Best Book Ulysses S. Grant – Dr. Curt Fields Interview

Top 5 Ulysses S. Grant Books According to Dr. Curt Fields

Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses Grant in Point Pleasant, OH, is one of the most controversial figures of the American Civil War, American history, and military history. Grant’s life is one of tragedy and triumph. The West Point graduate served in the Mexican-American War, married Julia Dent Grant from St. Louis, famously led the Union army to victory over the Confederate army and General Robert E. Lee, and then became the 18th president of the United States where he had a turbulent two terms in office.

General Grant led his Union armies to victory during battles at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh, and the Vicksburg campaign opening the Mississippi River to the Union. During his political career, he ran as a member of the Republican party and was able to dismantle the Ku Klux Klan.

Over the years Grant has been vilified, particularly by those who believe in the “lost cause.” This traditional view of the general/president has been reexamined in recent years as historians have sought to learn who Grant was. This reevaluation has led to a new understanding of Grant, his time as a general, and his presidency.

We sat down with the leading Grant living historian in the world, Dr. Curt Fields, and asked him what are his top books on Ulysses S. Grant. No one knows the general better than Dr. Fields except Ulysses himself. So, if you want to know who Grant was, and if he was a butcher and a drunk or an American hero and a great man who showed moral courage throughout his life, these books are must-reads.

American Ulysses – Ronald White

Why you want to read it:

According to the New York Times, “White delineates Grant’s virtues better than any author before, and they outweighed his flaws. By the end, readers will see how fortunate the nation was that Grant went into the world — to save the Union, to lead it, and, on his deathbed, to write one of the finest memoirs in all of the American letters.” White also focuses on Grant’s relationship with President Lincoln (2016). Ron White does a fantastic job undoing the damage done to Grant’s reputation by the “lost cause.” This is a great book.

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Grant – Gene Edward Smith

Why you want to read it:

According to The New York Times, “Grant’s considerable accomplishments and virtues are never quite enough to remove the stain that his time in the White House has left upon him. In ”Grant,” Jean Edward Smith, a political scientist at Marshall University and biographer of John Marshall, takes on this large and misshapen reputation, and argues that the 18th president was not only a great general and a great writer but a decent chief executive as well.” (2021)

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Grant – Ron Chernow

Why you want to read it:

Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, “‘Grant’ is yet another book (like last year’s ‘American Ulysses,’ by Ronald C. White) that means to correct what used to be the conventional wisdom about Grant: that he was an inspired commander, an adequate president, a dull companion and a roaring drunk. The inspired commander idea still works for Chernow, but he argues strongly against the rest. In a book that is very much of its time, he puts Grant’s attitudes toward racism, anti-Semitism, political corruption, and alcoholism front and center, while also homing in on every battle Grant ever fought.” (2017) This book also seeks to reanalyze Ulysses while still diving into his many flaws.

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The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant

Why you want to read it:

According to the University Press of Kansas, “Most biographers focus on Grant’s military career, giving less attention to the significant and complex questions that marked his presidential terms. These concerns, the issues of politics and governance, are at the core of this book.” (The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, 2017) Dr. Fields said that he views this book as a continuation of U.S. Grant’s memoirs that he was unable to finish due to throat cancer (Personal communication, April 18, 2022).

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The Annotated Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Why you want to read it:

According to Dr. Fields, “…it’s fundamental. It’s bedrock… the folks at the… Grant Presidential Library has identified every person, place or thing, or event that Grant mentions in the memoirs. If you’re a Grant fan, you’ve got to have that book… if you want to learn Grant, that’s from Grant’s mouth virtually. You got where to get started.” The memoirs were written by Grant just before his death and were published by Mark Twain. Grant had previously stated that he would never write anything for publication but began writing for Century magazine to make money for his family after he fell into financial troubles (Personal communication, April 18, 2022).

Regardless of your views on the military leader, Grant’s life and Grant’s presidency are well worth studying.

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Works Cited:

Maslin, J. (2017, October 10). In Ron Chernow’s ‘grant,’ an American Giant’s makeover continues. The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from 

The presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2022, from 

The New York Times. (2016, October 19). Ulysses S. Grant: New biography of ‘A nobody from nowhere. The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from

The New York Times. (2001, April 22). Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb. The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from 

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