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.).

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

  1. William

    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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