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.