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Grant - Generalship During the Civil War

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Unlike his generalship during the Civil War, Grant's presidency has earned him few admirers among historians. The numerous scandals that took place during his two terms in office, and the Panic of 1873 which wrecked havoc on the country's economy during his second term, have generally diminished history's view of Grant's presidency. His consistently strong stewardship of the difficult task of Reconstruction, including his upholding of the laws which enabled Blacks to vote and hold office in the south, his successful foreign policy, and his fair treatment of Native Americans were often neglected. An historical consensus formed that split Grant's life into halves; General Grant was a heroic and needed leader, but President Grant was an admirable failure, unsuited for political leadership.

Josiah Bunting III is the perfect author to correct these misperceptions about Grant. As a former army officer, Bunting understands well the institution that was so much a part of Grant's adult life and the source for his fame which would catapult him into the White House. But he also has enough emotional distance from the army to provide insightful commentary. What's most surprising, however, is the literary skill Bunting brings to the task. His small book on Grant is a beautiful gem of a biography, burnished to a fine work of art. Bunting has written two novels and he shows a fine writer's gifts here. He has the great biographer's necessary gift of understanding the importance of character.

The Grant that comes alive in Bunting's pages is highly sympathetic, but always credibly so. Bunting shows how the usual slurs against Grant's character (alcohol, butchery, and scandal) were overdone, while many redeeming characteristics (good to friends and family, steady, moral) were overlooked. Bunting reevaluates the character of Grant in this more favorable light and recreates a president who won two elections by landslides and never was out of favor with the general public.

Bunting's defense of Grant succeeds splendidly. I've read all sixteen of these small biographies published so far in "The American Presidents" series, and while I've found all of them good, and many quite excellent, this one on Grant is the best. It belongs on the shelf of every reader interested in American history.

From the time he was two, Ulysses Grant loved horses. As a young boy, he loved to play among the horses in father's stable. By age five, he could stand up on a trotting horse's back and balance himself with the reins. By age 11, he was strong enough to hold a plow. From then until he was 17, he did all kinds of work with horses such as breaking up the soil, furrowing, plowing, and bringing in the crops at harvest time.

He began school when he was five. He was a quiet, shy child who was well-behaved and very good at math. When he was 17, he went off to the military academy at West

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