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A Review of Smith's "Grant"

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  • josepharose@yahoo.com
    Mr. Smith: Professor Waugh also wrote a remarkably similar review of Grant, by Jean Edward Smith. In the two reviews, there is little or no criticism of the
    Message 1 of 13 , Oct 1, 2001
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      Mr. Smith:

      Professor Waugh also wrote a remarkably similar review of "Grant," by
      Jean Edward Smith. In the two reviews, there is little or no
      criticism of the authors' work and hardly any more of Grant as either
      a general or president. It was copied and pasted from the website at:
      http://www.thehistorynet.com/reviews/bk_cwtijun01lead.htm

      Joseph Rose


      Grant, by Jean Edward Smith, Simon and Schuster, 781 pages, $35.

      Jean Edward Smith's Grant is a biographical companion piece to James
      McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Like McPherson's book, Smith's one-
      volume narrative is eminently readable and densely packed with
      knowledge gathered from a lifetime of studying American history.
      Smith's expertise in both legal and military affairs adds a
      fascinating and important dimension to the context of Grant's life
      and times. His book will appeal to the wide public whose appetite for
      biographies of the great generals of the Civil War is insatiable.
      Today, that is especially true for Ulysses S. Grant, the Union
      general who won the war in 1865 and who was twice elected president
      of the United States, in 1868 and again in 1876.

      A lifelong fascination with the great commander led Smith, a
      distinguished historian at Marshall University in Huntington, West
      Virginia, to this current book, which offers a highly favorable
      reappraisal of Grant's political reputation. Taking his cue from
      David Donald's famous observation that the 18th president is the
      most "underrated American in history," Smith tackles the question
      that has bedeviled and fascinated a long line of biographers and
      historians: how and why did the military leader who was strong,
      fearless, and decisive in war fail to show those same qualities as a
      peacetime leader?

      Love him or hate him, few men in American history lived such a
      tumultuous life as Ulysses S. Grant. Smith straightforwardly recounts
      Grant's slow and uneven path to prominence and power, emphasizing his
      roughhewn Ohio boyhood, his West Point years, and his first battle
      experience in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. Captain Grant's
      resignation from the Regular Army in 1854 led to depression and
      failure. When the war broke out in 1861, the 39-year-old Grant was a
      humble clerk earning $50 a month in his father's Galena, Illinois,
      leather-goods store. Grant's swift rise from clerk to commander of
      the Union armies is an incredible tale, and few have told it better
      than Jean Smith has. Smith's Grant resembles the Grant of Bruce
      Catton, John Keegan, and James McPherson. Grant is portrayed as a man
      of character and moral courage, of intelligent action and resolute
      demeanor. These qualities, embedded in his frontier upbringing,
      nurtured in his early army career, and tested in years of failure,
      enabled Grant to triumph over the many obstacles that inevitably came
      his way in the years 1861-1865. Smith brilliantly unfolds the
      military and political saga of the western theater as Grant achieved
      a series of stunning victories in Tennessee at Forts Henry and
      Donelson and at Shiloh; in Mississippi at Vicksburg; and again in
      Tennessee at Chattanooga in November 1863. Shortly thereafter,
      President Abraham Lincoln appointed Grant commander of all the Union
      armies, which resulted in Northern victory by 1865.

      Smith's Grant is not a politically naïve fumbler who allowed his
      cronies to lead him around by the nose. Instead, Smith portrays Grant
      as sensitive to political concerns and passionately committed to the
      goals of the war after 1863: reunion and emancipation. He was also a
      man of ambition who knew how to advance himself by cultivating
      friends in the right places. Grant's most ardent supporter was
      ultimately the president himself. "The partnership between Lincoln
      and Grant," Smith asserts, "would prove to be the key to Union
      success. It provided the North with a common outlook on the conduct
      of the war and a unity of command the South could only envy." Their
      close and trusting bond enabled Grant to write the generous peace
      terms at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, and to carry on Lincoln's
      vision of a reunited nation after the presidential assassination only
      days later. Grant's role as a military and political leader in the
      tense years after Lincoln's death demonstrated his growing ability to
      tread successfully the treacherous waters of early Reconstruction
      political warfare.

      The general's acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination in
      1868 and his subsequent victory brought to the office the right man
      at the right time. No one else in the country had Grant's
      unquestioned status as a symbol of unity and reconciliation. A golden
      opportunity for enlightened leadership seemed to await Grant, who
      enjoyed immense popularity with a majority of voters. Many have
      contended that he went on to squander his gifts and that he richly
      deserved his reputation as one of the worst presidents in history.
      Smith disagrees and presents a compelling case for an upward
      reconsideration of Grant's presidential career. Smith argues that
      President Grant, despite undeniable lapses in judgment, earnestly
      endeavored to implement enlightened and progressive programs and, in
      fact, enjoyed some success. As evidence of Grant's committed
      presidential leadership, Smith cites Grant's Indian Peace Policy and
      his attempts to enforce civil rights laws that would ensure safety
      and equality for Southern blacks.

