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American Ulysses. A new look at the extraordinary life of President Ulysses S. Grant.

A portion of the cover of "American Ulysses" by Ronald White. (Courtesy Random House)
A portion of the cover of "American Ulysses" by Ronald White. (Courtesy Random House)

At nearly 40, Ulysses S. Grant thought himself a failure, a nobody. By the end of the Civil War, he was an American hero – the rumpled, cigar-smoking general who accepted Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. “I can’t spare this man,” Abraham Lincoln had said.“He fights.” By 1869, Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. Jim Crow–era historians were tough on Grant. A new biography sees moral courage. This hour On Point, Ulysses s. Grant – "American Ulysses." — Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Ronald C. White, author and historian. Author of the new book, “American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant.” Also author of “A. Lincoln,” "Lincoln’s Greatest Speech” and “The Eloquent President.” Fellow at the Huntington Library.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Ulysses S. Grant: New Biography of ‘A Nobody From Nowhere’ -- "Reconstruction dominated Grant’s presidency. Unlike many, he knew it brought liberation, not occupation, empowering African-Americans in states where they were a majority or large minority. White describes how he pushed Congress and his own administration to essentially invent civil-rights enforcement. He pays less attention to the mounting victories of white supremacists, as Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont and others in the cabinet undermined Grant’s position."

USA Today: Ulysses S. Grant emerges a hero in new bio -- "The larger point of White’s book, which challenges the reader with detailed dissections of the Civil War battles that Grant’s Union Army fought en route to a bitter triumph, is that Grant was a noble man of vision. White believes the disputed scandals of Grant’s second term in office unfairly overshadow what he fought for — the political rights of African-Americans, a better Indian policy, effective federalism — and against, including voter suppression and the Ku Klux Klan."

Christian Science Monitor: 'American Ulysses' is a game-changing biography of Ulysses S. Grant — "The most painful chapters in this book deal with Grant’s life post-presidency.  After his return from a two-year world tour during which he was hailed as a symbol of American democracy, the Wall Street firm that handled all his investments collapsed.  It was a Ponzi scheme."

Read An Excerpt Of "American Ulysses" By Roland White

President Ulysses S. Grant, in an undated photo taken between 1870 and 1880. (Library Of Congress)
President Ulysses S. Grant, in an undated photo taken between 1870 and 1880. (Library Of Congress)
The official portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant. (Courtesy the White House)
The official portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant. (Courtesy the White House)
Carte de visite portrait of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, 1865. (Ohio History Connection)
Carte de visite portrait of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, 1865. (Ohio History Connection)

This program aired on November 1, 2016.

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