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Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year

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Shortly after losing all of his wealth in a terrible 1884 swindle, Ulysses S. Grant learned he had terminal throat and mouth cancer. Destitute and dying, Grant began to write his memoirs to save his family from permanent financial ruin.As Grant continued his work, suffering increasing pain, the American public became aware of this race between Grant's writing and his fatal Shortly after losing all of his wealth in a terrible 1884 swindle, Ulysses S. Grant learned he had terminal throat and mouth cancer. Destitute and dying, Grant began to write his memoirs to save his family from permanent financial ruin.As Grant continued his work, suffering increasing pain, the American public became aware of this race between Grant's writing and his fatal illness. Twenty years after his respectful and magnanimous demeanor toward Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, people in both the North and the South came to know Grant as the brave, honest man he was, now using his famous determination in this final effort. Grant finished Memoirs just four days before he died in July 1885. Published after his death by his friend Mark Twain, Grant's Memoirs became an instant bestseller, restoring his family's financial health and, more importantly, helping to cure the nation of bitter discord. More than any other American before or since, Grant, in his last year, was able to heal this—the country's greatest wound.


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Shortly after losing all of his wealth in a terrible 1884 swindle, Ulysses S. Grant learned he had terminal throat and mouth cancer. Destitute and dying, Grant began to write his memoirs to save his family from permanent financial ruin.As Grant continued his work, suffering increasing pain, the American public became aware of this race between Grant's writing and his fatal Shortly after losing all of his wealth in a terrible 1884 swindle, Ulysses S. Grant learned he had terminal throat and mouth cancer. Destitute and dying, Grant began to write his memoirs to save his family from permanent financial ruin.As Grant continued his work, suffering increasing pain, the American public became aware of this race between Grant's writing and his fatal illness. Twenty years after his respectful and magnanimous demeanor toward Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, people in both the North and the South came to know Grant as the brave, honest man he was, now using his famous determination in this final effort. Grant finished Memoirs just four days before he died in July 1885. Published after his death by his friend Mark Twain, Grant's Memoirs became an instant bestseller, restoring his family's financial health and, more importantly, helping to cure the nation of bitter discord. More than any other American before or since, Grant, in his last year, was able to heal this—the country's greatest wound.

30 review for Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    This account of Grant’s long dying, of the lucid lingering in which he composed his Personal Memoirs, made me think many times of Memoirs of Hadrian - especially the short opening section in which the emperor begins to discern, after a life of warfare and perilous travels, his quiet, domestic death, and in which he describes the abdications of his failing body: To give up riding is a greater sacrifice still…if the choice of my condition had been left to me I would have decided for that of a cent This account of Grant’s long dying, of the lucid lingering in which he composed his Personal Memoirs, made me think many times of Memoirs of Hadrian - especially the short opening section in which the emperor begins to discern, after a life of warfare and perilous travels, his quiet, domestic death, and in which he describes the abdications of his failing body: To give up riding is a greater sacrifice still…if the choice of my condition had been left to me I would have decided for that of a centaur. Between Borysthenes and me relations were of almost mathematical precision; he obeyed me as if I were his own brain, not his master. Have I ever obtained as much from a man? ... My horse knew me not by the thousand approximate notions of title, function, and name which complicate human friendship, but solely by my just weight as a man. He shared my every impetus; he knew perfectly, and perhaps better than I, the point where my strength faltered under my will. “Horses seem to understand Ulysses,” said his mother, perhaps hinting only horses could. From his cadet years he was acknowledged the finest horseman in the army, and the mastery of large, spirited, unmanageable-looking mounts was one of the few personal demonstrations this shy man allowed himself. Tellingly, he chose to smoke his doctor-decreed last cigar with a Hudson Valley horse breeder, on a fine autumn day, while they were out having a look at the colts. Flood’s book is blandly written and strangely organized, but the latter chapters quote a wealth of contextual detail. The get-well letters from schoolchildren, the condolence telegrams from former rebel generals and lodges of Confederate veterans, all the funereal logistics of Manhattan crowd control and mourning fashion (by 4:00pm on the day Grant died Bloomingdale’s was sold out of black crepe; the New York Times noted that “in the narrow streets and the tall crowded buildings where the poor make their homes the sign of grief is nearly on every door post…in many cases it is nothing but a narrow strip of cheap black cambric fluttering in the breeze from the topmost story of some tenement house or a small flag bordered with a piece of folded crepe from a wornout bonnet”) allow the reader to sense the nature and magnitude of Grant’s fame in the twenty years he lived after the war. He was the foremost living symbol of peaceful unity – the nation was locally fraught, but generally at peace; its unity mocked, beset, but not fatally endangered by labor strife in the North, racial terrorism in the South, and, out West, amid the piecemeal settlement, sporadic warfare and nigh-genocidal dispossession. A society traumatized and confused but mostly functional, its injustice and inequality somehow borne, its ideals regularly betrayed but still vital enough to inspire immigrants and the young, its citizens ever-hopeful of adapting, rising, overcoming; a country always, said Bernard DeVoto, in the process of becoming something it had not been; a welter of souls strangely channeled, by force, by whim, and deposited somewhere. The semblance of community, and frequently the substance. The national tributes Grant received in his illness, especially those from old rebels, gave a calm to the “Conclusion” of his Personal Memoirs. “The expressions of these kindly feelings were not restricted to a section of the country, nor to a division of the people.” A prospect of felicitous integration – what he called “a commingling of the people.” The styles of Grant and Yourcenar’s Hardrian intersect at a lyrical legalism, a civic sublimity: Prior to the rebellion the great mass of the people were satisfied to remain near the scenes of their birth. In fact an immense majority of the whole people did not feel secure against coming to want should they move among entire strangers …This is all changed now … The war begot a spirit of independence and enterprise. The feeling now is, that a youth must cut loose from his old surroundings to enable him to get up in the world. There is now such a commingling of the people that…the country has filled up “from the centre all around to the sea”; railroads connect the two oceans and all parts of the interior; maps, nearly perfect, of every part of the country are now furnished the student of geography. I desired that the might and majesty of the Roman Peace should extend to all, insensibly present like the music of the revolving skies; that the most humble traveler might wander from one country, or one continent, to another without vexatious formalities, and without danger, assured everywhere of a minimum of legal protection and culture… Yourcenar said that in her wartime hiatus from work on the novel, the emperor, “the most official yet the most hidden form of all,” had gradually emerged from Hadrian’s other selves – “The fact of having lived in a world that was toppling all around us taught me the importance of the Prince.” Grant’s memory was for a long time obscured in his nation’s era of general peace, when unity was assumed, order assured, and rebels romantic; what does his memory mean for us now that the Federal political system of the United States is again broken, again at an impasse?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    I was a little afraid to pick this book up at first, because I knew that General Grant died an agonizing death from throat cancer (brought on by years of cigar smoking) and I was afraid the details would be too painful to bear. Well, the agony is there all right. But there's so much more! This is a short, concise book, not meant to be a full length biography of Ulysses S. Grant. But it's actually much better than most of the full length Grant biographies I have read. There are so many beautiful I was a little afraid to pick this book up at first, because I knew that General Grant died an agonizing death from throat cancer (brought on by years of cigar smoking) and I was afraid the details would be too painful to bear. Well, the agony is there all right. But there's so much more! This is a short, concise book, not meant to be a full length biography of Ulysses S. Grant. But it's actually much better than most of the full length Grant biographies I have read. There are so many beautiful tributes to Grant from his wife, Julia, and their children, and even their grandchildren. There are great Grant stories by other legendary Americans like Mark Twain. And there's a surprisingly detailed account of Grant's achievements as a soldier, along with plenty of background on business, politics, and technology in the booming America of the late 19th century. If you only read one book on Ulysses S. Grant, by all means read this one! "Tell me, James, do you drink whiskey?" "Upon occasion. Why?" "Because you remind me of another man who drank whiskey. A man I admired very much. General Grant." "Thank you." (Long pause) "Thank you." And thank you, General Grant.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Eldredge