      That many of Grant's efforts proved to be dismal failures speaks not
      so much to his incompetence, or to the scandals and corruption that
      engulfed his second term, as it does to the incredibly difficult
      challenges of governing the country at that time. Throughout his
      presidency, Grant remained steadfast in his belief that the goals of
      the war should be preserved even as the country's enthusiasm for
      reconstruction of the South in the North's image faded away by the
      1870s. Grant's final task as president harked back to his first, and
      perhaps most important, achievement: to ensure a stable transition,
      this time in the disputed election of 1876. He succeeded, and the
      country reconciled for good. Smith suggests few if any of the
      professional politicians could have done better.

      This review cannot do justice to the depth and breadth of Smith's
      tour de force, but suffice it to say that while many of his
      assertions will be controversial, they are worthy of serious debate
      and discussion. Meanwhile, it is good to know that the tradition of
      writing history that is both entertaining and erudite is alive and
      flourishing at the hand of Jean Edward Smith.

      Joan Waugh
      University of California at Los Angeles
    • thecoys@kingcon.com
      Joseph, Your statement, In the two reviews, there is little or no criticism of the authors work and hardly any more of Grant as either a general or
      Message 2 of 13 , Oct 1, 2001
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        Joseph,
        Your statement, "In the two reviews, there is little or no criticism of
        the authors' work and hardly any more of Grant as either a general or
        president", indicate that you have a bias. You should try to get over that
        bias to get a true understanding of history. No matter what book you read on
        Grant you are going to go into it with a negative view.

        IMHO
        Kevin S. Coy

        josepharose@... wrote:

        > Mr. Smith:
        >
        > Professor Waugh also wrote a remarkably similar review of "Grant," by
        > Jean Edward Smith. In the two reviews, there is little or no
        > criticism of the authors' work and hardly any more of Grant as either
        > a general or president. It was copied and pasted from the website at:
        > http://www.thehistorynet.com/reviews/bk_cwtijun01lead.htm
        >
        > Joseph Rose

        <snip>
      • FLYNSWEDE@AOL.COM
        In a message dated 10/1/01 5:19:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time, josepharose@yahoo.com writes:
        Message 3 of 13 , Oct 1, 2001
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          In a message dated 10/1/01 5:19:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
          josepharose@... writes:

          << In the two reviews, there is little or no
          criticism of the authors' work and hardly any more of Grant as either
          a general or president. >>
          No need for additional criticism Joe. You supply enough for ten critics.
        • brooksdsimpson@yahoo.com
          ... by ... either ... Well, a book review is a review of the book, not of the subject. It s also not supposed to be an exercise in character assassination,
          Message 4 of 13 , Oct 1, 2001
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            --- In civilwarwest@y..., josepharose@y... wrote:
            > Mr. Smith:
            >
            > Professor Waugh also wrote a remarkably similar review of "Grant,"
            by
            > Jean Edward Smith. In the two reviews, there is little or no
            > criticism of the authors' work and hardly any more of Grant as
            either
            > a general or president.

            Well, a book review is a review of the book, not of the subject.
            It's also not supposed to be an exercise in character assassination,
            particularly when that is achieved through distortion and
            misrepresentation.
          • Dave Smith
            ... Joseph, I suppose one could come to the conclusion that Professor Waugh liked both books. It s been known to happen . . . But yes, I ve seen that review
            Message 5 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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              --- In civilwarwest@y..., josepharose@y... wrote:
              > Mr. Smith:
              >
              > Professor Waugh also wrote a remarkably similar review of "Grant,"
              > by Jean Edward Smith. In the two reviews, there is little or no
              > criticism of the authors' work and hardly any more of Grant as
              > either a general or president. It was copied and pasted from the
              > website at:
              > http://www.thehistorynet.com/reviews/bk_cwtijun01lead.htm
              >
              > Joseph Rose

              Joseph,

              I suppose one could come to the conclusion that Professor Waugh liked
              both books. It's been known to happen . . .

              But yes, I've seen that review before. It's been posted here as
              well. I checked before posting mine, in order to make sure I didn't
              duplicate things.

              But I have a question. Is a lack of criticsm of the author's work a
              requirement of writing a book review? A "critical review," in which
              the reviewer looks at a grocery list of things that make up a book
              biography (in this case), is required, but I don't believe there's
              anything that requires the review to be critical in nature.

