1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

US Grant's Personal Memoirs

Discussion in 'Ulysses S. Grant' started by mtpotter, Mar 18, 2016.

  1. mtpotter

    mtpotter Private

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2016
    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    England
    Hi all,

    I'm just wondering what peoples' opinions are on Grant's memoirs? I'm halfway through them at the moment (just about to start the Siege of Vicksburg chapter) and haven't really formed an opinion myself.
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry Lt. Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2013
    Messages:
    12,230
    Location:
    Mississippi
  4. 5fish

    5fish Captain

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2007
    Messages:
    6,692
    Location:
    Central Florida
    My brother thinks they are a great read. I think someone else wrote vol. 2... at least most of it...
     
  5. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Lt. Colonel Member of the Year

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2012
    Messages:
    12,459
    Location:
    Central Ohio
    People tend to read their own pre-existing opinions of Grant into it. Best to just enjoy what he wrote and take note of his opinions and descriptions, though it must be remembered that it was written years later.
     
    Cavalry Charger and leftyhunter like this.
  6. Aussie Billy Sherman

    Aussie Billy Sherman First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2015
    Messages:
    1,616
    The best memoirs from the war I think. As said above part 2 seems to have been hurried and maybe written by someone else as grant was fading fast. I would've liked to read more about his post war life from his point of view as well.
     
    leftyhunter likes this.
  7. Greg Taylor

    Greg Taylor Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
    Messages:
    2,081
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    It is an essential Civil War read written by one of the top three figures of the War. I cannot imagine anyone who is a serious student of the ACW not reading it.
     
  8. nitrofd

    nitrofd Colonel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2013
    Messages:
    15,965
    Location:
    north central florida
    Grant is a must read.next I would read Edward Porter Alexander's memoir, another must read.
     
  9. tdftdf

    tdftdf Corporal

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2015
    Messages:
    397
    Location:
    washington, dc
    I'd follow that up with "Grant's Final Victory" which discusses his final year, dying of cancer and writing this book.
     
    5fish likes this.
  10. rosefiend

    rosefiend First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Confusion, Missouri
    Grant's Memoirs are good reading. I have the audiobook version read by Robin Field -- highly recommended. He really captures Grant's personality in his reading, especially that self-deprecating, wry sense of humor that underlies his personal stories.
     
    tdftdf likes this.
  11. civilken

    civilken 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2013
    Messages:
    3,572
    I have read many memoirs on Civil War generals offices and people at that time and I honestly believe grants one of the best. I think it is a very honest look at himself even to his shortcomings.
     
    Eagle eye and Cavalry Charger like this.
  12. Horace Porter

    Horace Porter First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2009
    Messages:
    1,723
    Location:
    Absoltely Nowhere Now, MA
    I am complete baffled by several lines of argument in this discussion group concerning Grant's memoirs. Perhaps someone can help me understand this better.

    Let us agree that whatever one makes of Grant's memoirs, there are mistakes in them as well as self-serving comments. Some of the latter may strike readers as unfair, even churlish. No problem there. Show me the memoir that is error-free and never self-serving.

    That stipulated, we have two lines of argument that have surfaced here over the past year:

    1.Grant deliberately distorted the historical record in his favor in his memoirs.

    2.Grant didn't even write large portions of his memoirs, and everyone with an interest in them covered up this fact.

    If (2) is true, then (1) is harder to accept, because Grant couldn't be distorting a record if he was not writing the book. Someone else would be the culprit. Thus, if, say, Adam Badeau wrote the Memoirs, he would be perpetuating a fraud (as opposed to being the sorry target of persecution by the Grant family). If Mark Twain wrote them, then Twain was a liar.

    If (1) is true, then (2) approaches nonsense. Grant's the responsible party.

    We've seen absolutely no evidence that Grant was part of a coverup, and ample documentation of his writing the memoirs, although this does not deter certain parties. Nor have we seem evidence of motive, just a series of unproven (and unsupported) claims of motive by people whose own motives might be suspect.

    Linked to this is a second line of criticism I've seen here. Some people claim that Grant's supposedly admiring biographers have simply accepted Grant's words at face value (there is sufficient evidence to contest that in certain cases, but why introduce evidence of that and spoil the argument). Other people claim that these writers are part of the pro-Grant conspiracy. We are told that Grant's papers are an essential source, used by all, but that the editors, including Dr. Marszalek and Dr. Ballard, are unethical. Sometimes the same person offers both arguments, depending on the time of day and the thread. I'm trying to figure out which it is (it could be neither of the above).

