Grant: My Review

Soldier, Statesman, and the 18th President of the United States.

Recently the History Channel aired a three part mini-series on the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. One of the historians and commentators on that program was author Ron Chernow, whose biography of this American soldier and statesman was published in 2017. When I recommended the show to my son, Sean, I happened to comment that I would probably have to break down and get the book at some point even though the genre is not one that I normally read. In the fact, the only other ones that I’ve read in the past two years are Print the Legend – The Life and Times of John Ford and Alexander Hamilton, both of which were gifted to me by my son. Well, he did it again, sending Grant to me for Father’s Day! As you can see, it’s taken me some time to get through 1,074 pages, but Chernow has written yet another meticulously researched and definitive portrait of the man, his legacy, and period in which he lived.

Historians have sometimes overlooked Grant’s military genius arguing that the North won the Civil War because of its industrial base and manpower advantages versus the Confederate South, and they have also expressed mixed views on his presidency because of the rampant corruption within his administration during his two terms in office (1869-1877). Chernow disputes both, articulating Grant’s tactical and strategic brilliance as the commander of the Union forces and his accomplishments as President that, in his opinion, elevate him to the stature of Washington and Lincoln.

Chernow doesn’t skip or smooth over his faults and failures. He examines in great detail his battle with alcoholism, a disease that came very close to relegating Grant to obscurity as a disgraced military officer; he resigned his commission in 1854 rather than face a potential court martial over allegations of drunkenness while on duty. He was a failure as a businessman. His naivety, misguided loyalty, and ill-advised faith in many of the people he appointed to government positions certainly led to the scandals that tainted his tenure as President. However, Chernow lays out a clear picture of how Grant’s character and leadership overcame these deficiencies to accomplish not only the defeat of the Confederacy but the lifelong crusade for equality and civil rights of Native, African, and Jewish Americans.

For the Civil War buffs out there, Chernow goes into great deal about Grant’s success as a field commander on the Western front which would eventually elevate him to command of the Union Armies, the special trust and confidence bestowed upon him by President Lincoln, his relentless pursuit of Confederate forces wherever he encountered them (vice capturing cities or territory), his endorsement of a scorched earth/total war strategy in Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign and Sherman’s March to the Sea/Burning of Atlanta to bring home the realities of war to Southern civilians as well as soldiers, his incorporation of freed slaves into the military, and his knowledge/familiarity with Confederate officers, including Robert E. Lee, in his war planning and military campaigns. Chernow credits Grant with the ability to clearly see, coordinate, and employ forces across the entire spectrum of war, and in so doing forcing Lee to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

For those more interested in Grant’s presidency, Chernow tells us that he was a reluctant politician, never encouraging his nomination to the highest office in the land. Once elected, however, he did everything in his power to bring about Reconstruction and negate the rise of white supremist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. He stabilized the post-war economy, settled diplomatic disputes with Britain over their support for the Confederacy, while also creating the Department of Justice, the first Civil Service Commission, and the National Parks system. He failed in his efforts to annex the Dominican Republic, had mixed results in his Native American policy, and was denied a third term principally due to federal corruption scandals, of which he had no complicity besides poor judgment and loyalty to friends.

Grant died of throat and tongue cancer in 1885, and Chernow gives us an agonizing look at his final days in which he struggled to complete his biography before his death. Grant suffered severe financial reversals after he left office, and was determined to provide for his family before he died. Fortunately with Mark Twain’s help, his memoirs proved to be both a critical and financial success.

There is so much detail in the book that it probably isn’t for everyone. I confess that I read several other novels while completing the biography, which is why it took me so long to finish. It is, however, a scholarly achievement that cannot and should not be overlooked. Historians will not find a more definitive biography on Ulysses S. Grant, and Ron Chernow deserves immense credit for giving us a better understanding of the man and his place in history.

Rio Ruidoso: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas


Scroll down for the giveaway!


Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.


Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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As he neared the bend in the stream, a woman’s screams and sobs grew discernible and louder. Then Wes heard the mocking laugh of amused men. Rounding the bend, Wes saw a small adobe dwelling with a small cultivated field between it and the Ruidoso. And in front of the house, he spied a circle of four men around a Hispanic woman. A fifth man sat horseback, holding the others’ mounts. All five were hurrahing the woman and someone else within their circle.

Wes held the stallion back while he studied the five men, all so intent on their mischief that not one had noticed their visitor less than a hundred yards away. Wes knew neither the dispute nor its cause, but he could see the odds were less than fair. He levered a cartridge into the Winchester, then shook the reins. The sorrel stepped forward, the gap between Wes and the men narrowing to eighty yards, sixty yards, then forty yards. Still the men remained oblivious to all but the prey within their small circle.

Wes watched a frail man stand up among them, only to be shoved back to the ground by a bigger assailant. The woman screamed and tried to help the victim, but another attacker grabbed her arm and jerked her away. She fell to the ground, then clambered toward the frail man. Everyone laughed, except Wes! He had seen enough.

“Get up, greaser, so I can plant you in the ground again,” taunted one attacker.

At twenty yards, Wes eased back on the sorrel’s reins. Swinging the barrel of his carbine toward the assailants, he shouted, “Afternoon.”

Five men flinched at the greeting, then stiffened. They slowly turned around, facing Wes, their hands frozen near the revolvers at their sides.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Wes called out.

The woman burst through the circle of men and rushed toward Wes. “Gracias, señor, muy gracias!

Her cry and the flash of her skirt spooked Charlie. The sorrel nervously backtracked a half-dozen steps. One man reached toward his pistol, his hand wrapping around the gun butt.

The Hispanic woman stopped dead still.

Wes jerked the carbine to his shoulder and fired over the foolhardy man. The fellow’s fingers widened and his arm went limp, releasing the pistol that slid back into its holster. His companions raised their hands away from their own sidearms.

The young woman’s hand flew to her throat. “Please, señor, stop them from hurting us.”

Wes nodded. “What’s the trouble?”

One troublemaker stepped ahead of the others. He had a stiff neck, his whole body turning with his head. “No trouble. Until you showed up, fellow!”

“The young lady wouldn’t agree, now would she?”

“She’s Mexican. What’s she know?”

“Enough to expect decent treatment from folks.”

Stiff neck turned his whole body toward the others. “He damn sure ain’t from Texas, now is he?” As they laughed, stiff neck twisted back to face Wes. “Hell, fellow, you remember the Alamo? This greaser’s kin likely killed good white folks there. We’re just paying them back.”

Wes shrugged. “That was near forty years ago, and this isn’t Texas. You best forget the Alamo, ride on and leave these folks alone.”

Raising his fist, stiff neck advanced a step. “Fellow, I don’t know who you are, but you got no business interfering in what my bunch does. The name’s Horrell, I’m Mart, and these are my brothers Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. We’ll ride out, but you remember the Horrell name if you’re planning on staying in Lincoln County because we’ll meet again when we ain’t in such a good mood.” 

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.



1ST PRIZE: Signed Copies of Rio Ruidoso & Bluster’s Last Stand
2ND PRIZE: Signed Copy of Rio Ruidoso
FEBRUARY 18-28, 2020
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