Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Grant, The Author

When it comes to beautiful prose written by a thoroughly decent man, it is difficult to beat the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. 

If we take our time - a chapter or two a day works nicely - not only will we find a new appreciation for those who made our nation possible but the modesty and quiet wit of an extraordinary leader stand in contrast to much of today's narcissism.

Grant had a keen eye. Here is an excerpt from his recollections of The Mexican War:

In their modes of expressing thought, these two generals contrasted quite as strongly as in their other characteristics. General [Winfred] Scott was precise in language, cultivated a style peculiarly his own; was proud of his rhetoric; not adverse to speaking of himself, often in the third person, and he could bestow praise upon the person he was talking about without the least embarrassment. {General Zachary] Taylor was not a conversationalist, but on paper he could [put his meaning so plainly that there could be no mistaking it. He knew how to express what he wanted to say in the fewest well-chosen words, but would not sacrifice meaning to the construction of high-sounding sentences. But with their opposite characteristics both were great and successful soldiers; both were true, patriotic and upright in all their dealings. Both were pleasant to serve under - Taylor was pleasant to serve with. Scott saw more through the eyes of his staff officers than through his own. His plans were deliberately prepared, and fully expressed in orders. Taylor saw for himself, and gave orders to meet the emergency without reference to how they would read in history.


Daniel Richwine said...

Lately I've become fascinated by Grant. Growing up in the South, he was never given much of any consideration as a general, president, or a man. I've lately been reconsidering my opinion of him, first as a general but lately as a president and as man. Whatever else you can say about the man, he certainly had an interesting life.

Michael Wade said...


Grant is one of my heroes.

I think he was hugely under-rated.