One hundred and thirty-three years after its 1885 publication by Mark Twain, Elizabeth Samet has annotated Grant’s landmark memoir and expands the Civil War backdrop against which this monumental American life is typically read.
everything a work of popular scholarship should be: Authoritative, thorough and compulsively readable. Where many annotated editions come across as perfunctory and unimaginative, this one truly illuminates its text with an abundance of relevant historical, biographical and literary material. If you’re at all interested in the Civil War, you’ll want to own it ... I want to reemphasize how much this edition’s notes enhance the main narrative ... Most originally Samet cites a wide variety of literary works that provide additional insight and context for Grant’s own observations ... an outstanding example of thoughtful appreciation and long-considered scholarship. Still, a magisterial work — one that you will live in, learn from and regularly go back to — really ought to have an index.
A herculean scholarly achievement ... Her valuable introduction places Grant’s memoirs in the autobiographical tradition that starts with the likes of Julius Caesar and has found more modern incarnations in Joan Didion and James Baldwin ... Footnotes add color by fleshing out individuals mentioned in passing, add context by expanding on events that Grant elides and add varied perspectives by quoting accounts of African-American soldiers and other generals ... The end result is a very rich reading experience that highlights unexpected connections between events in the text, its historical moment, and its connections to larger cultural themes. Samet accomplishes the rare feat of creating accessible annotations that are as fascinating and enlightening as the text they are meant to enrich.
A book long reckoned to be America’s version of The Gallic Wars ... If anything, Samet might be criticized, gently, for being too vigorous in annotation; an early disquisition on the French and Indian War, for instance, is orders of magnitude longer than the aside of Grant’s that prompted it, and it begs to be reined in. Nonetheless, for Civil War buffs, this is a must-read ... This is the edition that serious students of the Civil War, and Grant’s role in it, will want. Indispensable.