...[a] superb new biography ... illuminating, inspiring and deeply moving ... No presidential biography can avoid serving as a comment on its own time. In this regard, White's book is an invaluable gift ... [White] has done yeoman's work to restore this good man to the American memory and, in the process, has done our country a great and timely service.
Ronald White’s magisterial new biography, weighing in at over 800 pages, is the newest heavyweight champion in this movement ... While White’s biography is indeed both striking and comprehensive, it does leave the reader with less psychological insight into Grant than might be hoped ... The book does, however, benefit greatly from White’s decision to look closely at the correspondence between Grant and his beloved wife, Julia ... Among the best parts of White’s book are his recollections of the mutual affection [Grant and Lincoln] shared.
...[a] stately and thoroughly researched book ... hite details mistakes, but not flaws. He wants us to admire Grant — for good reason. This worthy book solidifies the positive image amassed in recent decades, blotting out the caricature of a military butcher and political incompetent engraved in national memory by Jim Crow era historians ... He pays less attention to the mounting victories of white supremacists, as Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont and others in the cabinet undermined Grant’s position. Similarly, White praises Grant’s assimilationist 'peace policy' toward American Indians, but skips over the climactic wars fought under his aegis ... I wish that American Ulysses delved more deeply into Grant’s contradictions, yet agree with its final tally. White delineates Grant’s virtues better than any author before, and they outweighed his flaws.
Against the odds Mr. White charts important new territory. His subtitle could well be, Ulysses S. Grant, Civil Rights Advocate, for that is the news here. Grant used his presidency to protect black voting rights in the Reconstruction-era South...What he does provide is fresh, well-documented and surprising ... Ronald White has restored Ulysses S. Grant to his proper place in history with a biography whose breadth and tone suit the man perfectly. Like Grant himself, this book will have staying power.
...we should be grateful to historian Ronald C. White for American Ulysses, a thorough and nuanced biography ... White makes detailed and difficult realities of warfare fully accessible ... White’s account of Grant’s two terms in office is compelling and heartbreaking ... My only misgiving regarding American Ulysses is that its length (864 pages) will scare off all but the most enthusiastic Civil War enthusiasts. I hope as many people as possible read this book.
In this sympathetic, rigorously sourced biography, White conveys the essence of Grant the man and Grant the warrior. The author’s sharp reassessment of Grant’s political career doesn’t quite pack the oomph of the sections on the war years, but he reveals Grant’s profound commitment to the rights of African-Americans ... White’s account of this time certainly redeems Grant from the ranks of presidential mediocrity. His civil rights record stood unmatched until Lyndon B. Johnson ... What emerges from these pages is Grant’s essential decency. He deserved better from posterity, and from White he gets it.
Falling just short of [being called a] hagiography, his densely compiled book grudgingly admits that Grant made mistakes and poor judgments...Largely, though, White, author of several books on Abraham Lincoln, treats his subject with respect and at times reverence, praising Grant's honesty, kindness, loyalty and intelligence ... He writes in a straightforward style with little flair and at times tries to stuff too many facts into a sentence. Yet his eagerness to share his admiration for Grant drives the book's narrative to a satisfying conclusion.
White depicts Grant as a man of modesty, calmness and honesty who had a West Point graduate’s upstanding view of duty. Alas, much of this book sidetracks into regiment-and-road-junction accounts of battles, although the many maps help readers. The book also details turf fights around Grant, first between his generals and then among his bureaucrats. This stuff would have been of great interest to Americans of Grant’s time. But today…
White is most fresh and effective when he is shifting the focus from Grant’s stellar resume to his indomitable character. In American Ulysses, the things Grant did are less compelling than the manner in which he did them: calmly, quietly, with shame only for himself and none for others ... White’s case for Grant as a general and a man is solid; his case for Grant as a president is less so—not because the case is poorly made, but simply because the record of Grant’s two terms is more uneven.