CBR13Bingo – Rec’d (https://cannonballread.com/2020/12/personal-memoirs-and-the-autobiography-of-benjamin-franklin-thewheelbarrow/)
There’s a few reasons why this is probably the pinnacle of presidential memoirs. For one, Grant is the second most important military commander in US history (arguably the first but regardless). Two, his prose is pretty straight-forward, readable, and succinct. Three, he spends a lot of time citing sources, debunking myths (often in gracious and conciliatory ways, usually elevating someone’s else status or lauding or defending them — both friend and enemy). Four, he more or less only covers the war. Maybe a later volume would have covered his presidency and thereafter, but he had the good graces to die before writing up his much more contentious years.
In a lot of ways, this book should have set the terms of the debate on several key issues. He makes it clear that while states rights debates were part of the ways in which the war was discussed, it was always and will always be about slavery. And even if Lincoln didn’t begin there, that’s the way he prosecuted the war for most of the second half. He also spends some time making sure we know that the Lost Cause nonsense, was nonsense. He doesn’t know he’s doing this, because this mostly happens after he dies.
“There are many men who would have done better than I did under the circumstances in which I found myself. If I had never held command, if I had fallen, there were 10,000 behind who would have followed the contest to the end and never surrendered the Union.”