Ron Chernow’s Grant Review
Ron Chernow’s Grant is a long yet readable, well-rounded biography of the 18th president of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant remains one of the best yet underrated American presidents.
A perennial underdog, Grant was filled with failures, missteps, and terrible judgement of character. Yet his colossal successes largely outweigh his mistakes. Ron Chernow’s Grant covers these fairly and rightfully.
Grant’s largest character flaw was his trust in others. Time and time again his peers stabbed him in the back. And time and time again, Grant turned a seemingly blind eye to corrupt or slanderous people who should have been on his side.
Grant’s presidency was plagued by scandals. Chernow covers all these and largely absolves Grant of any wrongdoing. But his eagerness to trust clouded his judgement. In many ways, he was too kind.
This biography covers Grant’s Civil War battles in great detail while remaining readable. U.S. Grant’s atomic rise to General of the entire Union army did not come without many hurdles.
Chernow also showcases John Rawlins, Grant’s “sidekick” who did a great deal to keep Grant from making poor decisions during the war. Rawlins even gets some credit for the genius of Grant. He should be better known for his overshadowed successes.
Grant’s other major flaw was his drinking. While largely overblown, sometimes Grant was drunk and several times it had a negative impact on his relationships. However, it seems he was rarely “too drunk” to perform his military or presidential duties.
With his flaws noted, Grant was one of the most important Presidents, especially in terms of race relations. He was widely respected by prominent black Americans, including Frederick Douglass. In many ways, Grant did more for ex-slaves than Lincoln.
Ron Chernow’s Grant is long but completely readable. It shows Ulysses’s humble beginnings and business failures. And it shows how Grant led the Union to winning the Civil War and then did as much as he could with reconstruction as president.
If visiting Illinois, check out Grant’s home in Galena.