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June 22, 2017


American Ulysses

by N@ncy


  • Author R.C. White
  • Title: American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant
  • Published: 2016
  • Trivia: #20BooksOfSummer
  • Trivia: New York Times best seller



  1. The book is a biography so the structure is what you would expect.
  2. What you don’t expect is White’s ability to show Grant in 3- dimensions.
  3. Husband – military strategic genius – pragmatic president.


  • Family life in Ohio
  • Military study at West Point
  • Love affair with ‘my dear Julia’ Dent
  • Mexican-American War
  • Civil War
  • 18th president of United States
  • Retirement (30 month trip around the world)
  • Writing memoirs in collaboration with Mark Twain.


Why did I read this book?

My main purpose was to learn why Grant was so successful in the Civil War?

  1. I followed the chapters about the battles at Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson
  2. Shiloh, Iuka, Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Richmond.
  3. I used google maps and wikipedia to form an image of the battlefield.
  4. It was a fascinating read.
  5. Grant would scout the landscape to discover IF he could use it to his advantage.
  6. His emphasis was on:
  7. strategy: siege – classic…surround and just wait.
  8. (broke out of siege in Chattanooga; set up 12 mi siege line around Vicksburg)
  9. speed: delay only accrues credit for the defender (regroup/resupply)
  10. break the cracker line: (supply lines food and ammunitions)
  11. create diversions, cut telegraph lines, smash RR tracks and bridges
  12. Be alert: scurrying rabbits and squirrels indicated to the ‘pickets’ that
  13. enemy infantry were creeping closer through the brush.
  14. broad battlefield: keep enemy guessing where Grant would strike (Vicksburg)


What were some  dangers that Grant tried to avoid?

  1. Over confidence of troops after newspapers predict an easy victory at Shiloh.
  2. Miscommunication and mud:
  3. …terrain can delay messages and arrival of reserve troops.
  4. Intelligence:
  5. …danger of believing all deserters who bring news of enemy positions and size.
  6. Inflated egos of commanders (McClernand was Grant’s nemesis)
  7. Don’t ever leave HQ without assigning a second in command.
  8. Teach soldiers to live off land and stretch 2 days rations over 7 days!


Why was Grant such a great Civil War general?

  1. He was  always calm and decisive.
  2. He molded army and navy forces into one team.
  3. He listened and asked questions.
  4. He did not micromanage (trusted commanders).
  5. He seldom engaged in criticism after a battle.
  6. He avoid unnecessary insult to brave soldiers (surrender Gen Lee Appomattox)
  7. Whenever playing defense
  8. ……Grant always planned to go on offense, plan B.


Last thoughts:

  1. When I finished this book last night
  2. …and read about Grant’s final campaign (death)
  3. I felt I lost a friend.
  4. This was the most moving biography I’ve read in a long time.
  5. Personally, parts 1-3  were the best (youth, West Point, Civil War).
  6. Parts 4-6 (Reconstruction,  18th President, World tour) were less interesting.
  7. What a great general
  8. …. he won the Civil War and impressed us with his humility.
  9. #MustRead
10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 22 2017

    I’m glad that this is already on my TBR. I should move it up a few spots.


    • Jun 22 2017

      It was a great read….even though the scandals during Grant’s presidency didn’t interest met that much. I wanted to know about the man and not the politics.


  2. Jun 24 2017

    I wouldn’t normally be interested in a book about an American president but your comments on his education at West Point were so tantalizing!


    • Jun 24 2017

      This man had something ‘extra’…a vision, ahumility and an empathy for others.
      I learned so much about ‘his part’ in the US Civil War…I want to learn more about this turning point in American history.


  3. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this so much and I love your idea of using google maps to follow along! I’ll keep that in mind for next time I have a book that would work for.


    • Aug 10 2017

      I learned more about the Civil War from this book than all
      my history classes in school! I am convinced childern and adults
      should read more non-fiction.
      Books change society by highlighting society’s shortcomings.
      Currently reading: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising 1971.
      It is difficult to read…but must.



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #20BooksOfSummer | NancyElin
  2. #NonFicNov 2017 Week 1 | NancyElin
  3. #NonFicNov 2017 Week 1 | NancyElin
  4. Goodbye….2017 | NancyElin

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