The Man Who Saved the Union -- Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H.W. Brands, Doubleday '12, $35, 718 pages, ASIN #0385532415. Index, notes, no bibliography, grouping of b&w images on glossy stock.
Not yet 60, H.W. Brands has already moved into the first rank of American historians with two heralded biographies (on Benjamin Franklin and FDR) already having reached the Pulitzer Prize shortlist. In his latest, he deconstructs the life and career of Union General and later President Ulysses Grant.
Much like Dwight Eisenhower, Grant was a commanding military leader as well as an "overwhelmingly popular president." But, writes the author, "within decades of his death his reputation was in tatters." This revisionist biography argues that, in fact, Grant "was an honorable and resolute leader who consolidated the political achievements of the Civil War and was the last presidential defender of black civil rights for nearly a century."
A complex character, Grant was "an indifferent student" at West Point, and "failed utterly at civilian life. But when the Civil War broke out he gratefully enlisted and proved an adept and bold strategist, impressing Lincoln so much that the president named him head of the Union army. 'He makes things git! Where he is, things move!," remarked President Lincoln.
Author H.W. Brands is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has also written biographies of Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson.
Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron -- The War of 1812 and the Forging of the American Navy by Ronald D. Utt, Regnery History '12, $29.95, 572 pages, ASIN #1621570029. Index, bibliography, notes, two groupings of b&w glossy images.
"How many wars can be credited with fostering the military careers of seven future presidents, spurring the inspiration for our national anthem, and proving to the world's top naval power that America was a force to be reckoned with?" asks maritime wartime scholar Ronald D. Utt. In his new book, he seeks to give the War of 1812, "the forgotten war," its due recognition. The following is a brief excerpt from Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron:
"At the 1912 annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held that year in Boston, one of America's pre-eminent historians, Charles Francis Adams, the great-grandson of John Adams, gave the keynote address to an audience of distinguished academics and public officials, including former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was now president of the Association. Adams's theme was the widely discussed -- and controversial -- issue of whether the United States was a 'world power' and, if so, when did she become one. He answered in the affirmative and gave the moment of her rise to pre-eminence:
"I propose to specify the exact day of the year and month and week, the hour and almost the minute at which the United States blazed as an indisputable world power on the astonished, and, for some time yet, incredulous nations. To be specific, it was at thirty minutes after six o'clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 19, 1812. On that day and at that hour, just twenty weeks over a hundred years ago, this country, I confidently submit, became a nationality to be reckoned; and such it has ever since been.
"Adams did not have to remind his audience what had happened at that specified moment. They all knew, as did every schoolboy in the nation. That was the moment when the American frigate Constitution shattered and sank the British frigate Guerriere in the first major sea battle of the War of 1812. The significance of that victory -- that the United States had achieved the rank of world power within a few decades of its birth -- resonated with Americans for decades before and after Adams's address. A century after the war, the American intellectual elite were still thrilled by the U.S. military success against the imperial might of Great Britain.
"But time has passed, and that battle and the war it inaugurated have slipped from our collective remembrance and from the pages of our history books."
Dr. Ronald D. Utt is a former senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. with a long-standing interest in maritime warfare and received his Ph.D. in economics from Indiana University. President Reagan chose him to lead the Office of Management and Budget in 1987. He has written for several national publications and lives in Virginia.