U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (Civil War America)

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9780807833179: U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (Civil War America)
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This title presents the biography and legacy of the Civil War general and eighteenth U.S. President. At the time of his death, Ulysses S. Grant was the most famous person in America, considered by most citizens to be equal in stature to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Yet today his monuments are rarely visited, his military reputation is overshadowed by that of Robert E. Lee, and his presidency is permanently mired at the bottom of historical rankings. In an insightful blend of biography and cultural history, Joan Waugh traces Grant's shifting national and international reputation, illuminating the role of memory in our understanding of American history. She captures a sense of what led nineteenth-century Americans to overlook Grant's obvious faults and hold him up as a critically important symbol of national reconciliation and unity. Waugh further shows that Grant's reputation and place in public memory closely parallel the rise and fall of the northern version of the Civil War story - in which the United States was the clear, morally superior victor and Grant was the symbol of that victory. After the failure of Reconstruction, the dominant Union myths about the war gave way to a southern version that emphasized a more sentimental remembrance of the honor and courage of both sides and ennobled the 'Lost Cause'. By the 1920s, Grant's reputation had plummeted. Most Americans today are unaware of how revered Grant was in his lifetime. Joan Waugh uncovers the reasons behind the rise and fall of his renown, underscoring as well the fluctuating memory of the Civil War itself.

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Review:

This is a book that should be in any serious Civil War enthusiast's collection. Ms. Waugh writes in flowing prose that makes the pages fly by. There is plenty to learn for the casual reader and more than enough material to satisfy serious scholars of Ulysses S. Grant.--This Mighty Scourge Waugh's love for her subject is palpable. Her story of Grant's last years of life, where he raced to complete his Memoirs before dying, is visceral.--RALPH An excellent, tightly concise but full-life biography of Grant. . . . This is not . . . traditional history, or revisionist history, but rather an exquisite act of recounting and balancing those and other perspectives while drawing them all toward a greater understanding.--The Weekly Standard Waugh finds an interesting range of answers to a simple question: Who was Grant?"-The Associated Press An impressive book that will engage both the general reader intrigued by the American Civil War, as well as scholars interested in questions of memory and commemoration.--Journal of Illinois History An outstanding book. Reminds us that 'cultural wars' are not a recent phenomenon. . . . By insightfully analyzing the myths, emotions, facts, and politics of the public memory of Grant, Waugh demonstrates the critical importance of defining the past.--H-Civil War Joan Waugh adds fresh perspective on Grant and fills an important void in the scholarship....Waugh has produced a first-rate work that will go alongside other important books on Civil War memory...--Southern Historian Engrossing. . . . Grant's full vindication . . . still awaits. But when it comes, we will better understand our complicated history, and historians and citizens will have Joan Waugh to thank for helping to make this belated illumination possible." Sean Wilentz, The New Republic on-line review [A] vigorous and highly readable study--The Washington Times The best kind of history: it is a search for truth, and one that deserves the widest possible readership.--Army History Exceptionally thoughtful and valuable. . . . [Written in] clear prose that is readily accessible to the serious general reader. . . . [A] fine study.--Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post As impressively distilled a brief for Grant as one is likely to find.--The Journal of American History Throughout, Waugh's narrative is a sensitive and humane account that reveals the strength of combining biography and history, where the depth available in the former compellingly illuminates the larger trends and issues that define the latter.--Civil War Book Review An engaging study of the making of Ulysses S. Grant's reputation. . . . Waugh convincingly interprets Grant as 'symboliz[ing] both the hopes and the lost dreams' of the Civil War.--Publishers Weekly Brilliant and unsettling. . . . Part biography, part military history, part social chronicle charting the rise and fall of Grant's reputation, U.S. Grant is a sobering reminder of the vicissitudes of fame. . . . Waugh's well-researched and vibrantly written book . . . restores luster to a lost American hero.--The Chicago Tribune The definitive work detailing the eighteenth president's rise and fall in the American narrative.--The Review of Politics An impressive study using the techniques of history and memory. . . . Deserves to be at the top of anyone's list, scholar or general reader, interested in the Grant story. . . . Highly recommended.--Choice Excellent. . . . [Has] much of value to offer. . . . As those interested in U.S. history, American studies, cultural studies, and the study of historical memory will quickly discover, in this book [Waugh] has done both Grant and us a great and precious service.--Civil War History A well researched and scholarly work that Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy.--Library Journal In an insightful blend of biography and cultural history, Joan Waugh's U.S. Grant traces Grant's shifting national and international reputation, illuminating the role of memory in our understanding of American history.--McCormick Messenger It is rare for readers to wish books to be longer, but this, to its great credit, is one such book.--Louisiana History The publication of this book is a major event in Civil War historiography. . . . Masterfully intertwines historical fact about Grant's life with the development of his reputation. . . . A wonderful book.--The Journal of Mississippi History Brings to vivid life a highly contentious political landscape. . . . A readable, worthwhile book which will be interesting to anyone with a desire to learn more about the process of historical memory--and about a forgotten man who deserves to be remembered.--The Journal of Military History Elegant and wonderfully illustrated book. . . .Waugh's immersion in the literature of Civil War memory is considerable; she does not reinvent this historiography but rather pushes it into new territory with her subject. . . .Waugh's contribution is significant. She has fused the discussion of historical memory to biography and military history." --The Journal of Southern History A fine book. General readers will find it engaging and enjoyable, and historians interested in the memory of the Civil War will find it essential.--The North Carolina Historical Review A well-written and thoroughly researched examination of Ulysses S. Grant's place in public memory. . . . Waugh's enthusiasm for her subject is evident, resulting in an informative and richly detailed study. . . . An invaluable addition to the studies of our eighteenth president.--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

About the Author:

JOAN WAUGH is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles and coeditor of the award-winning The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture (UNC Press). GARY W. GALLAGHER is John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War (UNC Press).

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