Top positive review
Great read about Civil War from Grant's own pen.
Reviewed in the United States on April 30, 2018
I read this after reading the Grant biography by Chernow. The problems I have with such biographies are: 1) the authors don't have direct access or familiarity to the people or times; 2) the authors have never been in a position of leadership and responsibility, especially during wartime, commensurate with the person that they are writing about. So it seems to me that they can't separate fact from fiction and personal animosity from honest critique, and often engage in Monday morning quarterbacking relative to decisions made in the heat of the moment and the fog of war. So some things written don't really need to be repeated or given great weight; and some extra grace might be extended to people that served in a very sacrificial and beneficial manner. I imaging that such biographers are trying to be honest, without being slavishly flattering or chronically hostile to the subject of their writing. But often I think the subjects are being compared against some impossible standard of perfection and all rumors and innuendos are treated as serious defects of character or duty. So it was a pleasure to read US Grants own reflections on his service in the US Army. He showed himself to be a man of amazing recollection and detail, of leadership and perseverance under fire, and even of a sense of humor. In Grant one can see a man with a strategic vision of bringing the war to a conclusion in favor of the Union, without regard to personal pomp and prestige. He expected his subordinates, including Generals, to be brave leaders of their men from the front. He conferred about plans with his subordinates, and sometimes changed plans based their input, but always acted decisively while expecting his subordinates to act skillfully in carrying out their orders. He was gracious in giving honor to his generals and recognizing their contributions, promoting based on performance. But he was openly disdainful of cowardice in battle or debilitating hesitancy to act in a timely fashion.
Several couple of takeaways:
1) In everything one can see the providence of God at work, providing a man with the necessary quarter master skills to know how to effectively move a 100K man army; in protecting him even though he was always about the front lines leading and guiding his men (many times he had horses killed under him and bullet holes through his clothing). A man that was humble and almost indifferent to signs of rank and privilege, a man who was a faithful confidant and servant of Abraham Lincoln and a friend of the black man. My respect for Grant has soared tremendously!
2) One sees the imperfection of men everywhere and in every time who let personal ambition, slights to their personal honor, prejudices and weakness impact how they act and live. For example Gen. Black Jack Logan who felt slighted when Gen. O. O. Howard was promoted by Sherman over him after the battle of Atlanta and who after the war, became a congressman and was an bitter opponent of Sherman; or Sherman who never felt that the black man could participate in government at the same level as white men or soldiers.
3) War is hell, when ever and where ever it is fought. Many brave men die, others desert or run away, and much property is destroyed.
Interesting factoid, discovered in the Chernow book, was that Mark Twain was his publisher and the man that got Grant to complete his memoirs. Mark Twain developed a marketing plan that employed veterans to sell subscriptions and was able to deliver an initial royalty check of $200K to Grants widow.