Friday, February 17, 2023

Booknotes: Grant at 200

New Arrival:
Grant at 200: Reconsidering the Life and Legacy of Ulysses S. Grant edited by Chris Mackowski & Frank J. Scaturro (Savas Beatie, 2023).

Any observer of trends in the Civil War-era literature cannot help but notice the scale of revision brought to our modern reevaluation of U.S. Grant's Civil War generalship and 1869-77 presidency. Though reminders of where counterbalancing forces might have gone too far in the other direction frequently pop up, Grant is clearly no longer the drunk butcher who parlayed victory bought by overwhelming resources into a multi-term presidency the principal legacy of which was extreme corruption. This upward swing did not occur all at once, with the military career revisionism largely preceding the new appreciation of Grant's presidency.

Exploring current lines of thinking regarding this transformation, among other things, is the essay anthology Grant at 200: Reconsidering the Life and Legacy of Ulysses S. Grant, edited by Chris Mackowski and Frank Scaturro. It "celebrates the bicentennial of the birth of a man whose towering impact on American history has often been overshadowed and, in many cases, ignored. This collection of essays by some of today’s leading Grant scholars offers fresh perspectives on Grant’s military career and presidency, as well as underexplored personal topics such as his faith and family life."

Including introductory and epilogue pieces, there are seventeen essays. Grant's cadet career, Methodist upbringing, and relationship with his in-laws are examined. Reflecting on his Civil War career are essays looking at his "art of war," the Appomattox surrender, and moments of contingency in his rise through the ranks of top Union generals. Grant's political skills, his civil rights record, and foreign policy are discussed. Legacy perspectives from a Grant descendant and a living history impersonator are included, as is coverage of the "odyssey" of Grant's tomb.

It should also be noted that "proceeds from this volume will go to support the Ulysses S. Grant Association and the Grant Monument Association."

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