              Dave

              Dave Smith
              Villa Hills, KY
            • brooksdsimpson@yahoo.com
              ... liked ... didn t ... a ... Dave brings up some interesting points. One might, I suppose, chide Joan Waugh for preparing a review that did not explicitly
              Message 6 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                --- In civilwarwest@y..., "Dave Smith" <dmsmith001@y...> wrote:
                > I suppose one could come to the conclusion that Professor Waugh
                liked
                > both books. It's been known to happen . . .
                >
                > But yes, I've seen that review before. It's been posted here as
                > well. I checked before posting mine, in order to make sure I
                didn't
                > duplicate things.
                >
                > But I have a question. Is a lack of criticsm of the author's work
                a
                > requirement of writing a book review? A "critical review," in which
                > the reviewer looks at a grocery list of things that make up a book
                > biography (in this case), is required, but I don't believe there's
                > anything that requires the review to be critical in nature.

                Dave brings up some interesting points.

                One might, I suppose, chide Joan Waugh for preparing a review that
                did not explicitly criticize the book under review. A more careful
                reader would, I believe, discern that in her review of my book she
                still thinks McFeely's analysis of Grant's character and personality
                valuable (and thus not replaced), while she sees the need for a
                better military biography. Perret's book is conspicious by its non-
                mention. So I think you have to read between the lines.

                But one would also have to chide David Long for a review which is
                unstintingly critical and personally abusive. I know from colleagues
                that Long's review has not helped his reputation and it has not hurt
                mine. In Long's case, it's easy to prove animus and even easier to
                point out his mishandling of Cold Harbor (Long insists that there was
                a effort to cover up the losses, a contention dismissed by other
                scholars who are better qualified to judge, including James McPherson
                and Gordon Rhea). Mr. Rose has come under similar criticism for his
                amazon.com review. I know of two people who have brought ip the Long
                review in internet groups, and it's safe to say that each poster had
                a clearly-defined agenda (Dave knows whereof I speak).

                But the whole discussion reveals how one uses evidence. If one
                wanted to measure the reception accorded my book, one would have to
                bring out all the reviews, not merely those that support one's own
                particular point of view. Nor do authors necessarily despise all
                critical reviews or the people who write them. I'm aware of two
                clear cases of personal animus from reviewers, and that's the nature
                of the beast. On the other hand, I'd be worried if James McPherson,
                Gordon Rhea, or Ed Bearss assailed the book. Suffice it to say I'm
                not worried.

                As for Mr. Rose, you can catch the road show on the soc. civil war
                group.
              • Terry Johnston
                As a lurker, I m afraid to say I ve only caught part of this thread. I wonder if Long s review has been posted on the web. If so, could someone please
                Message 7 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                  As a lurker, I'm afraid to say I've only caught part of this thread.  I wonder if Long's review has been posted on the web.  If so, could someone please provide me with a link to it?  Many thanks.

                  Terry Johnston

                  brooksdsimpson@... wrote:

                   
                  But one would also have to chide David Long for a review which is
                  unstintingly critical and personally abusive.  I know from colleagues
                  that Long's review has not helped his reputation and it has not hurt
                  mine.  In Long's case, it's easy to prove animus and even easier to
                  point out his mishandling of Cold Harbor (Long insists that there was
                  a effort to cover up the losses, a contention dismissed by other
                  scholars who are better qualified to judge, including James McPherson
                  and Gordon Rhea).  Mr. Rose has come under similar criticism for his
                  amazon.com review.  I know of two people who have brought ip the Long
                  review in internet groups, and it's safe to say that each poster had
                  a clearly-defined agenda (Dave knows whereof I speak).
                   

                • Dave Smith
                  ... See The book review, as copied and pasted from the website at http://www.thehistorynet.com/reviews/bk_cwtimay00lead.htm follows: Also see message 8151 in
                  Message 8 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                    --- In civilwarwest@y..., Terry Johnston <tajjr@e...> wrote:
                    > As a lurker, I'm afraid to say I've only caught part of this
                    > thread. I wonder if Long's review has been posted on the web. If
                    > so, could someone please provide me with a link to it? Many thanks.
                    >

                    See

                    The book review, as copied and pasted from the website at
                    http://www.thehistorynet.com/reviews/bk_cwtimay00lead.htm follows:

                    Also see message 8151 in this forum.

