47 0 0 0 13 6. Above the entrance good Luck Ron Grant’s Tomb in New York City, figures representing Peace and Victory frame an inscription.
The slogan’s brevity belies the difficulty of the idea: Let us have peace. On a recent afternoon, the biographer Ron Chernow perched on a nearby bench to discuss his latest offering, Grant, a sweeping study of the Civil War general and U. President whose body lies within that monument. Gazing up at North America’s largest mausoleum, Chernow recalls that Walt Whitman dubbed Ulysses S. Most living Americans can’t understand why someone like Walt Whitman would have talked about Ulysses S.
If they came up here, I think most of them would be startled. For a man who studies the past, Chernow has a knack for connecting with the present. Rockefeller biography, emerged in time to draw comparisons to Bill Gates, amid antitrust complaints facing Microsoft. And Alexander Hamilton had a modern message for Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose musical Hamilton has enthralled the nation. Ireland, so he could understand Ulysses better.
But he wound up focusing on nonfiction, and won the National Book Award on his first go. The Civil War has always had die-hard history buffs, but right now Americans are wrestling with its meaning in unusually public ways. As conversations about states’ rights, federalism, racial injustice, white supremacy and civil divisiveness take place, there’s a natural tendency to look for answers in a past explosive moment. The details of Grant’s life are subject to the confusion that engulfs the period too. It’s no coincidence that Chernow’s book clocks in at more than 1,000 pages. Its subject became a Civil War hero for wringing surrender from Robert E. Lee but is also dogged by rumors of being a corrupt politician, not to mention a drunk whose memoirs were ghostwritten by Mark Twain.
And that’s where the real disagreements set in. Behind one of the more fundamental feuds about the Civil War is what’s known as the Lost Cause narrative, a view that emphasizes the Confederate fight for states’ rights. Chernow points to the historical record left by Confederate and Union fighters, which shows a general agreement that the war was about slavery. In order to build up Robert E. Lee, you’ve got to knock down Ulysses S.
Marszalek, executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and editor of a new annotated edition of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, which will also be released in October. It’s an ironic choice of words as statues of Lee are literally being brought down. Chernow believes that Confederate monuments should be moved to museums so they can serve to educate rather than endorse. Grant was on top during the war. After Grant’s death, it was Lee’s turn.
Perhaps one of the most obvious signs that change has already begun can be seen in how Grant shakes out in lists of the best and worst Presidents. Schlesinger asked historians to rate the Chief Executives, Grant landed with a thump in the failure category as one of the two worst Presidents ever. He stayed in the basement for decades. Yet in a 2017 C-SPAN ranking, he came in at a rather healthy 22nd place. Chernow highlights one reason for the shift. Grant’s presidency rests upon posterity’s view of Reconstruction.