Friday, March 14, 2014

Ulysses Grant, My Father and Some Reading

I just finished reading a very good, well-written book, and I have a feeling my late father Edward would be borrowing it from me, in case he didn't already have it, if he was still alive.
The book is "The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace," by H. W. Brands (Anchor Books), which was published in 2012 and was one of the excellent Christmas gifts my lovely wife Val Dunne gave me this past holiday season. The 637-page book, not counting notes, was just published in paperback in time for the holiday season and the cover price was an amazingly reasonable $17.95.
The author, through extensive use of letters, diaries, journals, official military and government documents, and other sources, details Grant's successes and failures, his early military career and leaving the U.S. Army for several years, business flops, his painful relationship with his cold father, and later his somewhat reluctant entrance into politics and attempts to avoid the worst of it while trying to succeed as the number-one American politician. His innate military knowledge and skills are balanced by his almost hatred and fear of public speaking, and Grant's drinking problems are both detailed and shown to be exaggerated.
I have been a major reader of American history since my adolescence, mainly from 1900-present, but I did take some interest in the Civil War, which was sparked by my father's lifetime interest, reading and amateur research of sorts into it. As a child, I remember family vacations (always by car) to places such as Gettysburg (twice, and my father and mother Sheila visited it again several times after I moved out), Fort Sumter and Manassas/Bull Run. As well as those mentioned above, my father also visited the sites of the battles of Antietam, Shiloh and the Wilderness, and others I can't recall.
When we sold my mother's house after my father died and my mother moved into assisted living, there were tons of books, many mine and many my father's. Among those I kept were two great photo histories of the Civil War, "The Blue and the Grey" and "Divided We Fought." I went through those two books again during and after finishing "The Man Who Saved the Union." Of course, with my father having been a Korean War U.S. Army veteran, I have extensively read about that war.
Frankly, I can't think about the U.S. Civil War or Gettysburg without thinking about my father and his pride and reverence cor our country's history and the service of those who took part. With the 10th anniversary of my father's death approaching, they are nice memories to have.
Thanks, Ed (something I would NEVER call him while he was alive).