Ulysses S. Grant is commonly remembered as a general of fierce determination and strategic vision—the military leader who turned the tide of the Civil War and led the Union armies to victory, and who showed magnanimity and vision at Appomattox. His presidency is another matter. Here, the most common word used to characterize it is "scandal." Grant is routinely portrayed as a man out of his depth in the world of politics, whose eight years in office were without useful achievement and whose trusting nature and hands-off management style opened the federal coffers to plunder.
But this assessment, Josiah Bunting III argues, is both caricature and cliché. Grant came to Washington in March 1869 to lead a country still bitterly divided by the legacy of the Civil War. Andrew Johnson, his predecessor, had been impeached and almost driven from office, and radical Republicans in Congress had imposed harsh conditions on the states of the former Confederacy. Grant committed himself to reunite and reforge the Union, and to resurrect and strengthen Abraham Lincoln's greatest legacy: full citizenship for the former slaves and their posterity. In these missions he succeeded.
Bunting shows that Grant's presidency has been undervalued for generations; only now are his achievements being recognized for what they are.
Read an Excerpt
Ulysses S. Grant
Read the full excerpt
1A Son of the WestFor most of his life Ulysses S. Grant thought of himself as a westerner. He was a child of the great Valley of Democracy, born on April 27, 1822, a hundred yards from the north bank of the Ohio. The country thereabouts was less than a generation removed from raw frontier, Ohio having achieved statehood only nineteen years earlier, and the village of Point Pleasant, some twenty-five miles southeast of Cincinnati, was but a tiny huddle of cabins and rude frame houses. Ohio was the easternmost of the states being carved from the old Northwest Territory, but to