    I loved Grant's Memoirs. I loved this book because I really like U.S. Grant. He was an amazing man. "Just do it!" Unlike the other generals that were not ready yet. I learned a few things from this book: Know who you are going into business with. Know your numbers and what your are signing. Don't smoke twenty cigars a day. Be kind and forgiving. Love your wife and family. Write letters even if you don't send them to get thinks off your mind. Have friends like Mark Twain! What a great friendship. I loved Grant's Memoirs. I loved this book because I really like U.S. Grant. He was an amazing man. "Just do it!" Unlike the other generals that were not ready yet. I learned a few things from this book: Know who you are going into business with. Know your numbers and what your are signing. Don't smoke twenty cigars a day. Be kind and forgiving. Love your wife and family. Write letters even if you don't send them to get thinks off your mind. Have friends like Mark Twain! What a great friendship.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bob H

    The story of Grant's final years, mainly the last year in which he wrote his memoirs while facing death from cancer. The book does touch on his earlier life, his time as a central Civil War figure, and more and more on his later presidency and business failings. The author does give us a sense of drama as Grant races against time and adversity: his fortune lost to swindling, his family facing destitution, his own advancing and fatal cancer, and the fight to finish his memoirs to at least save hi The story of Grant's final years, mainly the last year in which he wrote his memoirs while facing death from cancer. The book does touch on his earlier life, his time as a central Civil War figure, and more and more on his later presidency and business failings. The author does give us a sense of drama as Grant races against time and adversity: his fortune lost to swindling, his family facing destitution, his own advancing and fatal cancer, and the fight to finish his memoirs to at least save his widow's future. We learn that he had to keep the illness at bay by juggling doses of morphine and what we now call opioids, and had to cope with a literary collaborator who was trying to co-opt Grant's book as his. That Grant somehow managed to finish his book, and write it in a way that made it one of the most candid and well-written military autobiographies, is a remarkable story and worth reading. It was his final victory, no spoiler, and to borrow a line from Shakespeare, nothing so became his life as the leaving of it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Ulysses S. Grant is one of my favourite historical figures, a real larger-than-life character, a man who, with Lincoln, changed the course of American history. He was the kind of man who met every challenge in his life head-on and, with the exception of his final year, overcame them all. But he couldn't overcome the cancer that killed him at the age of sixty-three, after suffering through a lingering year of pain and discomfort. That said, Grant's final year was a triumph of sorts. After sufferin Ulysses S. Grant is one of my favourite historical figures, a real larger-than-life character, a man who, with Lincoln, changed the course of American history. He was the kind of man who met every challenge in his life head-on and, with the exception of his final year, overcame them all. But he couldn't overcome the cancer that killed him at the age of sixty-three, after suffering through a lingering year of pain and discomfort. That said, Grant's final year was a triumph of sorts. After suffering a financial catastrophe when one of the partners in his firm Grant & Ward swindled Grant, his family and their investors out of significant sums of money and left them virtually bankrupt, Grant decided to embark upon his memoirs in an effort to provide his wife with the means to live after his death. In a single year, suffering unbearable pain, exhausted, unable to eat, by the end scarcely able to talk, Grant wrote his two-volume masterpiece - a military memoir which is ranked, even today, with that of Julius Caesar. Grant died three days after completing his work, and many believed, Mark Twain included, who was publishing the work, that Grant forced himself to live long enough to complete his work and provide for his family. Somehow we never imagine historical giants like Grant just...fading away. They go out in a blaze of glory in battle or are struck down before their time, like Lincoln. As such, this is an incredibly moving read - I spent most of it with a lump in my throat and tears pricking at my eyes. When Flood comes to the end and describes William Tecumseh Sherman standing to attention at Grant's tomb sobbing, I just about lost it myself.

