I feel like I just competed an ultra marathon after reading Grant. Yet, this is one of the most rewarding reads of my life. I certainly felt the runners high about halfway through it, especially during the height of the Civil War and General Grant moved from being an unknown western leader to establishing himself as the fighter we know him today. I feel like I only learned about the bullet points of his life when I was a student but with “Grant”, I learned more of the story that made the relatable man we should view him as today.
Some of what is great about Grant is Ron Chernow’s excellent research and storytelling. Some of it is just the fact that Grant is a great American while possessing great flaws. That is what makes him so much more relatable to other major leaders in US History. He grew up with very little yet struggled and struggled. Juxtaposed with the aristocracy and monarchy of Europe, Grant was a true working American man of the people. He was a champion for those who couldn’t fight for themselves, most notably during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Frederick Douglas praised Grant, “To [President and General Ulysses S. Grant] more than any other man the negro owes his enfranchisement and the Indian a humane policy. In the matter of the protection of the freedman from violence his moral courage surpassed that of his party; hence his place as its head was given to timid men, and the country was allowed to drift, instead of stemming the current with stalwart arms.” Grant continued Lincoln’s legacy as best as he could and knew that nursing the country back to health in the decades after the Civil War was just as important as winning the war.
If you look up the definition of resilience, you should find Grant as he fought literally until the day he died. There are many lessons like this you take from his life. Along with his ability to fight through difficult circumstances in the Civil War to falling prey to bad business deals, I highly appreciate that he never lost the enthusiasm to learn. The press and his enemies would often call him a Cretan yet he became incredibly well read and his two and a half year journey around the world after his presidency is unmatched for his time.
Next up, I am hope to read the Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (published by his friend Mark Twain).
If you are not up for the 1,000 page epic, I highly recommend listening to Ron Chernow’s podcast interview on The Art of Manliness. Listen here.