Oct 2, 2010

Ulysses S. Grant - We Have Been Lied To!

Abigail and Dolley readers until yesterday, if you had asked me about Ulysses S Grant, I would have told you that he was a Union General that was elected President.  I would have said he was a drunk and presided over a very corrupt Presidency.  He was a failure in business and died broke.  I suspect that you, my kind reader would have said something similar.

What would you say if I told you that portrayal is a lie?  What would you say if I revealed to you that Ulysses S Grant was one of the greatest Americans to ever hold the office of President?  What would you say if I told you that he was not a drunk?  You are probably as shocked as I was to find out that we have indeed been so completely deceived in our recollection of this man, that the injustice of it is nothing short of a crime against history.

Ulysses S Grant - Photo by Matthew Brady
 It was this picture that caught my attention.  Most pictures of Civil War soldiers do not appeal to the modern eye.  I can't recall ever looking at one and thinking, "Wow, he's handsome!"  Thus, when I saw this yesterday, I had to find out who it was.  I was shocked to discover it was Grant.  The article was about how he was much maligned and how revisionist historians had painted such a false picture of this great American hero.  I had to find out for myself.

Ten hours later, I could weep from the injustice.  Ulysses S Grant was none of the things that I had previously thought except for the fact that he was a trusting man who was swindled out of his modest life savings and did indeed die broke.  Even the story of his death speaks to a man of unwavering integrity and honor.  In the throes of a painful death from throat cancer, Grant tirelessly composed and dictated his memoirs.  The proceeds from their sale were intended to rescue his families fortunes and he did not succumb to death until they were completed.

Widely regarded as the most successful Presidential Memoir in history, they are still in print and reveal a genius of wit and insight.  Mark Twain said of his memoirs that a thousand writers could not have tendered such a well-turned book where few if any sentences required revision and the simplistic language conveyed and imparted greater meaning than most anyone he'd ever read.

This was not the work of a lifelong alcoholic on his deathbed.  By all personal accounts and writings of those who knew him, Ulysses S Grant was a man of honor, temperance, and modesty.  He was a champion of civil rights, fierce protector of the Confederate Officers in peacetime, forged a humane and generous policy toward the American Indians, and crushed the domestic terrorism of the KKK.  He was a fierce lover of his family, devoted to his wife, and indulgent and affectionate toward his children.

He was an artist, a writer, and perhaps the greatest horseman to ever hold the office of President.  Grant was kind to animals and is said to have only been seen in a temper over a Teamster mistreating a horse.  He had an incredible memory and 20 years after the fact recognized a soldier with whom he had shared rations with at the Battle of Shiloh.  He recalled in great detail many aspects of battles, movements, and army life.  He was disciplined in his manner and speech.  He was humble and was always uncomfortable with the public adoration and praise that he received.

In all my research, I can find no contemporary of his who describes him as a drunk.  There is no indication of this in any accounts written during his lifetime or after in dozens of interviews.  The only allusion I could find of it was from WW Smith, who was a cousin and lifelong companion who indicated that Grant would occasionally not make himself available to people during the holidays while his children were home in favor of spending time with his family.  On one such occasion, it was written of Grant that he was drunk when in fact he had been spending time with his children.

Alas, he was a Republican and continued Lincoln's legacy to honor and protect the Black man and to heal the nation of the wounds of Civil War.  He was a brilliant General and an American Hero.  He was revered and well loved.  I suspect that liberal historians choose not to discuss this about him since it did not fit their purposes.  Shame on them.

For citations and further edification, please visit:  Ulysses S. Grant Homepage