  6. 5 out of 5

    William

    Ulysses S. Grant. Your story is remarkable. From a modest background you struggled to make a living until the Mexican War started. You enlisted and served in that war with distinction. After the war you served in peacetime and because you missed your wife so badly and children so much you left the service. Loose from the service you struggled to support you growing family failing at the many things you tried. Another war erupted this time, this time it was the North vs. the South. You joined Pre Ulysses S. Grant. Your story is remarkable. From a modest background you struggled to make a living until the Mexican War started. You enlisted and served in that war with distinction. After the war you served in peacetime and because you missed your wife so badly and children so much you left the service. Loose from the service you struggled to support you growing family failing at the many things you tried. Another war erupted this time, this time it was the North vs. the South. You joined President Lincoln's cause and moved up the ranks and finally became the president's trusted general and eventually earned command of the entire army. You of course went on to defeat the rebellion and help Lincoln end slavery. After the war you were thrust into the presidency where you tried your best to follow Lincoln's reconstruction plan. For the record you were truly the only president to walk where Lincoln walked. You even made peace with the Indians. The only president by the way to do this. After your presidency the south would not see truly enjoy peace again until the civil rights movement, almost 100 years later in the 1960's. After your presidency you and your wife toured the world. As you turned 62 financial and medical tragedy struck. This is where this story takes the reader. Hopefully I have grabbed your attention and you check this excellent book out which covers the final last year of a true American hero.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Huette

    Enjoyable book reliving Grants final days. A driven person who was greatly admired for his accomplishments. My greatest takeaway is the desire to learn more about the person who played such a significant role in the direction of our country.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Damian Shiels

    Having read relatively little about Grant's final years, this account highlights Grant's remarkable achievement of writing his memoirs even as death approached. Poignant. Having read relatively little about Grant's final years, this account highlights Grant's remarkable achievement of writing his memoirs even as death approached. Poignant.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Flood reviews in detail Grant's final 14 months of life. This began with Grant's bankruptcy at the hands of two crooked investors: Ferdinand Ward and James Fish. Ward especially, with a strong assist from Fish, took all of Grant's money, as well as that of most of Grant's family. Only two months after this, Grant began having problems with his throat, but foolishly refused to seek treatment. No exceptionally good reason is given for this fatal error, other than Grant probably wished to see his p Flood reviews in detail Grant's final 14 months of life. This began with Grant's bankruptcy at the hands of two crooked investors: Ferdinand Ward and James Fish. Ward especially, with a strong assist from Fish, took all of Grant's money, as well as that of most of Grant's family. Only two months after this, Grant began having problems with his throat, but foolishly refused to seek treatment. No exceptionally good reason is given for this fatal error, other than Grant probably wished to see his personal physician, who was then on vacation in Europe. It is impossible to say whether, had Grant sought treatment immediately, the cancer could been successfully removed, or if in the end it would have been a fruitless exercise. Nonetheless, by delaying medical attention for several months, he practically sealed his own death warrant. As Grant had no money, he felt a strong sense of duty to provide for his wife and children once he was gone. Despite having previously rebuffed publishers' offers to write about his experiences in the Civil War, he came to the decision to write his memoirs. This task probably kept him from dying sooner than he would have otherwise as he refused to give up until he had the book written. He died only three days after finishing it. Flood does a good job of describing how Grant's final months were. He does not get too graphic, but he does not sugar coat the ordeal that Grant endured. While the overall story is one of sadness (a great man slowly wasting away), Flood points out how Grant retained his dignity throughout his trauma, refusing to let his family see that he was suffering and maintaining focus on finishing his memoirs. Flood also notes the many people - famous and not so famous - who came to Grant's aid either financially (William Vanderbilt, Civil War veterans) or personally (his doctors, his faithful servant Harrison Terrell, Mark Twain). Mark Twain was especially helpful to Grant in making sure that he got the best publishing deal possible for his memoirs. Flood is appropriately respectful of Grant, but really does not venture into too much criticism of Grant being naïve with his finances, and careless with his health. Grade: B

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    This book is not about Grant’s military campaigns; rather, it concerns his struggle to finish his still-celebrated memoirs before cancer killed him, so that his wife and children would have an income after he died. It is also a love story: about how so many people adored Grant for his goodness and unwavering trust in them. This made him, tragically, an easy mark for the many who would exploit that trust, but provided enduring inspiration for those who deserved it. At the end of the book, when th This book is not about Grant’s military campaigns; rather, it concerns his struggle to finish his still-celebrated memoirs before cancer killed him, so that his wife and children would have an income after he died. It is also a love story: about how so many people adored Grant for his goodness and unwavering trust in them. This made him, tragically, an easy mark for the many who would exploit that trust, but provided enduring inspiration for those who deserved it. At the end of the book, when the author describes how a bugler playing taps at Grant’s tomb caused General William Tecumseh Sherman to begin sobbing, I was sobbing right there with him.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Doug Tabner

    Ferdinand Ward was a con man and a swindler. He little redeeming value to society. But he did do one service to American history and literature. Because he took U.S. Grant for all he was worth, he was the unintentional catalyst that caused Grant to write his memoirs, in order to raise money for his wife and family after his death. Charles Bracelen Flood's book details all of this in a concise, engaging manner. Flood has a gift for imparting as much information as possible without bogging the rea Ferdinand Ward was a con man and a swindler. He little redeeming value to society. But he did do one service to American history and literature. Because he took U.S. Grant for all he was worth, he was the unintentional catalyst that caused Grant to write his memoirs, in order to raise money for his wife and family after his death. Charles Bracelen Flood's book details all of this in a concise, engaging manner. Flood has a gift for imparting as much information as possible without bogging the reader down in minutia. Grant's Final Victory is no exception to that rule. This book is highly recommended for readers interested in military history, the Civil War, presidential history, and 19th-century literature.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason R. Gross

