Best biography of Ulysses S. Grant?

veritasbulldog82

Retired User
Joined
Jul 8, 2018
Messages
55
I am looking to find a good biography of U.S. Grant. I am not a big fan of Ron Chernow because I don't trust his objectivity. Anyone have some suggestions?
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
6,203
That's a false statement.
Well, since @67th Tigers insists on repeating a false statement about the McFeely biography, I am bound by truth to re-state the facts.

The facts:

"Grant's contemporaries," asserts historian Brooks Simpson, "would have had a difficult time recognizing the man described in McFeely's book"

That quote comes from a fabulous in-depth analysis that Prof. Simpson did on the McFeely book, in which he quotes passages, and uses primary source to refute them.
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
6,203
I am looking to find a good biography of U.S. Grant. I am not a big fan of Ron Chernow because I don't trust his objectivity. Anyone have some suggestions?
When choosing your biography, keep in mind that the Papers of U S Grant were not finished being edited until 2000+. The Simpson biography was one of the first (if not thee first) to be released in that era. At the time of McFeely's release (which includes the Grant Presidency) the PUSG had only been edited up to Reconstruction.
 

David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Messages
1,787
Location
Washington, DC
Don’t limit yourself to one book. Grant is an important figure in US history and his military reputation has waxed and waned over the last 150 years. Ultimately one reads for ones’s own education.
You have to decide how much you want to know about him.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Messages
3,560
McFeely's book was a hatchet job. It didn't consider Giant's faults, it manufactured them.

McFeely mishandled evidence throughout the book. It's a poor example of biography.
Last time this came up the best example with was a dispute about an account of an conversation Grant's brother had.

Whilst of course a few points could be disputed, and there are a few typos, there is no evidence of anything like what you allege. If there was I think Simpson's 1987 paper would have found it. As it was he could provide a few counterarguments, but for one of them Simpson claims Grant was unaware that the Federal Army suffered casualties for two days after the 3rd July assault at Cold Harbor. If that's true it speaks to something else, but it obviously isn't. For another the fact that Grant decided he didn't want to sleep in an active hospital with the pools of blood and amputations occurring it his prospective bedroom is mustered as evidence of Grant not being indifferent to the plight of the wounded. They are not great counterarguments.

McFeely's book is obviously not a hatchet job. Yes, you don't like McFeely shining a light into a dark corner, but that's why McFeely is important.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,528
Location
Right here.
Last time this came up the best example with was a dispute about an account of an conversation Grant's brother had.

Whilst of course a few points could be disputed, and there are a few typos, there is no evidence of anything like what you allege. If there was I think Simpson's 1987 paper would have found it. As it was he could provide a few counterarguments, but for one of them Simpson claims Grant was unaware that the Federal Army suffered casualties for two days after the 3rd July assault at Cold Harbor. If that's true it speaks to something else, but it obviously isn't. For another the fact that Grant decided he didn't want to sleep in an active hospital with the pools of blood and amputations occurring it his prospective bedroom is mustered as evidence of Grant not being indifferent to the plight of the wounded. They are not great counterarguments.

McFeely's book is obviously not a hatchet job. Yes, you don't like McFeely shining a light into a dark corner, but that's why McFeely is important.
Pure baloney. Brooks Simpson wrote two articles detailing McFeely's mishandling of evidence.

As usual, don't trust McClellan fanboys on history.
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
6,203
Don’t limit yourself to one book. Grant is an important figure in US history and his military reputation has waxed and waned over the last 150 years. Ultimately one reads for ones’s own education.
You have to decide how much you want to know about him.
I agree. I found the Simpson biography was good for the war and Chernow did well with the Grant presidency. These are not only readings on Grant that I have done, but they are the combination that I like thus far.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Messages
3,560
Pure baloney. Brooks Simpson wrote two articles detailing McFeely's mishandling of evidence.
Really? There is only one listed in Simpson's publication list, his 1987 paper. It certainly contains no suggestion of "mishandling of evidence", but rather a weak attempt to provide a counterargument by overconcluding from a few references. Is there a second paper that he doesn't put on his publication list?
 

matthew mckeon

Colonel
Retired Moderator
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
13,751
There is the new annotated publication of Grant's Personal Memoirs. I read the Memoirs about twenty years ago, they are definitely worth reading, although maybe not what you want to start with.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,528
Location
Right here.
Really? There is only one listed in Simpson's publication list, his 1987 paper. It certainly contains no suggestion of "mishandling of evidence", but rather a weak attempt to provide a counterargument by overconcluding from a few references. Is there a second paper that he doesn't put on his publication list?
Well, I don't know where you pulled this alleged publication list from. I simply read what he wrote. If by "his 1987 paper" you mean the article in Civil War History titled "Butcher? Racist? An Examination of William S. McFeely's Grant: A Biography," you haven't told the truth about all the problems identified in the article. The article is filled with corrections to McFeely's fumbles.

He wrote another article that answered McFeely's inaccuracies in Civil War History in 1990 titled " 'The Doom of Slavery': Ulysses S. Grant, War Aims, and Emancipation, 1861-1863."
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
6,203
Well, I don't know where you pulled this alleged publication list from. I simply read what he wrote. If by "his 1987 paper" you mean the article in Civil War History titled "Butcher? Racist? An Examination of William S. McFeely's Grant: A Biography," you haven't told the truth about all the problems identified in the article. The article is filled with corrections to McFeely's fumbles.
That "weak attempt" of an article is about 20 pages long, each of them containing 3 to 4 footnotes- most of them primary source.

All of this is discussed in the original Best Biography on Grant as Commander thread.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Messages
3,560
Well, I don't know where you pulled this alleged publication list from.
His C.V., or is that his alleged C.V.?

I simply read what he wrote. If by "his 1987 paper"
Did he write a second paper in 1987?

you haven't told the truth about all the problems identified in the article. The article is filled with corrections to McFeely's fumbles.
You appear not to have read it. It bears no resemblance to what you claim. It was his first publication as a Ph.D. student, and it shows. Simpson tackles two threads:

1. He tries to attack McFeely's argument that Grant "simply shut off the horrors of war for which he was responsible" using the following evidence:

1a. A tale of giving Brandy to a wounded officer and a rebel soldier, which Catton used (original source is this 1898 magazine, and the officer, if real, must be 2Lt Joseph Hanger)
1b. Grant decided not to sleep in an active hospital during the Battle of Shiloh
1c. The observations of Horace Porter, although whilst Simpson references pgs 63-4 he neglects a direct statement from Porter that Grant couldn't stand the sight of the wounded.
1d. He tries to claim that Grant was unaware of the wounded at Cold Harbor because there was no written communication about them until the 5th.

2. That Grant was indifferent to the plight of slaves (which I won't address).

For point 1, Simpson's arguments are weak. He has produced no evidence that seriously challenges McFeely's conclusions because all the evidence produced simply doesn't challenge it.

He wrote another article that answered McFeely's inaccuracies in Civil War History in 1990 titled " 'The Doom of Slavery': Ulysses S. Grant, War Aims, and Emancipation, 1861-1863."
McFeely is mentioned once in that paper, as a reference to Simpson's 1987 paper. McFeely's writings are not mentioned at all in the 1990 paper.

McFeely.png
 


Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top