Pros: Ulysses S Grant, Good for Beginners, Easy Prose
Cons: Lacking in details of the man and his accomplishments
There are plenty of books about Ulysses S Grant, including his memoir that has sold millions of copies. This Union General and former President of the United States, still is an influential figure in American history. I've had the pleasure of reading several books about this interesting man, who's personality was a bit odd, yet his ability to lead men was without question. Michael Korda's "The Unlikely Hero," is a good book for introducing this man, to a general reader rather than a history buff. Yes, I enjoyed it, but its short and sweet, omitting many details about this man's life at the benefit of making it a quick read. That's fine, and I think a lot of high school students, would appreciate this book.
This park starts off, with a section about Beyonce Knowles, dancing in a music video near Grant's tomb in NYC. While you do not find out the resolution of that issue, it shows that not many people know of its existence. Its only one of the biggest mausoleums in the United States, and it used to be visited regularly by tourists. Now it is in a rough part of town, with vagrants and others, using it as a place to drink or do God knows what. I hope this is corrected, because U.S. Grant, or Hiram Ulysses Grant, deserves better. He and his wife Julia Dent are buried there, and ultimately throat cancer was what caused the famous general's demise.
In this book, you learn about Ulysses growing up with his aloof mother Hannah, and his hard working dad Jesse. Young Ulysses had a fondness for animals his whole life. He was known for breaking in horses deemed "too wild", and even in war, he would punish a man for abusing an animal. While yes Ulysses liked to drink, he wasn't exactly a "party animal." There have been stories over the years of that, but I like how this book focuses on it being a part of his brooding personality, and that it often occurred when separated from his wife. They were true partners, and you do get to understand the influence Julia played in this book.
Grant didn't do well at West Point. He failed miserably in business. Even as President of the United States, his record was downright horrible. Yet on the battlefield, his leadership and ability to withstand the horrors of war, and keep on plugging away is what made him who he was. I love the quote that everyone knows, as its in here, "tomorrow we'll lick em." General Grant's getting General Lee's surrender is described in here, as is his efforts at Vicksburg and Shiloh. He was a man who understood that "war is hell," and the best way to beat your opponent, is "to never give up ground." Keep on hammering away. His methods, as this book describes, have been studied at American military institutions, and by military's around the world.
I will give this book a recommendation, although there are better works out there. This is one for beginners in civil war history, or those just wanting a quick summary of Grant's life. For those purposes, its fine, but it won't be confused with the work of Shelby Foote and the General himself. Korda's writing style is simple, and he does not dwell on any subject, for any great length of time. The longest parts are devoted to the battles, and there are some good descriptions of what the Mexican and American Civil War were like. Give this one a try, if you just want to familiarize yourself more with General Grant, and why he succeeded and failed throughout his life.