<br><h3> Introduction </h3> <i>U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth</i> is about a true hero, celebrated for his strength, his resolve, and his ability to overcome severe obstacles, banishing the possibility of failure. Grant once wrote, "One of my superstitions had always been when I started to go any where, or do anything, not to turn back, or stop until the thing intended was accomplished." His feats attained mythic status and, like many national myths, contained elements of truth and exaggeration, accuracy and distortion. "As for Grant," a contemporary observed, "he was like Thor, the hammerer; striking blow after blow, intent on his purpose to beat his way through." Grant's reputation is inevitably entwined with that of the Civil War, the tragic American epic. Like the president he served, Grant stood firm in his faith in a future beyond the terrible bloody battlefields of war. Unlike the president he served, Grant survived the war to implement their shared vision of reunion and emancipation, in a country still riven by dangerous crises. Inevitably, the hero stumbled, the myth was tarnished. Even heroes have flaws, and Grant's heroism lay not in his moral perfectionism but in his resolute determination to defeat those who would split the Union. This book traces the shifting legacy of general and president Ulysses S. Grant, who emerged from obscurity to claim victory as the North's greatest military leader. <p> Grant's meteoric rise between 1861 and 1865 was not necessarily predicted by his first thirty-nine years. An undistinguished student in the West Point class of 1843, Grant gathered honors in the Mexican War but later resigned from the regular army in 1854 under questionable circumstances. He took up farming in Missouri, failing to achieve success in that occupation and then in a number of others as well. When Lincoln asked for volunteers in 1861, Grant was clerking in his father's leather goods store in Galena, Illinois. He responded eagerly to his country's call and rapidly won fame in the Western Theater, scoring decisive and morale-raising victories at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. Promoted to lieutenant general in early 1864, Grant assumed direction of the entire Union military effort in the last year and a half of the war. That spring, Grant and Confederate general Robert E. Lee waged titanic battles across the Virginia countryside, ending only when Grant crossed the James River and pinned Lee's army inside Petersburg. While Grant conducted the siege, his two principal lieutenants, Maj. Gens. William T. Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan took the war to Georgia and Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, conquering territory, defeating Rebel armies, and destroying large swaths of the southern countryside. Their combined victories vindicated Grant's strategic vision and guaranteed Lincoln's reelection. <p> The Union's greatest military hero was praised for the magnanimous terms of surrender he offered, and Lee accepted, at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Shortly afterward, he became the first four-star general in U.S. history, remaining as head of the army until 1868, when he was elected to the first of two terms as president on the Republican ticket. Grant's political career proved troublesome. Most Americans believed him to be honest and well meaning, but his administration was plagued by corruption and bungling, with the fragile promise of emancipation diminished by a white South redeemed. Immediately after leaving office, Grant embarked on a triumphal world tour that lasted for two years. Returning to live in New York City, he lost his entire savings in a disastrous business venture. To earn money, he agreed to write about his wartime experiences for <i>Century</i> magazine. Grant's articles proved so popular that he decided to write his memoirs, just as he was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer. While sick with the cancer in 1884, he courageously completed <i>The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant</i>, which became a classic in American literature. Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, the most famous of Americans both at home and abroad. <p> My project began with a question about Grant's life, and his death. Why did Grant's star shine so brightly for Americans of his own day, and why has it has been eclipsed so completely for Americans since at least the mid-twentieth century? Most Americans indisputably are ignorant of the <i>extent</i> of the once-powerful national legacy of Ulysses S. Grant. To recover that legacy, I advance two arguments. First, Ulysses S. Grant was a gigantic figure in the nineteenth century, and second, the memory of what he stood for—Union victory—was twisted, diminished, and then largely forgotten. Some may think that the first argument is axiomatic. It is not. The book explains how and why Ulysses S. Grant became the embodiment of the American nation in the decades after the Civil War, analyzing him as a symbol of national identity and memory, equal in stature to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. More than a million and a half people watched his funeral procession in New York City on August 8, 1885, while the dedication of his massive tomb in Manhattan in 1897 drew a similar number. Even as the general was praised in lofty speeches at the end-of-the-century dedication, however, his reputation was subjected to a constant drumbeat of criticism from a small but influential group of ex-Confederate partisans; at the same time, eager reconciliationists