The Fall And Rise of Ulysses S. Grant.

by Daniel Russ on April 3, 2018

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When South Carolina began the uprising against the United States, the fervor for war was also burning effulgent. One of the amazing insights gleaned from From Ron Chernow’s book about Ulysses Grant is that the war began as a political topic engaged by people all over the country in taverns and at work and in the streets. It didn’t seem much different than the way public debates happen here, except of course that the taverns and street gatherings, and paper postings were the social media of the day.

 

What is also amazing is how fervently people joined the fight. All over the country in the impending conflagration of war men were training and regiments were being called up with dispatch. In local towns from new York to Tallahassee, the blood of war was feverish.

 

“Buoyed by a tremendous upsurge of patriotic feeling—Walt Whitman said the news of Fort Sumter’s surrender “ran through the Land, as if by electric nerves”—energetic northern men stampeded to local recruiting stations to sign up for the fight. The news from Charleston, along with Lincoln’s military call-up, had the effect of broadening the Confederacy, until this point composed of cotton states. It was soon joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee, presenting a far more formidable combination. Four slave-owning border states—Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri—stayed in the Union fold.

 

 

Another fascinating piece of the biopic is how Grant suffered the vagaries of poverty. He lived on borrowed money, failed at all his ventures, and could not be saved by the magnanimity of his family of in laws. He had a few bouts with drink and they haunted him throughout his life. But make no mistake, for over a decade he was a kind mannered and dignified person. He was honest to a fault, and could not even convince someone who owed him money to pay him back. For decades, he was a lonely, depressed, a threadbare disheveled and taciturn man. Once the war began he became a military commander and then served as President for two terms.

 

His transformation from loser to winner is perhaps unparalleled, anywhere.

 

 

Soon to turn thirty-nine, Grant lingered in the shadowy wings of history, ready to fight. Emboldened by the cause, he cast off the lethargy and depression that had enwrapped him like a tight cloak. When Ely Parker encountered him, he asked if Grant planned to enter the conflict. “He replied that he honored his country, and that having received his education at the expense of the Government, it was entitled to his services.” The Civil War was about to rescue Grant from a dismal record of antebellum business failures. Even his posture became more erect, more military.

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