The rehabilitation of U.S. Grant

Interesting review of a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant from historian Sean Wilentz. At the time of his death, and for quite a while thereafter, President Grant was among the most revered men in the nation. But his reputation took a sharp turn downward, in part, according to Wilentz, because of the rising school of pro-Southern “revisionist” Civil War history, which flourished during the early part of the 20th century. Wilentz argues that it’s high time for a rehabilitation. Particularly interesting is the way, in Wilentz’s telling, Grant’s reputation fluctuated according to the political currents of the time (he was a Northern imperialist to “Lost Cause” Southern apologists, a white, racist imperialist to the 60s New Left, etc.).

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One thought on “The rehabilitation of U.S. Grant

  1. The paragraph on the Lost Cause view of Grant, Lee, and Lincoln is a perfect summary of the story I learned growing up in North Carolina. I’m not sure what the source was, but that’s how the Southern myth goes. I remember being a little confused during a round-the-island boat tour of Manhattan on a family trip. As we floated down the Hudson, past Grant’s tomb, the tour guide spoke of Grant as a revered hero. I think that was the first time I’d ever heard anyone describe Grant like that.

    I’ll have to keep Wilentz’s take on Grant in mind when I get around to reading on the Gilded Age.

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