    Really good read nice history of Grant last year and year and a half. Talk about the background of Grant and ward went belly up and how Grant got started writing about the civil war years very sad to see the great General be so brave though out his cancer diagnosis and how he wrote his memoirs so that his family would be taken care of. I would of given this book give stars of i didn't already know about all of Grant life at the cottage that I work at. Also I read Chris mac. Grant final battle fi Really good read nice history of Grant last year and year and a half. Talk about the background of Grant and ward went belly up and how Grant got started writing about the civil war years very sad to see the great General be so brave though out his cancer diagnosis and how he wrote his memoirs so that his family would be taken care of. I would of given this book give stars of i didn't already know about all of Grant life at the cottage that I work at. Also I read Chris mac. Grant final battle first which I don't recommend you read or any of his emerging civil war series. I do recommend Bruce catton Grant takes the South and Grant takes command. Thanks

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joseph J.

    This is a beautiful journey along with Ulysses S. Grant in his last year of life-a year of triumph over bankruptcy and scandal, amid the tragedy of terminal oral/throat cancer in a time when pain killers were primitive at best. In the wake of the scandalous failure of his brokerage house, the Grants are faced with drastically cutting back the lifestyle of the victorious Union General, two-term President and world traveler. With only his memory and a basic but refreshing writing style, Grant race This is a beautiful journey along with Ulysses S. Grant in his last year of life-a year of triumph over bankruptcy and scandal, amid the tragedy of terminal oral/throat cancer in a time when pain killers were primitive at best. In the wake of the scandalous failure of his brokerage house, the Grants are faced with drastically cutting back the lifestyle of the victorious Union General, two-term President and world traveler. With only his memory and a basic but refreshing writing style, Grant races against the painful and spreading cancer in his throat to pen his memoirs, urged on by his publisher-none other than Mark Twain. Grant's final victory is that often passing up mind dulling pain killers, Grant produces a massive two-volume tome of his early life and war years, assuring in his last days a comfortable-indeed wealthy-legacy for his widow Julia and family. This final year takes us from Gilded Age Manhattan to a cottage in upstate New York above Saratoga Springs, where Grant sought relief in his final weeks from oppressive summer heat. The girlhood memoirs of Grant's granddaughter Julia are especially rich and poignant in these pages-the death of a hero grandfather through a child's eyes. Her simple wreath of leaves accompanied Grant's coffin from the cottage to burial in Riverside Park. Throughout, as Flood skillfully weaves Grant's final battle through earlier battles and victories-Appomattox-in his life, Grant's towering presence in America in the late nineteenth century is front and center. We have lost the impression of Grant as the equal of Lincoln in the Civil War story and in the hearts and minds of his countrymen. Flood's book reminds us as Grant's final battle was front page news, and drew the sympathy of Union and Confederate veterans. Having owned and read Flood's account of Lee's final years-what a contrast. Lee while adored in the South lived a simple life as a university president and his allegiance to the Southern cause never waivered. Grant was adored and known worldwide, his illness monitored by Queen Victoria and his death memorialized in London. While I am not an admirer of Lee, I have been indifferent toward Grant. This book has changed that opinion. (Note: it is listed in the bibliography of Ron Chernow's current best-seller Grant. Flood's work is a worthy companion to that book. )

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen McNeil

    I learned so much about Grant. What a man of courage and honor.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Fascinating focus on Grant's final months but also covered many highlights from his entire lifetime as well. Fascinating focus on Grant's final months but also covered many highlights from his entire lifetime as well.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Shoe

