reasses Grant

If you could sum up American Ulysses in three words, what would they be?

Compelling, Penetrating, Fair

What did you like best about this story?

White has enough confidence in his research and ultimately his discernment to render the story in a straight-forward manner that might have pleased its subject. White doesn't besiege the reader with footnotes, counterpoints or what-ifs, instead placing the reader in that time and place, with Grant.

Which scene was your favorite?

The breakout towards Jackson during the Vicksburg Campaign. White is able to capture the intensity and pressures bearing down on Grant, and when, at last, Grant's forces move east when their target lay west, the reader gains a sense of Grant's audacity, nerve and will.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I am very familiar with the details of Grant's life and times from other biographies and histories. Yet there is cumulative power in White's writing and his description of Grant's last "campaign" at the close of his life was more moving than any other treatment I had encountered.

Any additional comments?

Any author attempting a comprehensive biography of such a momentous figure has to make choices about length and depth of detail. White's concentration is on the prominent figures on the Union side, and there is a nutshell quality to his descriptions of Grant's adversaries (even Lee). Ultimately that's a justified treatment of the vanquished. White briefly discusses Grant's long banishment into the historical wilderness, as his reputation declined and languished after his death, but White misses an opportunity to explore the context of the ongoing struggle by many to preserve the most imperfect aspects of the United States that led to the war and which continue to trouble the nation on the low boil. The most eye-opening aspect of the book was the depth of Grant's commitment to the rights and protection of the freedmen. If he was late getting there, his absolute, unshakable resolve on this point caused me to seriously reassess his presidency, and gave me a greater appreciation of his remarkable character.

61 people found this helpful

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A True All American

Sadly, the significance of Grant is somewhat shadowed in history by Lincoln. I'm the better for listening to this book. Fantastic book and narrator.

13 people found this helpful

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WOW

I feel I have been shielded from an important piece of American history till now

22 people found this helpful

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Inspirational, page-turning history

I loved this biography of Ulysses S Grant. Grant came alive as a person in the early chapters, both growing up, and in his West Point years. His life story is fascinating from start to end, through the Civil War, and his presidency in the tumultuous post-war period. The writing in this bio is great, and I never knew what a heroic man Grant was. Grant is best known for his military genius, and this book captures that well. Grant was a man of courage and integrity throughout his life, and he inspired me as a leader who was ahead of his time as a passionate advocate of civil rights. This biography captured his family life well, but I wanted to know more about how he dealt with marrying the daughter of a slave owner from St. Louis. The years of his presidency focused mostly on the politics of the day, which was fascinating but less personal than the other years of his life. This was a long book, but most of it was totally engaging, and all of it was so informative. The connections to politics today jumped from the page. After listening to this, I have a new American hero. This book was emotionally and intellectually engaging - a great combo.

19 people found this helpful

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A great man and a great book.

One of the most poignant biographies I have read of a great man, general and presidents.

8 people found this helpful

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A much-needed reassessment

Arthur Morey is the perfect narrator for this fine biography of one of America's least appreciated heroes. Ronald White has followed up his portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a detailed and engaging portrait of the man who made Lincoln's policies a reality.

Grant's excellence as a general has been getting more recognition lately: he defeated Lee (and the other Confederate armies) not simply by overwhelming numbers, but by a clearly thought out strategy - and by a refusal to act like a defeated general.

His presidency is less appreciated, and to some extent it was Grant's fault. He was a man of sterling personal integrity, so much so that he was sometimes unable to recognize corrupt behavior, especially when one of his trusted aides from the war years was involved.

Grant declared his intention to reform "Indian affairs," and he did try, but the results were mixed. He appointed new governors and new agents, yet some of the worst of the massacres happened on his watch. He seemed unable or unwilling to fully wrest the direction of Indian affairs from military hands; and he doesn't seem to have made a serious effort to restrain Philip Sheridan. The end result was more poverty, misery, and death for Native Americans.

His tutor on foreign policy was his Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. Together they managed to produce a treaty with Great Britain that settled all outstanding issues between the two countries, including the vexed question of British-built warships that were owned and operated by the Confederacy. This was a political achievement of no small magnitude, because Charles Sumner, Senate leader, was in complete opposition.

One of Grant's foreign policy goals failed. He wanted to annex Santo Domingo, making it a haven for freed slaves and a beacon of freedom in a slave-dominated Caribbean. In this, he had the support of ardent abolitionists like Frederick Douglass - but not Sumner. Ultimately Grant chose to fold on this because it was interfering with the negotiations with Britain.