    Help me make sense of all this.
     
  13. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2005
    Messages:
    12,857
    Grant's Memoirs are essential. As far as has been shown to me, the "other author" business is just a crank.
     
  14. civilken

    civilken 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2013
    Messages:
    3,572
    There is no sense it seems you have already made up your mind.
     
  15. Horace Porter

    Horace Porter First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2009
    Messages:
    1,723
    Location:
    Absoltely Nowhere Now, MA
    How so?
     
  16. PatW

    PatW Private

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2015
    Messages:
    106
    Grant's memoirs are interesting.

    First off, US Grant did not use the florid writing style common among his contemporaries. Grant wrote more like a modern journalist. His memoirs have a surprisingly modern feel to them in a stylistic sense.

    Secondly, there are some very interesting anecdotes in the memoirs. Grant outlines his theory of warfare in one place that is at once succinct and profound. Grant also has the hilarious anecdote about Braxton Bragg in his memoirs.

    Third, you get the sense of how generous Grant was. Grant even found something nice to say about the exasperating Benjamin Butler.

    Fourth, in some after war writings by participants, one gets the impression that their prime enemies were there own comrades and not the other side. Grant rarely showed any animus to his comrades or even the "enemy". It shows a generosity of spirit that was lacking in many others. In this sense, Grant and Lee seem pretty similar.

    Now, I am not saying that Grant could not carry a grudge. He could and often unfairly. Also, Grant could distort the record. In most cases, the distortions can be easily identified and discounted.

    Grant's memoirs are considered the finest set of memoirs by a major historical figure in US History. Other Civil War memoirs of note are Sam Watkin's "Company Aitch", Billings "Hard Tack and Coffee, Porter Alexander's memoirs and Richard Taylor's memoirs.
     
  17. Ole Miss

    Ole Miss Sergeant

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2017
    Messages:
    762
    Location:
    North Mississippi
    The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is perhaps the best personal recollection of the ACW. His ability to write clearly and concisely was truly special and surprising to many especially considering that he wrote his Memiors while dying and . His quote below dealing with the Battle of Shiloh:
    "The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg landing, has been perhaps less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more persistently misunderstood, than any other engagement between National and Confederate troops during the entire rebellion."
    was indicative of his ability to deal directly with a subject clearly and accurately.
    If y0u have NOT read Grant's Memoirs then you are only cheating yourself.
    Regards
    David
     
  18. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2005
    Messages:
    12,857
    I think Edmund Wilson said that reading Grant's Memoirs answers the question: how did the Union win the Civil War.
     
    Cavalry Charger likes this.
  19. Jimklag

    Jimklag Lt. Colonel Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    10,346
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    Whatever readers think of the content of Grant's memoirs, there is no credible evidence that anybody else wrote any of it. There are hundreds of eye witness reports that Grant, pencil in hand, wrote the whole thing longhand. Even in the 1880's publishers had book editors who would correct punctuation and grammatical errors in books before they went to the printer. This is the only way anyone else's hand touched Grant's work.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  20. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
    Annual Winner
    Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    9,456
    Location:
    East Texas
    I've only read selections from the Memoirs but I've read a lot about them. One somewhat puzzling aspect to me is his almost total neglect of arguably his most important subordinate, Capt., Col., and eventually Brig. Gen. John Aaron Rawlins, who served as his Chief-of-Staff through most of the war and later Secretary of War during Grant's Presidency until his untimely death while in that office. Of course, there will be those Grant apologists who insist Rawlins was the source for many tales about Grant's drinking habits, etc. and maybe took credit for things he shouldn't have; but that doesn't disguise the fact that during his lifetime Grant obviously found his services indispensable. If Julia Grant, Sam Clements, or someone else edited Rawlins out of the Memoirs I could understand - but if it was Grant himself ignoring the definite contributions of his faithful subordinate, I have trouble with that.
     
  21. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
    Annual Winner
    Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    9,456
    Location:
    East Texas
    Of course, this very chapter proved to be controversial, not the least to Maj. Gen. Don C. Buell who felt that Grant deliberately distorted events and definitely downplayed Buell's own vital contribution to the successful outcome of Shiloh. This chapter of the Memoirs was published separately - as were a few others - in Century Magazine's popular series and later book called Battles and Leaders. Buell was overall treated shabbily by the Lincoln administration and took umbrage at the way Grant continued to do so, to the extent he penned his own reply which appears in both the magazine and later book. Had Grant still been alive, there might've been something of a literary "dust up" between the two former generals.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)