    An interesting lens for a biography. The focus on Grant's last years provides important insight into the true character and greatness of the man. An interesting lens for a biography. The focus on Grant's last years provides important insight into the true character and greatness of the man.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    The Civil War is my favorite period to study in American history. I often feel as though its importance and magnitude is easily forgotten in the United States, where its issues, words, resolutions, and consequences still possess great meaning. Every time I learn something new I am reminded of the monumental changes it brought. This book focuses on the final year of U.S. Grant (Unconditional Surrender Grant!) and his struggle to finish his memoirs during his final year of life and battle with can The Civil War is my favorite period to study in American history. I often feel as though its importance and magnitude is easily forgotten in the United States, where its issues, words, resolutions, and consequences still possess great meaning. Every time I learn something new I am reminded of the monumental changes it brought. This book focuses on the final year of U.S. Grant (Unconditional Surrender Grant!) and his struggle to finish his memoirs during his final year of life and battle with cancer. The book portrays Grant as a lion of history and the American imagination, beloved by his people and a person of honesty, loyalty, resolve, and love for his family. Flood shows this through Grant's own words, those of his loved ones and friends, and through the many letters and wishes sent to Grant during his illness by strangers. The book primarily focuses on Grant's determination and talent exhibited while writing his memoirs during his cancer. After losing his family's money in an unfortunate financial scheme, Grant wrote his memoirs on his life and the war in an effort to secure financial stability for his family after his death. So steadfast was his resolve to finish them before his death that he worked tirelessly through many days of pain, finishing his work only three days prior to his death. I didn't know that much about Grant apart from his war initiatives before reading this book and I definitely became endeared to his character. Granted,(ha!) the book does not touch on his life much prior to war, which I believe was the period in which the negative aspects of his character were perhaps on display. His reputation as a "drunk" stems in part from his intoxication while on military duty which caused his resignation from the army before the outbreak of the Civil War. In any case, the primary sources supports the characterization of Grant as a resolute, intelligent, and devoted man who cared deeply for his family, country, and the Union in which he helped restore. Most of all I was awed at the ways in which the country appeared to deeply respect and love "their General." In fact, Flood reports estimates of nearly 1.5 million attendants to his funeral procession in New York City, the largest ever to gather at that time on the North American continent. A Resolution Adopted by the Confederate Survivors' Association "Remembering him now as the generous victor who, at the ever memorable meeting at Appomattox, to our immortal Lee and to the glorious 8,000 veterans, the surviving heroes of the Army of Northern Virginia, conceded liberal and magnanimous terms of surrender, do we, standing by the graves of our Confederate dead...respectfully tender to General Grant assurances of our sincere and profound sympathy in this the season of his direful extremity." page 169 In a letter to his son, Colonel Frederick Grant "You ought to feel happy under any circumstances. My expected health called forth expressions of the sincerest kindness from all people of all sections of the country. The Confederate soldier vied with the Union soldier in sounding my praise. The Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jew appointed days for universal prayer in my behalf...All societies passed resolutions of sympathy for me and petitions that I might recover. It looks as if my sickness had something to do to bring about harmony between the sections...Apparently I have accomplished more while apparently dying than it falls to the lot of most men to be able to do." U.S. Grant, page 199 In a letter to Civil War opponent and Friend "I have witness since my sickness just what I wished to see ever since the war; harmony and good feeling between the sections. I have always contended that if there had been no body left but the soldiers we would have had peace in a year...We may now well look forward to perpetual peace at home, and a national strength that will secure us against any foreign complication. I believe my self that the war was worth all it cost us, fearful as that was. Since it was over I have visited every state in Europe and a number in the East. I know, as I did not know before, the value of our inheritance." U.S. Grant, pg 212 "I, his wife, rested in and was warmed in the sunlight of his loyal love and great fame, and now even though his beautiful life has gone out, it is as if when some far-off planet disappears from the heavens; the light of his glorious fame still reaches out to me, falls upon me, and warms me." Julia Dent Grant "Ah, you know my weaknesses---my children and my horses." U.S. Grant, page 119

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Peterson

    I liked the audio book till about the last CD or two (out of 7). It starts out with some ominous foreshadowing, which was a grabber. The writing and reading are not stellar, but the facts revealed are pretty compelling. I knew so little about Grant before this book, but he is portrayed in a very sympathetic, but not at all effusive manner. The book is kind, but not fawning. I like that relatively objective style very much. Some very neat things I learned: On Disc. 4 Track 16 Grant considered secessi I liked the audio book till about the last CD or two (out of 7). It starts out with some ominous foreshadowing, which was a grabber. The writing and reading are not stellar, but the facts revealed are pretty compelling. I knew so little about Grant before this book, but he is portrayed in a very sympathetic, but not at all effusive manner. The book is kind, but not fawning. I like that relatively objective style very much. Some very neat things I learned: On Disc. 4 Track 16 Grant considered secession a legitimate concept that a process for which should have been included in the constitution. That's a pretty strong admission that the war was by no means a great and wonderful thing to have been part of by the former commander of the Northern forces. Another passage in the book is quite a contrast to Obama's Presidential style & substance: Disc. 3 Track 6 - In his farewell address to Congress (last State of the Union address) Grant offered a true apology for the missteps (bad judgements) he took in office, by saying he was not really prepared to be a politician head of state (which was certainly true). He also paid homage to the constitution of which he felt bound and had recited his oath. Here was a former successful General of all the Union forces, in the biggest and bloodiest war the US had ever fought, before or since, who was just completing his last of 4 years as President, and still popular, even though there had been many major scandals during his administration among his subordinates, who actually sincerely apologized for his failings. Disc 4 Tracks 21-22 - neat description of Mark Twain's business sense in creating 3 different qualities of book, (price discrimination - Micro-Econ. 101) to garner the most money possible (for Grant's family and for Twain's co.) and fill the needs of the public the best (from snobs/wealthy/philanthropic/average/poor/budget minded/etc. - a price for every pocketbook and desire). Also cool to hear about Twain's need for secrecy and security with the manuscript to deal with counterfeiting/unauthorized knock-offs of the book. Other little tidbits: Grant picked up the habit during the war of smoking about 20 cigars a day. this was probably what caused the tongue cancer that killed him. An early treatment after he was diagnosed was a compound that contained cocaine. Could this have given him the extra energy to be able to start and finish the long process of researching, writing and dictating his memoirs? No discussion of this in the book at all. But cocaine does have an energizing effect, especially compared to the alternative pain reliever of the time, opium or morphine. When the Methodist-Episcopal official came to call daily when Grant was toward his end, and claimed to the press that he was getting better due to prayers, Grant issued a statement that that was basically bunk. He did not fight the religious people around him, since he loved his wife and religion gave her solace. But the book makes clear that he had little value for religion, and did NOT want it believed that he was converted before he died. I found out my first review point went too far, when I heard the author quote Grant as saying that the [civil] war needed to be fought and things were better in the country for it having been fought, despite it's terrible costs. Grant thought the country "progressed" faster because of the war. The special circumstances of his enduring tremendous pain because of his cancer while writing this, combined with the large number of sympathies pouring in from across the country, perhaps tainted his writing. The last CD or two of the book were also worse from the standpoint of dealing with far too many trivial details of Grant's final days, the wall paper on his residence, which civil war veteran stood guard, etc. etc. But one good thing (for the historical record) was that on Disc 6 Track 20 the author said that Grant always thought that the US ware against Mexico was unjust. And he went on to describe why. Funny that the book only mentioned Grant's drinking once, when Grant wrote a letter criticizing another person for dereliction of duty due to drinking (but Grant never sent the letter), the author pointed out that Grant had been forced to resign from the Army due to his drinking at one point.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joe Walker