from the North began to distort his legacy in pursuit of national unity. <p> Why is it important to recover the memory of Ulysses S. Grant as experienced by nineteenth-century Americans who forgave his transgressions in life and revered him in death? It is important because of the huge place that the Civil War still commands in American historical memory. Both a blessing and a curse, the war bequeathed a rich and riveting story of valor and idealism but also a distressing bequest of destruction, bitter recrimination, and racism. Grant had essential roles to play in the great national drama—his generalship was a major reason why the North won the Civil War, and his presidency determined in large part the success or failure of Reconstruction. Depending on one's point of view, he was either the brilliant leading U.S. military commander or the mediocre general who won by brutal attrition alone, either the stalwart and honest president trying to implement the northern vision of the war or the imposer of hated "Republican Rule" on a helpless, defeated region. In the long run, the image of the brutal general and inept president lingers most powerfully. <p> In his own era, the passage of time and memory softened Grant's image, so much so that by the 1880s and 1890s he symbolized national reconciliation as well as embodying Union victory. Grant was not a foe of sectional harmony—his famous 1868 campaign slogan summed up his sentiments, "Let Us Have Peace." But it was never peace at any price. In Grant's mind, reconciliation and the "Union Cause" had to be founded on southern acceptance of the victor's terms. The premier goal of the Civil War was to preserve the American republic and, after 1863, to fight for freedom and the destruction of slavery. To Grant, those were noble ideals worth fighting for, dying for, and remembering in distinctive ways. Thus, his "version" of sectional harmony rejected, indeed found repugnant, the increasingly popular idea that the Union and Confederate causes were "separate but equal," or even worse, that the two were somehow morally equivalent. <p> The book is divided into six chapters, with an interlude bridging the two halves of the text, and a brief epilogue. The first three chapters chronicle Grant's life and career, interweaving history, memory, and memorialization, introducing the man, the soldier, and the politician. Taken together, their purpose is to provide just enough of a background for understanding how and why Grant became a major American hero, and how and why Grant came to occupy such a huge place in American myth and memory. Reader, beware: my book employs the biographical method, but does not cover in depth Grant's military and presidential career. That is not its intent. For those who wish to pursue the details of Grant's life in full, I advise consulting one of the existing biographies or one or more of the specific, and numerous, studies of his career that have been published. Many of these works—indispensable to building my case for Grant's centrality in Civil War history and memory—are quoted in the text and cited in the footnotes. <p> Chapter 1 covers the years from Grant's birth to the eve of the Civil War. Here I draw attention to competing myths regarding Grant's early life—the one of unrelieved failure that made his later success inexplicable, and the one showing that Grant experienced the ordinary struggles of life, which many Americans could relate to, that produced in him a strong character and resilience that boded well for his future and the future of the country. Chapter 2 surveys the war years, 1861–65, ending with Appomattox. Examining the most unmartial of military heroes, this chapter explains the origins and flowering of Grant's fame and mythic status. It chronicles his rise from an unknown officer in the war's distant Western Theater to lieutenant general commanding the United States armies (he was the first officer to receive that rank since George Washington). Unlike the aristocratic Washington, Grant demonstrated the potential of the common man in the democratic, free-labor North. Unprepossessing in appearance and deliberately eschewing military grandeur, Grant in 1865 enjoyed wild popularity and wielded immense power. Huge crowds greeted his every appearance, and Republicans and Democrats both sought his approval. <p> What did he do with that power? Chapter 3 picks up Grant's story from Lincoln's assassination and carries it up through 1877. As military commander overseeing Reconstruction policy, and as two-term president, soldier-statesman Grant struggled to define, defend, and preserve Union victory over an utterly defeated and embittered southern white population, as well as establish and protect freedom for ex-slaves. Grant admitted his lack of expertise in the humdrum but important world of national political machinations. "He had a true political sense, for he could see big things and big ideas," wrote one historian, "but he possessed no political cunning, he could not see the littleness of the little men who surrounded him." His reputation suffered immense damage—some, but not all of it, deserved—from charges of policy failures, "cronyism," and abandonment of principle. An interlude offers a transition from Grant's life to his memorialization, focusing on his international tour, in which he symbolized for the world the powerful American nation that emerged from the Civil War. As a private citizen, Grant struggled to find a satisfactory place for himself and his family. <p> The three chapters that make up the second part of the text are the heart of the book, covering Grant's illness and