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U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (Civil War America)by Joan Waugh
Synopses & Reviews
"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 "The first two-thirds of the book are as impressively distilled a brief for Grant as one is likely to find."
-The Journal of American 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 "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."
-North Carolina Historical Review "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 "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 "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."
-Journal of Military History "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 "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 "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 "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 "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 "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 "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 "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 "[A] vigorous and highly readable study"
-The Washington Times "A Washington Post Critic's Favorite Book of 2009" "A well researched and scholarly work that Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy. "
-Library Journal "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 "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 "Waugh finds an interesting range of answers to a simple question: Who was Grant?"
-The Associated Press "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 "Joan Waugh's eagerly awaited and important book on Grant is original and provocative. She writes with an astute perspective on how each contextual stop along the way in her history of Grant's memory is really all about the politics of that particular moment. This book will make a lasting mark in Civil War history."
-David W. Blight, Yale University
"How does national memory determine national heroes? Waugh, a UCLA history professor, probes the subject in an engaging study of the making of Ulysses S. Grant's reputation. At the time of his death in 1885, he was perceived as on a level with George Washington by former Unionists and Confederates alike. His memoirs were a bestseller. His image combined the honorable soldier and the generous victor: a heroic war leader who believed in the ideal of national reconciliation in both regional and racial contexts. Even Grant's flaws were part of his greatness, linking him to his countrymen in a distinctively American fashion. That image began to change as lost cause romanticism nurtured reinterpreting the Civil War as not merely tragic but arguably unnecessary. The eclipse of this approach has restored Grant's reputation as a general. Now his presidency is the target of criticism: corrupt, ineffective and above all incomplete in terms of the racial issue. Waugh convincingly interprets Grant as 'symboliz[ing] both the hopes and the lost dreams' of the Civil War. But while that war remains our defining — and dividing — event, Grant's image, Waugh says, will remain ambiguous. 69 illus., 3 maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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. Joan Waugh uncovers the reasons behind the rise and fall of Grant's renown, underscoring as well the fluctuating memory of the Civil War itself.
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 emblem 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.
About the Author
Joan Waugh is professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is the author or coeditor of three books, includingWars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War (UNC Press).
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