    This is by no means meant to be a disparaging review of the author's book. He did a masterful job of creating a time line of the General's last year - both through the illness as well as Grant's determination in wishing to complete his memoirs before his death. Even Grant's detractors will feel the emotional strain felt by both Grant and those around him as his suffering increased in a race against time to complete his book before death took him. The issue I have with Charles Flood's book is the This is by no means meant to be a disparaging review of the author's book. He did a masterful job of creating a time line of the General's last year - both through the illness as well as Grant's determination in wishing to complete his memoirs before his death. Even Grant's detractors will feel the emotional strain felt by both Grant and those around him as his suffering increased in a race against time to complete his book before death took him. The issue I have with Charles Flood's book is there was so much build up to Grant's impending demise that when it actually occurred, it consisted of just a couple of pages before moving on the funeral. What is this important? There have always been things related to his final days that have intrigued me, chief among them the "death mask." During the 18th and 19th centuries, death mask - those plaster cast made of the departed within hours of their death - were made for whatever reason (I'm not sure as a family member, I would ever want to exhibit my father's plaster cast in the parlor). There are death masks of both Grant as well as Robert E. Lee yet Flood makes no mention of this almost morbid ritual. It would have been interesting to have read some background surrounding what transpired when these "workman" arrived to set about their task. Was it Grant's idea to immortalize himself in plaster or the families? Also, we jump from from Grant's last breath to him in repose in the coffin inside the house - the "men" milling about the room around it. It's a safe assumption these were the embalmers but again, it would have been a bit more interesting to know the events leading up to the coffin arriving in the house. Lee's "coffin story" was a bit more dramatic, having been fished out of the local river when heavy rains flooded the mortuary. Also, there were at least two iconic photographs taken within days of Grant's death but no mention were made of them. Again, certainly not to nit-pic the author, but some background over photographers being permitted to set up and photograph Grant when other's where shooed away would have been interesting to read. Overall, it's a good read and one that I would recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Schaible

    I loved this warm, well written biography of Ulysses Grant focusing on his last year of life. However, I think it could have been improved by providing an epilogue. It ended rather dryly and abruptly. I would still highly recommend for anyone who enjoys history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Arkrayder

    This book is not about the Union general’s final wartime campaign but his struggle to complete his memoirs before cancer takes his life. The plague of events that beset Grant after his presidency and retirement to private life may surprise readers. Following his resignation from the army in 1854, Grant was destitute and barely scratching out a living when the war began. The war changed his fortunes and brought the Grant family enormous fame and wealth. Following his two terms as president and a tw This book is not about the Union general’s final wartime campaign but his struggle to complete his memoirs before cancer takes his life. The plague of events that beset Grant after his presidency and retirement to private life may surprise readers. Following his resignation from the army in 1854, Grant was destitute and barely scratching out a living when the war began. The war changed his fortunes and brought the Grant family enormous fame and wealth. Following his two terms as president and a two-year world tour, Grant settled in New York and lent his name, and all his remaining wealth, to an investment firm run by Ferdinand Ward. But Ward, in fact, was running a Ponzi scheme using Grant’s name to attract wealthy and prominent investors. Events caught up with Ward, and the firm of “Grant and Ward” went bust in 1884. General Grant, along with many relatives who also invested with the firm, was left broke. The Grant family again was destitute and dependent on loans and monetary gifts to survive; selling off his wartime mementos and real estate to pay back their benefactors, of which there were many. Americans from both the upper and lower classes contributed money to Grant’s cause. The Century Magazine then approached Grant with an offer to buy any articles he cared to write of his wartime experiences for their Battles & Leaders serial. So impressed were they by Grant’s initial efforts that the article offer became a deal to publish his memoirs—if he chose to write them. By then, Grant had been diagnosed with cancer of the throat and, still recovering from the Grant & Ward debacle, worried how to provide for his wife and extended family after his death. Initially resistant to the idea that anyone would care to read anything he wrote, Grant saw the book offer as a way out of his financial woes, as The Century memoir offer would net him much more money than an article would. He initially accepted the Century offer, but then received a substantially better deal from Mark Twain’s publishing house. Grant’s Final Victory is a moving and intimate account of Grant’s race against time to complete his two-volume memoirs. The author, Charles Flood, is a superb writer. In addition to period newspapers, he researched the accounts of doctors, friends, acquaintances, and other sources to weave a three-dimensional tapestry of Grant’s final year of life. The reader learns the look and feel of his New York sickrooms, the torture Grant endures as the cancer slowly strangles him, the grief experienced by his friends and family, and finally, the cool breezes of the Mt. Macgregor resort where the ailing general, unable to speak, pens the final chapters of the book. It is a moving story and one that gives an insight into how appreciated and loved he was by 19th-century Americans.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Ulysses S. Grant has always been in my very selective Pantheon of Heroes. Without Grant, the American Civil War and the ensuing peace would have turned out very differently. He was tenacious in making war and generous in making peace and many of his Confederate peers gave him the lion's share of the credit for the reconciliation that took place in the two decades after the war. In my many readings, the death of Grant has been handled very briefly, almost in passing. But it's a compelling story: I Ulysses S. Grant has always been in my very selective Pantheon of Heroes. Without Grant, the American Civil War and the ensuing peace would have turned out very differently. He was tenacious in making war and generous in making peace and many of his Confederate peers gave him the lion's share of the credit for the reconciliation that took place in the two decades after the war. In my many readings, the death of Grant has been handled very briefly, almost in passing. But it's a compelling story: In June of 1884, less than one month after the financial firm of Grant and Ward collapsed into bankruptcy, Ulysses Grant was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the mouth and throat. The collapse of his company — a collapse predicated by the criminal actions of two of his partners — left the Grant family destitute. Grant, determined to restore his family to prosperity, wrote a series of articles about his war experiences; the articles were so well written that the publisher encouraged him to write his memoirs. Grant finished his memoirs five days before he died and, with a great deal of publishing assistance from Mark Twain, the Grant family became solvent (well, in fact, wealthy) again and Julia Grant and her family were able to live the rest of their lives in comfort. Grant was a complexly simple man. Tone deaf, a little too inclined to drink when he was bored, far too trusting of many of the people around him, Grant was also a man of honor with a personal code of honesty and forthrightness that he unfortunately also assumed could be found in others. He also had an immense sense of duty and it is not unreasonable to think that his passing after he finished his memoirs was no coincidence. In Grant's Final Victory, Mr. Flood examines in minute detail those last 16 months of Grant's life and in the process does a wonderful job of bringing Grant to life for his readers. In the process, we see many sides to Grant and visit different parts of his life. For his readers, whether they barely know Grant or have a ready familiarity with the General, Mr. Flood's detailed description of Grant's life and his struggles throughout will be a revelation. I actually had trouble putting this book down and I recommend it for anyone — even those who are not generally interested in history — who would like to read a poignant story of a man who deserves a better reputation than we have been willing to give him.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leah K

    Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year by Charles Bracelen Flood ★ ★ ★ ½ Every (so I can assume) American knows who Ulysses S. Grant is. He would be the instrument to ending the American Civil War and would later go on to become president. But what of the man after such great things occurred? In 1884, Ulysses S. Grant would be swindled out of a great deal of money. And sadly so would many of his family members. After losing pretty much everything he would be slammed with more Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year by Charles Bracelen Flood ★ ★ ★ ½ Every (so I can assume) American knows who Ulysses S. Grant is. He would be the instrument to ending the American Civil War and would later go on to become president. But what of the man after such great things occurred? In 1884, Ulysses S. Grant would be swindled out of a great deal of money. And sadly so would many of his family members. After losing pretty much everything he would be slammed with more bad news – he was dying of cancer. In this book, the author takes a look at Grant's last year as he did his best to right the wrongs of the lost money by writing his now famous memoirs. This is an interesting and fairly in depth look into Grant's final years. It won't delve too deeply into his time in the military or his time as president except to give one a small understanding of the man before 1884. I enjoyed this book but sadly knew how it ended (after all Last Year is in the title) and felt a little welling up of tears at the description of the end of the great man's life. And his struggles to do well for his family, even in the hardest and most painful times of his illness, were quite inspirational – ever 125+ years later. My one complaint is there were just too many quotes. I felt like the author was being lazy by putting in whole pages of excerpts of Grant's memoirs. I could just read the memoirs if I wanted that. Paraphrasing usually does the trick just as well. Otherwise, a good, informative book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lady ♥ Belleza

    For some reason, despite the fact that the title is not “Memoirs” and the author is not named Ulysses S. Grant, I thought this was Grant’s autobiography and the description was telling us he wrote it in the last year of his life. That is totally not the case and makes me think I am either losing it or reading things too fast. This is the account of Grant’s final year of life, the year he wrote his “Memoirs” and the struggles involved in doing so due to his ill health. The account starts with Grant For some reason, despite the fact that the title is not “Memoirs” and the author is not named Ulysses S. Grant, I thought this was Grant’s autobiography and the description was telling us he wrote it in the last year of his life. That is totally not the case and makes me think I am either losing it or reading things too fast. This is the account of Grant’s final year of life, the year he wrote his “Memoirs” and the struggles involved in doing so due to his ill health. The account starts with Grant being swindled. Grant wasn’t the only one who lost money in the theft, he had persuaded other family members to invest with him and everyone lost everything. Grant was an honorable man, his mistake was in trusting the wrong people. Because he was honorable, he had many people willing to help him out. Since he was an honorable man, he was determined to pay these people back and also support his family. He was approached to write 4 articles about the war for a magazine and this led to the idea to write a book of his life. Once again his family and friends rallied around to help, with gathering information and giving him the medical care he needed. There was a huge show of support from the country, people sent him money, they wrote him letters, many of those letters have been saved and are reprinted here, retired soldiers from both sides of the conflict showed their respect in many ways. A very informative account, taken from letters, diaries and other published works. This was very interesting read that I recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Charles Bracelen Flood researched the heck out of primary sources surrounding U.S. Grant, 1884-85. And he proves it by writing a book between snippets of reams of primary documents. OK, not reams -- the book is a tidy 246 pages -- but the running in place just about killed me before it laid low our greatest general. The premise of the book is compelling, and intriguing, too: The promise of sharing the inside story of how the hero of heroes was Ponzi-swindled by his partner and had to write throug Charles Bracelen Flood researched the heck out of primary sources surrounding U.S. Grant, 1884-85. And he proves it by writing a book between snippets of reams of primary documents. OK, not reams -- the book is a tidy 246 pages -- but the running in place just about killed me before it laid low our greatest general. The premise of the book is compelling, and intriguing, too: The promise of sharing the inside story of how the hero of heroes was Ponzi-swindled by his partner and had to write through his rapidly progressing tongue cancer to keep his beloved Julia and family out of the poor house. Seriously: what a heart-tugging story waiting to be told! But, well ... an Erik Larson yarn this is not. It is about as bland a retelling as any book I have ever read. That doesn't make it a bad book, just a boring one. (Which, on second thought, is kinda bad.) Look, Flood started with a cool idea, of incorporating flashbacks that helped to color various relationships and anecdotes, but it was like he forgot to keep doing it -- or maybe it was too much trouble. The financial scandal, the Mark-Twain-to-the-rescue, and the book Grant was writing stand out as the three stars of the story, but none of them are presented with insight beyond that offered for the description of Grant's final days or his funeral procession. I notice this book has a lot of 4-5 reviews, which I suspect are written by fans of Grant (me too!), but not for the quality of this read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Yingling