death, the writing of his memoirs, his funeral, and the building of Grant's Tomb in New York City. Chapter 4 records the extraordinary national response to his agonizing death from throat cancer while struggling to complete his justly celebrated memoirs. <i>The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant</i> is a powerful example of an autobiography that swayed history, establishing its author as a principal architect in shaping the Civil War's historical memory. Chapter 5 reveals how both North and South seized on and singled out Grant's legacy as the magnanimous victor at Appomattox as <i>the</i> major theme of his commemoration. Here, Grant becomes a case study of the fascinating ways in which historical memory is shaped, and then reshaped, to suit current needs. Chapter 6 recounts the vigorous debate over Grant's monument and the proper way in which his memory should be honored. No Civil War monument was more spectacular or famous in 1897, and yet by the mid-twentieth century Grant's Tomb was a neglected site. A short epilogue sums up Grant's legacy in the twentieth century and the twenty-first. <p> This is the first scholarly work devoted to Grant's commemoration, adding a unique perspective to the existing literature. My primary research included reading scores of sermons, eulogies, memorial programs, newspapers, and pamphlets, in addition to letters, reports, diaries, memoirs, and scrapbooks; examining artifact collections and visual representations; and visiting Grant memorial sites. A few books and articles have focused on Grant's deathwatch, funeral, and monument, and will be cited accordingly. But those are pretty rare among Grant publications, virtually a cottage industry from the 1860s. As Grant emerged as a popular war hero, journalists scoured locales in Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois (where he grew up and lived), and other states, interviewing family, friends, enemies, former teachers, soldiers, and current and former military colleagues. The insatiable search for Grant tidbits (fodder for friends and enemies, creating stories true and false) only intensified in the decades afterward, appearing in newspaper articles, forming the basis of campaign publications, providing color and content for hagiographies. More serious biographies by Hamlin Garland and Owen Wister appeared early in the twentieth century and were augmented later by scholarly studies published by Lloyd Lewis, Bruce Catton, William McFeely, and Brooks D. Simpson. According to the 420-page <i>Ulysses S. Grant: A Bibliography</i>, books and journal articles about his over-all military career, individual battles, or separate campaigns far outnumber biographies or political studies, confirming America's hunger for military history. Only a small part of the massive bibliography covers memory and memorialization, the major focus here. <p> The recent rise of "memory studies" exploring the gap between history and memory, which expose a manipulated, "invented" past, has been nothing short of a phenomenon. Cutting across disciplines, fields, centuries, and continents, scholars applying memory analysis have brought new insights to the ways in which the past has been used to justify present agendas, usually, but not always, servicing the needs of the nation-state. Traumatic events such as World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, Wounded Knee, and Gettysburg have been revisited using this method, illuminating the power of memory to create selective narratives that elevate some while leaving out others. The work of Maurice Halbwachs, Jacques Le Goff, and Pierre Nora on collective memory versus individual memory, and on the tendentious relationship between history and memory, informs my discussion of Grant on several levels. But I am even more indebted to scholars of American memory, such as Michael Kammen, John Bodnar, and David Blight, who have examined the different ways in which the American Civil War has been commemorated, and for whose benefit. Long before memory studies became the vogue in academic circles, the story of the Civil War haunted generations of ordinary citizens, intellectuals, writers, and historians. <p> Remarkably, the literature on Confederate identity and memory, especially on the continuing power of the Lost Cause, flourished, while similar studies for the Union Cause lagged. Recent publications have begun to correct the imbalance, and my book will be added to the list. The end of the war brought forth a new nationalism, sanctified by death and embraced by a majority of northerners and southern freed people, that made the Union Cause just as much the subject of myth and reverence as the Lost Cause. This has too often been overlooked in both recent academic literature (which finds fault with the powerful strain of American exceptionalism that characterized postwar nationalism) and in popular culture. Indeed, the moral seriousness and earnest patriotism that animated a sizeable portion of wartime northern society—soldiers and civilians alike—has seemingly been obliterated from current historical consciousness. So too has the immense prestige and respect once held by military heroes. "The generals stood as public symbols of the meaning of the conflict," wrote Philip S. Paludan. "They organized victory, shaping the choreography of the war, and no one more so than Grant." <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>U. S. Grant</b> by <b>Joan Waugh</b> Copyright © 2009 by THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS. Excerpted by permission of THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.