                    Dave
                  • Terry Johnston
                    Appreciate it. Now, for my two cents. This does not strike me as a good book review. It s not very well argued, for one. And though Long certainly is under
                    Message 9 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                      Appreciate it. Now, for my two cents. This does not strike me as a good
                      book review. It's not very well argued, for one. And though Long certainly
                      is under no obligation to love (or even like) the book, or to refrain from
                      revealing his true feelings about it, his negativity does seem excessive.
                      The review, in short, lacks a sense of scholarly decorum. It also lacks,
                      save for the penultimate paragraph, quotations (of significant length) from
                      the book in question. You'd think that if Long wanted to hang Simpson out
                      to dry for his conclusions, he's use Simpson's own words to do so.

                      Terry Johnston






                      Dave Smith wrote:

                      > --- In civilwarwest@y..., Terry Johnston <tajjr@e...> wrote:
                      > > As a lurker, I'm afraid to say I've only caught part of this
                      > > thread. I wonder if Long's review has been posted on the web. If
                      > > so, could someone please provide me with a link to it? Many thanks.
                      > >
                      >
                      > See
                      >
                      > The book review, as copied and pasted from the website at
                      > http://www.thehistorynet.com/reviews/bk_cwtimay00lead.htm follows:
                      >
                      > Also see message 8151 in this forum.
                      >
                      > Dave
                    • FLYNSWEDE@AOL.COM
                      In a message dated 10/2/01 3:37:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time, tajjr@eclipsetel.com writes:
                      Message 10 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                        In a message dated 10/2/01 3:37:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                        tajjr@... writes:

                        << Appreciate it. Now, for my two cents. This does not strike me as a good
                        book review. It's not very well argued, for one. And though Long certainly
                        is under no obligation to love (or even like) the book, or to refrain from
                        revealing his true feelings about it, his negativity does seem excessive.
                        The review, in short, lacks a sense of scholarly decorum. It also lacks,
                        save for the penultimate paragraph, quotations (of significant length) from
                        the book in question. You'd think that if Long wanted to hang Simpson out
                        to dry for his conclusions, he's use Simpson's own words to do so.

                        Terry Johnston >>
                        Please Terry and all the rest:
                        This forum was to discuss actions and individuals that fought in the Western
                        Theater (and perhaps the Trans-Missip included) not book reviews, book
                        criticisms even though the books may pertain to individuals or battles within
                        these theaters. For those that do persist on having book reviews or
                        criticisms of an author, may I suggest that you open up a discussion room
                        specifically for that purpose, rather than using this forum.

                        Respectfully,

                        Wayne C. Bengston
                      • Jfepperson@aol.com
                        In a message dated 10/2/2001 4:05:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... Western ... While I sympathize with the frustration over certain squabbles, I have to
                        Message 11 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                          In a message dated 10/2/2001 4:05:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                          FLYNSWEDE@... writes:

                          > This forum was to discuss actions and individuals that fought in the
                          Western
                          > Theater (and perhaps the Trans-Missip included) not book reviews, book
                          > criticisms even though the books may pertain to individuals or battles
                          > within
                          > these theaters. For those that do persist on having book reviews or
                          > criticisms of an author, may I suggest that you open up a discussion room
                          > specifically for that purpose, rather than using this forum.

                          While I sympathize with the frustration over certain squabbles, I have
                          to disagree in a major way with the assertions quoted above. If
                          discussions of books which deal with the western theatre of the Civil
                          War are deemed off-topic, then our ability to discuss scholarship is
                          severely (perhaps fatally) limited.

                          JFE


                          James F. Epperson
                          http://members.aol.com/jfepperson/causes.html
                          http://members.aol.com/siege1864
                        • FLYNSWEDE@AOL.COM
                          In a message dated 10/2/01 6:33:52 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Jfepperson@aol.com writes:
                          Message 12 of 13 , Oct 2, 2001
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                            In a message dated 10/2/01 6:33:52 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                            Jfepperson@... writes:

                            << If
                            discussions of books which deal with the western theatre of the Civil
                            War are deemed off-topic, then our ability to discuss scholarship is
                            severely (perhaps fatally) limited. >>

                            Jeff,
                            I believed that you misconstrued my post. Most certainly books on the
                            Western theater should be discussed, but in the content of what happened,
                            what was the battle strategy, were did the battle go wrong, etc.; what the
                            battle commanders could have done or should have done rather than a given
                            author. One could say that he/she enjoyed the book or did not enjoy the
                            book, but to go into severe negative criticism on an author to a point where
                            it becomes character assassination, this I believe has no place in this forum.
                            Use the book to talk about battle events that took place so that all can
                            learn. One can never learn from negative criticism, only from positive
                            criticism; any instruction in leadership development will ascertain to that.

                            Basically, if one desires to bash a book or its author; bash the reviewer or
                            the reviews as a result of one's on personal bias, then let him/her open up
                            their own room and do the bashing there, rather than within this forum.

                            Hopefully this will clarify the true intent of my first post.

                            Wayne
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