    Before reading this book, I didn't have a terribly high opinion of Grant, because of his mediocre presidency,and his tendency to run up high casualty figures in the Civil War battles he commanded. After reading this book I give him a much higher appraisal. I can't imagine the pain and agony he suffered that last year of his life, from the cancer that was killing him. And to write what is considered one of the best, if not the best military memoirs ever during that time, and to do all this to hel Before reading this book, I didn't have a terribly high opinion of Grant, because of his mediocre presidency,and his tendency to run up high casualty figures in the Civil War battles he commanded. After reading this book I give him a much higher appraisal. I can't imagine the pain and agony he suffered that last year of his life, from the cancer that was killing him. And to write what is considered one of the best, if not the best military memoirs ever during that time, and to do all this to help his family after some severe financial reverses is extraordinary. The author does a wonderful job of discussing this, and also reveals the genuine love his soldiers and fellow officers had for him, not just Union men but also ex-Confederate enlisted men and officers. His character and opinions on various subjects also showed within the context of the time, his enlightened views. And, the author is a very good writer, which adds to the enjoyment of this book. This is a book to savor and remember.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sean Newman

    U.S. Grant is the very definition of an American and of heroism. The is no United States without him. There is no freedom from slavery without him. His rise from failed businessman to being drummed out of the army for drunkenness to general the victor of the civil war, and to the presidency of the United States has been chronicled in so many books but here we find him at the end of his life broke and penniless after being swindled by the Bernie Madoff of his time. His entire family fortunes are U.S. Grant is the very definition of an American and of heroism. The is no United States without him. There is no freedom from slavery without him. His rise from failed businessman to being drummed out of the army for drunkenness to general the victor of the civil war, and to the presidency of the United States has been chronicled in so many books but here we find him at the end of his life broke and penniless after being swindled by the Bernie Madoff of his time. His entire family fortunes are gone and the proud victor of the Appomattox also learns of the cancer growing in his throat. In this final time of desperation Grant fights his last fight to finish his memoirs to provide his family some financial compensation after his death. The nation rallies around their hero in what marks one of the most remarkable 18 months in American history. Truly an inspiring and heartfelt read the shows the soul of the American people and the greatness a person of character and fortitude can achieve.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    I mostly enjoyed this book, but two things bothered me. First, the author's style was very intrusive when he quoted original materials. Along the lines of, 'and here is what so-and-so said/wrote." Odd. The second issue is more glaring: the central drama of Grant's final year, apart from his battle with terminal illness itself, was whether or not he'd finish his memoir and have it published, to save his family from the financial ruin he suffered the year prior. He finished the work about four days I mostly enjoyed this book, but two things bothered me. First, the author's style was very intrusive when he quoted original materials. Along the lines of, 'and here is what so-and-so said/wrote." Odd. The second issue is more glaring: the central drama of Grant's final year, apart from his battle with terminal illness itself, was whether or not he'd finish his memoir and have it published, to save his family from the financial ruin he suffered the year prior. He finished the work about four days prior to his death, and we know it was published (by Mark Twain, no less), but the author doesn't tell the reader what impact the work had on his family's financial health and any other impacts of the work. We know it was a monumental best-seller, saved his family from financial ruin, and stands as one of the great memoirs of all time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Art

    In what should have been the restful years of his life (what with having won the Civil War and serving as President), Ulysses S. Grant and his family members are swindled out of all of their money in one of Wall Street's first Ponzi schemes. Without a pension and living on donations from admirers, Grant is then diagnosed with terminal cancer. Charles Bracelen Flood's moving book chronicles Grant's last year, racing with Death and battling tremendous pain as he tries to write his memoirs so his fam In what should have been the restful years of his life (what with having won the Civil War and serving as President), Ulysses S. Grant and his family members are swindled out of all of their money in one of Wall Street's first Ponzi schemes. Without a pension and living on donations from admirers, Grant is then diagnosed with terminal cancer. Charles Bracelen Flood's moving book chronicles Grant's last year, racing with Death and battling tremendous pain as he tries to write his memoirs so his family will be left well cared for. Grant's love for his wife and his sheer will-power shine in this poignant telling of history. Mix in a little Mark Twain, some touching tributes from North and South and a very finite finish line and you have a captivating story about a period of time with which I was not familiar.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Hartke

    A very moving read of the final year of U.S. Grant's life told intimately, but almost a little too reverently. Grant was by no means a marble man and Flood's approach to him is almost saintlike. No doubt a man in financial tatters, battling the cancer that would ultimately claim his life, in a race against time to finish his memoirs that would ensure his family would be financially secure is a heroic act. One has to ask, though, is this the same man who hurled hundreds upon thousands of soldier' A very moving read of the final year of U.S. Grant's life told intimately, but almost a little too reverently. Grant was by no means a marble man and Flood's approach to him is almost saintlike. No doubt a man in financial tatters, battling the cancer that would ultimately claim his life, in a race against time to finish his memoirs that would ensure his family would be financially secure is a heroic act. One has to ask, though, is this the same man who hurled hundreds upon thousands of soldier's into the jaws of Death during the Civil War all the while puffing his cigar? Having said that, Flood knows how to tell a good story and he surrounds Grant with a wealth of intriguing characters, such as Mark Twain --- who ultimately became his publisher --- and the wily William Sherman.

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