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Grant - Christine - 10-11-2019 08:50 PM

I am currently devouring (and loving!) Grant by Ron Chernow, and am fascinated by the developing relationship between Grant and Lincoln. Has anyone else read this book? I would love your thoughts about their relationship, as I haven't really studied it, but Chernow paints it as a relationship of equals, in temperament, intelligence, resilience, fortitude, and determination.

RE: Grant - Wild Bill - 10-13-2019 07:26 AM

Hey Christine,

Congratulations in reading and enjoying Chernow's Grant. Reading it is truly a formidable task. It has been an year, maybe a year and a half, since I did the same.

The one thing that sprang into my mind on seeing your question was that of all the materials on Grant I have read, this was the biggest book on Grant, yet most ignoring of Grant's actual Civil War battles. I think you hit the nail on the head referring to the Grant-Lincoln friendship. I do not know that they were really "friends" because of the dislike of Mrs Grant of Mrs Lincoln, but L and G did have a great deal of respect for each other.

They also allowed each to be the master of his realm without interfering one with the other. Grant had a keen sense of Lincoln's political necessities, for example, allowing Ben Butler to command an army incompetently, because L needed his political support. But G fired him after L cleared the 1864 reelection, and L let him do it. Unlike Joe Hooker, G never threatened L with a military dictatorship. In exchange, L allowed G to fight the war without interfering, despite all the rumors of drinking, excessive casualties, and lost battles to RE Lee in the overland Campaign of 1864. Actually, overall, Lee lost more men to death and wounds than G during the war.

Chernow's book is easily read in spite of its length. You might be interested in David W. Bright's review of it in the New York Review of Books, May 24, 2018, entitled "The Silent Type." G is a Taurus, as is my wife, and he says little, as does she, but when you see him or her pawing the ground, run for cover as fast as humanly possible! They are stubborn and will charge. G having to fight Lee needed that quality. I think the North won the Civil War when Grant refused to retreat after his defeat the Battle of the Wilderness as had all other Norther generals had before him. L liked that! G was much the same way during Reconstruction, only he did not have a L to back him politically.

L knew that G saw the war as L did--a fight to the end, no quarter allowed.

RE: Grant - Rob Wick - 10-13-2019 11:34 AM

Good grief, Bill. I can't see anything in your post that I can disagree with. That's got to be a sign of something.Huh

While I don't have any real complaints about Chernow, I think there are better books out there. Jean Edward Smith (who recently died) wrote one of the best I've read. When Brooks Simpson brings out his long-awaited second volume it will rank him as one of Grant's best interpreters. I've got, but haven't read, William McFeeley's book. Sometime I want to read Captain Sam Grant.


RE: Grant - Wild Bill - 10-13-2019 03:35 PM

Rob, I must be getting soft in my old age. You know what they say--the mind is the first to go!

RE: Grant - Steve - 10-13-2019 04:19 PM

Rob, a little off topic - but I thought I'd ask due to all of your Tarbell research. Have you read Chernow's Rockefeller biography? And if so, what are your opinions on it?

RE: Grant - Rob Wick - 10-13-2019 06:10 PM


Not yet. I have it and it will be something I definitely have to read (as well as Allan Nevins' two-volume biography of Rockefeller among others), but I did use a part of it when I was putting together a sample chapter for my original book plan. Tarbell was in a fight with F.N. Doubleday over her Life of Lincoln being published by McClure Publishing after S.S. McClure sold his interest in the publishing company to Doubleday. Tarbell didn't want Doubleday to publish it because Doubleday had defended Rockefeller in an article he had written for The World's Work. Chernow talked about how Doubleday's article was part of a concerted effort by Rockefeller to burnish his image to the public.

Generally speaking I think Chernow is a good biographer. I have read his biography of Hamilton (listened to it, actually on cassete, which I think took a total of 35 hours out of my life) and I have his biography of Washington. My problem is all his books are such a time commitment that I have to have a real interest in slogging through it, despite his accessible and pleasing style. To be honest, if I wasn't writing about Tarbell, I doubt I would read Rockefeller, but again it's because it would be such a time commitment.



RE: Grant - LincolnMan - 11-28-2019 08:08 AM

Just bought the book and looking forward to reading!

RE: Grant - GustD45 - 12-05-2019 12:24 AM


I have that book and have yet to read it. I read Chernow's book on Washington. He's a fine biographer and I am looking forward to reading it when I have the time.


RE: Grant - LincolnMan - 02-29-2020 08:30 AM

Speaking of Grant--- there is a History Channel series on him coming up. Any info on it?