Introduction to The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant:
After his presidency, former General and President Ulysses Grant found himself in a predicament. He was dying, but because of failed business dealings, he had little to leave behind to his family. So, in order to provide for them, he wrote his memoirs. I recently finished The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant, and despite being a southerner, would recommend them to any and everyone.
Summary of The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant
Grant’s autobiography begins with a short description of his childhood and ends as the Civil War winds down and Reconstruction begins. It does not cover his conflict-ridden presidency or failed attempts in the private sector after that presidency, but rather ends once his most famous moment, the Civil War ends.
The section of The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant on his childhood gives a great description of what the life of a middle-class American living somewhat close to the frontier would have been like. While he never fought Indians as a child (that was later), Grant did tend to horses, learn in a tiny schoolhouse, and work on a family farm. I thought that section really gave life to The History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson because although the time period wasn’t the exact same, it does give a good indication of what life would have been like for a typical American in early America.
Additionally, the section of The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant on his childhood is full of funny anecdotes, mostly about horses. While the remainder of his autobiography is serious, the section on his childhood is quite funny at times.
Grant’s Early Career, as described in The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant:
Like many other generals in the Civil War, Grant went to West Point and later served as a young officer in the Mexican-American War.
However, unlike Robert E Lee, Grant was not a top student at West Point. While he did well in some classes, he didn’t have the mind of a scholar that men like Lee had.
Additionally, Grant takes pains to testify in his memoirs that he detested the Mexican-American War. In fact, he at times refers to it as the most unjust war in history. I found that interesting and thought it exemplified Grant’s profound introspection. He fully recognized that his country was the aggressor, but still went and fought for it because he thought that doing so was his duty.
In that respect, I found him quite similar to Robert E Lee, but far different from modern Americans and Britons and their either blind support for wars of democracy in the Middle East, or inability to stand by their country like the author of The Great War for Civilization. Wrong policies can be called out like they were during the Vietnam War started by The Best and The Brightest. But soldiers should still fight for their country. Lee did. Grant did. We should.
Normally I wouldn’t have devoted such a long summary to a small part of a book. But I thought that it was necessary in this case to show how The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant is relevant and necessary to read today; it shows what Americans should do in many of the tough situations their idiotic politicians get them into.
Ulysses Grant during the Civil War
The majority of The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant is, unsurprisingly, about his role in the Civil War. I’m sure many of you know about his role, so I won’t belabor the point.
Grant first discusses his role in the campaigns through the Northern reaches of the Confederacy, and then Tennessee. His victories in that theater, especially his siege of Vicksburg, led him to be appointed over the whole Union Army. Or at least that’s how he tells it.
After describing his promotion to the top position in The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant, Grant describes in detail his campaigns against Lee in the East. Based on his description of events, the Confederate Army in the East was a far different army than the armies in the West. While Grant makes sure to point out that most soldiers on both sides were equally brave, it is clear that the Confederates under Lee were much better led and far more disciplined than their compatriots in the West.
Grant ends his memoirs by describing Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, which showed his honor, Lee’s honor, and the honor of Lee’s lieutenants, the surrender of the remaining Confederate Armies, and the early efforts at Reconstruction. His descriptions of the campaigns in the West and East are both riveting and full of detail. Anyone with an interest in military history would enjoy reading that section of The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant.
I mostly liked The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant. His writing style, like mine, is not particularly profound, but he does manage to get his points across in a compelling way.
Grant brought up many things I did and didn’t expect. The long descriptions of campaigns and individual battles were expected, as were his long tirades against different myths about the Civil War that arose during and shortly after it. On the other hand, his hatred of the Mexican-American War was something I didn’t expect. I also had no idea he valued education as highly as he said he did, nor that he loved farming. I thought all of those surprising details helped round out his character.
However, I was disappointed by one thing. After reading what I think is the best book about the Gilded Age, The Republic for Which It Stands, I was hoping to hear about Grant’s Gilded Age presidency. Alas, he doesn’t cover that period of his life. Given that his presidency is generally remembered as being corrupt and mostly inept, I suppose that exclusion is understandable. Yet I still would have liked to have heard his descriptions of what happened and why. Perhaps he could have busted some of the myths about his scandal-ridden administration.
In a time when so many politicians, namely Joe Biden and others in the Obama Administration, are so corrupt, it would have been nice to hear in The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant about the corruption that went on in the Grant Administration and why that corruption happened. I can see why Grant did not include the corrupt actions of his subordinates in The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant, but I still would have liked to hear something about them.
You should definitely read The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant. It is an important book; it teaches about honor, the value of good leadership, what early America was like, and how important it is to read and get a good education. Grant would not have saved the Union had he not risen through the ranks by being both brave and well-read. Like Marcus Aurelius, he was both.
I think all Americans should remember that. Our culture values athletic prowess far more than academic prowess. While it is certainly important to be in shape and competitiveness is a good value to teach children, we need to remember to read rather than watch TV and study some rather than always fool around. A balance is necessary. Grant’s memoirs and life show that excellently.
Furthermore, I think they provide an important insight for President Trump. In The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant, Grant says little to nothing negative about himself. He crafts a narrative that makes himself look better. The massive losses he suffered are not once brought up, nor is his corruption as president. And, of course, the challenges he faced as a general are certainly overblown; despite what he might have said, he certainly had more troops in the field than the Confederacy, for example.
And I am not against that. I see why he did it; he wanted to cement his legacy. President Trump, from the White House, needs to do the same thing that Grant did in The Memoirs of Ulysses Grant. Rather than admitting when he is wrong, he should vigorously state that he did everything correctly. He should cement his legacy as a great president by being completely positive about himself..
By: Gen Z Conservative
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