One of his major achievements in domestic policy was his fight against the Ku Klux Klan. This terrorist organization had murdered hundreds if not thousands of black citizens, especially those insisting on their right to vote. Grant, perceiving that state and local governments were unwilling to take this on, asked for and received from Congress the authority to suspend habeas corpus and send in troops to enforce the law. Wielding the newly created Department of Justice as a weapon, he began dismantling the Klan and indicting thousands of its members. In this, he was often opposed by a Republican Party more interested in reforming civil service than in enforcing civil rights.

On the strength of his achievements in this first term, Grant was reelected in 1872 with 56 percent of the vote and an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College.

Sadly, there were more scandals. The Whiskey Ring cheated the government out of millions in tax revenue. There was massive corruption in the Interior Department. There was a kickback scheme at the War Department. Through all of this, Grant remained oblivious to the greed and corruption that surrounded him. He did not run for a third term, and the skulduggery surrounding the election of 1876 ended up negating many of the gains Grant had made in the area of civil rights.

Grant's return to private life also turned out badly. He allied himself with an investment banker who turned out to be keeping two sets of books — one for Grant and one for himself. The head of the firm tried to abscond with the funds, and Grant was left with the spare change in his pocket and a humiliating loss of face. To earn money, he began writing articles about the war. This grew into plans for a memoir, and this in turn drew him into the orbit of Mark Twain. Twain negotiated a generous deal with Grant for royalties on the book.

As he was writing his memoirs, in the hope of restoring his family's fortunes, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. It was terminal, and the next few months were a race against time. Grant finished his manuscript just a few days before he died; a few months later, Twain was able to present Grant's wife with the largest royalty check ever written, close to half a million dollars.

Grant's reputation is climbing higher again as the country digs itself out of the "lost cause" mythology. There have been new biographies by Jean Edward Smith and H.W. Brands, and a deeply flawed attempt at reassessing Grant by Geoffrey Perret. As I write this, another Grant biography has just come out, by Ron Chernow, another master biographer. It will be interesting to compare notes.

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A Spellbinding Biography

Ronald White succeeds admirably well in capturing Grant as a student, general and president. There is nothing more difficult than writing about battles, but white makes every battle of the Civil War exciting. Grant's story is a sad one. All, it seems he ever wanted to do was teach in a university. He ended up serving his country quite selflessly. Unfortunately, many people took advantage of his kind nature. I can't wait to see how Ron Chernow will compete with White when his biography on Grant is released later this year.

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Grant and this book are highly recommended.

I knew more of Grant the soldier but even them only in the context of other books. I was surprised by his depth, from soldier, General, President, and all around American ambassador and finally author. I also give high marks to the narrator. I have read A. Lincoln but this author and reviewed that highly as well.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Lord Peridot
  • 07-10-17

Full and fair biography

Americans know the key importance of Grant to the USA, not just as the civil war general but as an effective president and as a role model to future generations who have been inspired by his modesty, honesty and courage. The book is very well read by Arthur Morey. And the author, Ronald White, does justice to his subject giving as much coverage to his life before and after the civil war as to his role in the war itself. White clearly admires Grant and his admiration shines through the work, engaging the readers attention. Only in a couple of chapters was it hard to follow who was who and what was going on, one of these being an account of foreign relations during his presidency. The chapters on the civil war are quite easy to follow as the narrative focusses on Grants own experience and his relations with fellow officers rather than detailed descriptions of battles. Very likely there is much in this book that you won't know already. One such story for me was the invitation to dinner that Grant received from Bismark. Grant the famous war hero and ex-president arrives at Bismarks palatial home on foot, on his own and plainly dressed. Not what the great German and his servants were expecting!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 06-27-20

Magnificent

Why use several words when one will do - magnificent!!!!! Highly recommend and that’s coming from an Englishman

1 person found this helpful

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  • Omar Shubeilat
  • 03-01-20

My favorite U.S Grant biography

This is one of the best, if not the best, books about US Grant.I got to know more about Ulysses as a noble human being and president with his great initiatives for native indians!. I think he is underrated and for me, a Jordanian living in Australia, one of the finest Americans who ever lived!

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  • Geoff Alford
  • 10-09-19

Brilliant

Best biography I have ever listened to. Wonderfully accurate and interesting at every turn. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Steele Walster
  • 02-19-19

Great Man, Great Story, Well Read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this detailed biography of U.S. Grant. It paints vividly a man’s traversing of several stages in US history with the nation on his shoulders. Recommend for people with military and political interests, history lovers and those partial to a good story.