Click here to read reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott's take on Ulysses S. Grant: The Soldier & the Man.
Edward G. Longacre has once again written a wonderful biography of a Civil War general. There is one disappointment in Ulysses S. Grant: The Soldier and the Man, though: the book ends just as General Lee has surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House. This reviewer wanted the biography to go on.
Longacre covers U.S. Grantís childhood well. The reader gets a good glimpse into the child who became the man as well as his family and what they were like. Longacre tells the story of Grantís early life in the army and his life with his wife and their children, and how the long absences from his family caused him to start drinking. His early drunken episodes would stick with him the rest of his life. Longacre agrees that Grant was an alcoholic, but he also shows why Grant drank to excess. Grant would become depressed and lonely and would use alcohol to comfort himself; as long as he was not depressed and alone, he had no desire for alcohol. He even had fellow soldiers volunteer to help him resist alcohol.
The specter of alcoholism dogged him his entire life. Whenever Grant was defeated or had some kind of problem, others would accuse him of being drunk at the time. Many times he was drunk when he had problems. Most, if not all, of his military defeats were not due to alcoholism, though. Longacre returns to this unfortunate aspect of Grantís life throughout the book and discusses the causes. Longacre also mentions off and on that Grant suffered from migraines Ė which, as modern migraine sufferers know, can be debilitating. Longacre shows the real Grant from a human point of view. He was no Greek god or hero; he was a man trying to save his country.
Grantís efforts to preserve the Union often involved the deaths of many of his soldiers, leading to his being called by some ďthe butcher.Ē He was indeed different from his predecessors as commander of the Union Army. They would run up against the brick wall that was Robert E. Lee and retreat. They would build up their armies again and try to defeat Lee, but Lee would whip them again. Grant was different, and Abraham Lincoln took notice of Grantís strategies in the Western Theatre; Grant would continue to move forward in some way or another when stymied. He employed continuous movement forward against Lee and his army. Grant realized this was the way to defeat the Confederacy as quickly as possible.
Several illustrations and maps are included, as well as endnotes and an extensive bibliography. Edward G. Longacre is the author of the forthcoming A Soldier to the Last: Major General Joseph Wheeler in Blue and Gray (Oct. 2006), The Commanders of Chancellorsville (2005), Fitz Lee (2004), Custer and his Wolverines (2004), Joshua Chamberlain (2003), General John Buford (2003), The Cavalry at Appomattox (2003), Gentleman and Soldier (2003), and many other books.
Ulysses S. Grant: The Soldier and the Man is recommended to all Civil War enthusiasts and for libraries with a Civil War collection.