Mike Kueber's Blog

March 25, 2012

Sunday Book Review #68 – Grant’s Final Victory

Filed under: Book reviews,History — Mike Kueber @ 5:42 pm
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The first book in my to-do queue list this week was On What Matters, a book with in-depth discussions of various philosophical issues.  The book’s table of contents was irresistible – rationality, morality, values, universal laws, etc.  A few hours into the book, however, I realized that it contained much more depth than I was able to handle, and I pushed it aside.  Part of the ease in doing this probably had to do with the next book in queue – Grant’s Final Victory by Charles Bracelen Flood.  After recently reading and greatly enjoying Bill O’Reilly’s book on Lincoln and Glenn Beck’s book on Washington, the Grant book promised to be a lot lighter than a dense 500-page book on philosophy.

Grant’s Final Victory was incredibly light.  Although I don’t know enough about Grant to challenge the author’s credibility, I am highly skeptical that Grant walked on water like this book suggests he did.  The book focuses on the last year of Grant’s life, when he was afflicted with tongue and throat cancer shortly after his betrayal by two financial criminals had left him penniless.  That story arch reminds me of Texas governor John Connally. 

Like Connally, Grant faced his financial and health crisis with courage and dignity.  During his last year, while under great pain, Grant wrote his Memoirs, which provided for his family’s financial salvation and is sometimes recognized as one of the best American memoirs every written.  As Grant himself sardonically noted shortly before he died, his writing skills had greatly exceeded expectations, just as his soldiering and political skills had done.      

But the book does not focus exclusively on the final year of Grant’s life.  Instead it often refers back to earlier times in Grant’s life.  And although it does not completely over-look Grant’s failures, such as his early military-career setbacks or his dismal business career just prior to the Civil War, these items are given only a few sentences.  Even the financial incident that left him penniless after the presidency is depicted as Grant having reasonable faith in two close associates who betrayed him.  By contrast, most facts in the book suggest that Grant was nearly a saint with respect to his character. 

Grant’s Final Victory was an enjoyable read, but I suspect the author did as much spinning as Beck and O’Reilly do.