Cover image for Ulysses S. Grant : triumph over adversity, 1822-1865
Ulysses S. Grant : triumph over adversity, 1822-1865
Simpson, Brooks D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
xix, 533 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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E672 .S614 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E672 .S614 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E672 .S614 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E672 .S614 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E672 .S614 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Washington, Lincoln, Grant--these were once the triumvirate of American nationalism. But, like his tomb on the Hudson, Grant's reputation has fallen into disrepair. The image many Americans hold of him is a caricature: someone "uniquely stupid," an insensitive butcher as a general, an incompetent mediocrity as president, and a drunk. Several efforts to counter this stereotype have often gone too far in the other direction, resulting in an equally distorted laudatory portrait of near-perfection. In reading the original sources, Brooks D. Simpson became convinced that Grant was neither a bumbling idiot who was the darling of fortune nor a flawless general who could do no wrong. Rather, he was a tangle of opposing qualities--a relentless warrior but a generous victor, a commander who drew upon uncommon common sense in drafting campaign plans and in winning battles, a soldier so sensitive to suffering that he could not stand to see the bloody hides at his father's tannery, a man who made mistakes and sometimes learned from them. Even as he waged war, he realized the broader political implications of the struggle; he came to believe that the preservation of the Union depended upon the destruction of slavery. Equally compelling is Grant's personal story--one of a man who struggled against great odds, bad luck, and personal humiliation, who sought joy and love in the arms of his wife and his children, and who was determined to overcome adversity and prevail over his detractors. "None of our public men have a story so strange as this," Owen Wister once observed; agreeing, William T. Sherman remarked that Grant remained a mystery even to himself. In the first of two volumes, Brooks Simpson brings Grant's story to life in an account that is readable, balanced, compelling, and definitive.

Author Notes

Brooks D. Simpson is a professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and The Politics of War and Reconstruction. He resides in Chandler, Arizona.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Here is a superb first in a projected two-volume study of the Union general and president. Serving as neither his subject's advocate nor his prosecutor, Arizona State University historian Simpson provides an eminently informed and finely balanced portrait of Ulysses S. Grant as man, husband, failed entrepreneur and shrewd, victorious general. Simpson (Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868) uses carefully excavated facts and anecdotes to reveal an individual far more complex than the caricature (drunken, barbarous in battle, corrupt when given opportunity) handed down to us by popular history. At the same time, Simpson does not gloss over Grant's shortcomings. Although a fan of the general's, Simpson is not in the business of writing apologetics, and therein lies his strength. Appropriately, Simpson dispenses with Grant's pre-Civil War life in the first 70 pages of his book, devoting the balance to his name-making and often controversial Civil War exploits. Most importantly, Simpson shows in Grant the vital trait he shares with every great warrior-leader before or since: a hatred of warfare. War, said Grant, "is at all times a sad and cruel business... and nothing but imperative duty could induce me to engage in its work or witness its horrors." History Book Cub main selection. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Recent publications on the life of Ulysses S. Grant include Tim O'Shei's Ulysses S. Grant (2000) and Simpson's earlier work, Let Us Have Peace (CH, Apr'92), which explores Grant's role in the politics of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Simpson's new work, a scholarly in-depth study that encompasses details about Grant's personal life and his ultimate military strategies and successes, promises to be a definitive biography. The author describes Grant's challenges, failures, and his ultimate military successes. Simpson (Arizona State Univ.) addresses each rumor of drunkenness, as well as the painful relationships with a demanding father and father-in-law and the significant role of his wife, Julia. Grant's successes are set against his earlier failures, making him an authentic American folk hero of the Civil War. His resilience when faced with failure is testimony to the fact that he was indeed an extraordinary man, one often lost in American history texts. This biography belongs in every academic library and will be found on the shelves of Civil War scholars and enthusiasts. All levels. N. J. Hervey; Luther College

Library Journal Review

Arizona State University historian Simpson, an LJ reviewer, offers a new view of Grant in this first of a two-part biography. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 'My Ulysses' Jesse Grant exemplified what America was all about. A man of restless ambition striving to make his own way in the world, he was not shy about sharing his dreams, his hopes, and his accomplishments with anyone who would listen. Behind his drive was an understanding of what it meant to fail. Descended from good colonial stock, Jesse had watched his father, Noah Grant, fall short of the family standard. Noah's claims to military glory as a captain during the American Revolution find no support in existing records; he was overly fond of alcohol and frittered away opportunities and money. He had two sons by a first wife before she died; with his second wife, Rachel, whom he married in 1792, he had seven more children, including Jesse, born in 1794. Ten years later Rachel died in a cabin in Deerfield, Ohio. Noah was unable to hold things together, and before long the family broke up. The two youngest children went with their father to Maysville, Kentucky, where Peter Grant, Noah's son by his first marriage, was operating a tannery. The three middle children were parceled out to other families. Jesse, who was eleven, and his older sister Susan were set loose on their own.The boy knew it would take a lot of work to make his way up in the world, but he was dead set on doing just that. For three years he scrambled to stay afloat. At fourteen he gained a job working on the farm of Judge George Tod, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court. He learned something about what might lie ahead for a hardworking lad when he saw the china bowls and silver spoons that the Tods used. Mrs. Tod did what she could to build the boy's ambition and talents, lending him books to read and urging him to find a calling at which he could prosper.1 Jesse took the advice to heart and at sixteen decided to learn the tanner's trade. He apprenticed with his half-brother Peter, then worked at several tanneries in Ohio, including one owned by Owen Brown, whose son, John, openly denounced the "peculiar institution" of slavery. Jesse agreed with John's sentiments, explaining later that he had left Kentucky because "I would not own slaves and I would not live where there were slaves and not own them." In 1820 he moved to Point Pleasant, on the banks of the Ohio River, some twenty miles upriver from Cincinnati, and commenced working at Thomas Page's tannery in order to accumulate enough capital to open his own business. He also wanted a wife. Page pointed him in the direction of Bantam, ten miles to the north, where John Simpson and his family, migrants from Pennsylvania, had settled on land purchased from Page. Jesse was soon courting Hannah Simpson, "a plain unpretending girl, handsome but not vain," as her suitor remembered in later years. Moreover, she was quiet, allowing the voluble Jesse to hold forth uncontested. Although John Simpson was not too sure about Jesse's prospects, his wife, Sarah, loved to discuss books with the young man; havi Excerpted from Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822-1865 by Brooks D. Simpson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Mapsp. xv
Prefacep. xvii
1 "My Ulysses"p. 1
2 The Dashing Lieutenantp. 18
3 A Man of Firep. 30
4 Forsakenp. 48
5 Hardscrabblep. 63
6 Off to Warp. 78
7 What I Want Is to Advancep. 95
8 Under a Cloudp. 119
9 Enemies Front and Rearp. 147
10 Struggle and Scrutinyp. 170
11 Triumph at Vicksburgp. 191
12 The Heights of Chattanoogap. 216
13 The Top Spotp. 245
14 Planning the Grand Offensivep. 266
15 No Turning Backp. 292
16 A Very Tedious Jobp. 321
17 Summer of Discontentp. 346
18 Celebrations and Salutesp. 370 19