Civil War Book Review: Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year

Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year
by Charles Bracelen Flood

Product Details

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Da Capo Press (October 11, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0306820285

ISBN-13: 978-0306820281

U.S. Grant never lacked determination.  He simply refused to accept being beaten.  He always had the energy to keep trying.  During the Civil War, these traits brought him command of the Federal Army.  The Overland Campaign proved that Grant would go forward no matter the obstacles.  While the casualties were appalling, Grant understood that prolonging the war would be worse.  Vicksburg showed Grant had an inventive mind that could search for the key to victory.  At Shiloh, Grant infused the spirit of victory into men tasting defeat.

After the war, Grant twice elected President, lead by example.  His refusal to participate in charges of treason against ranking CSA officials saved America from more hate and bitterness.  He firmly supported the Freemen and tried to protect their rights.  On leaving office, the Grants toured the world.  In every nation, cheering crowd meet them, heads of state entertain them.  Grant collaborated with one of the smartest men on Wall Street.  Their firm Grant & Ward was the envy of most firms.  Ward had an uncanny ability to anticipate trends and always paid high dividends.  Grant became wealthy.  His family well taken care of with a secure future, Grant looked forward to a happy comfortable life.  Ward embezzled, lied and stole.  One day, the bottom fell out, Grant & Ward was bankrupt.  Grant, his family and friends saw their saving disappear in less than a week.  After a short introduction, the book starts with the Grants looking for change in their New York City mansion.  They literally do not have money to buy necessities.

Most know the basic story; Grant starts writing for Centaury magazine.  This leads to a book, Mark Twain forces a good contract.  Grant wins his race with death to finish the book.  The book is a best seller and Julia Grant lives well on the royalties for the rest of her life.  The author shows how little we really know.  In doing this, he instructs and entertains by making the reader part of the family.  This book is part historical fact, part cancer treatment, part medicine, part personal reminisce, part publishing business, part writing and scheming.   The author keeps all the parts in the right place.  He never loses sight of what is important but keeps the trivial and incidental to bring the book alive.  This serious history with endnotes, Bibliography and index reads like a good novel.

Without trying to contrast the 1880s with the present, we understand how much medicine has changed.  We see the public Grant, not as we remember him.  The respect and affection the public had for Grant is astounding.  Veterans both North and South loved him. The public, at the very least respect him and most loved him.  The description of his funeral, the largest public event in America at that time is excellent.  We see both the public display, the competition among cities to bury him and the planning that went into this event.

This excellent book recreates Grant’s last year and that world.  After reading this book, my first edition takes on a completely new meaning.


One response to “Civil War Book Review: Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year

  1. LetUsHavePeace Avatar

    Ferdinand Ward was not considered one of the “smartest men on Wall Street”; he was considered one of the most charming. Vanderbilt and Morgan stayed well clear of him. Ward was the Bernie Madoff of his time; and his payout of dividends was enviable only to the people, like Madoff’s investors, who were gullible enough to believe in so perfect a record. Grant was never a manager of the firm; he lent it his name so that his son Ulysses, Jr. could become established in finance. It is yet another example of Grant’s wonderful character as a parent that he never once publicly or privately blamed anyone but himself for the failure. Here is the description of Grant & Ward’s story from Thomas P. Kane’s The Romance and Tragedy of Banking: “The firm of Grant & Ward was organized in 1880 and originally consisted of Ferdinand Ward, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., and James D. Fish. General U. S. Grant did not become connected with the firm until subsequent to his return from his memorable tour of Europe, after the close of his second term as President of the United States. At first the General was a limited partner only, with a one-seventh interest in the business, but later he became an equal partner. In some reminiscences of General Grant, written by Ferdinand Ward and published in December, 1909, Ward claimed that instead of the firm of Grant & Ward being responsible for the failure of the Marine National Bank, as was the general belief, the reverse was the case, and that the failure of the firm was the result of its efforts to bolster up the bank when it was in a desperate condition, owing to large and continued withdrawals of deposits during the financial stress of 1884. The record, however, does not support this contention, but shows that the failure of the bank was directly due to its loose methods of dealing with the brokerage firm of Grant & Ward and the large unsecured and uncollectible indebtedness of this firm to the bank. While General Grant’s individual resources suffered seriously through his unfortunate connection with the firm of Grant & Ward and he may have temporarily lost something in prestige, whatever part he played in the financial tragedy which brought loss and ruin to so many and saddened the closing months of his honorable and eventful career, no stigma of dishonor or imputation of willful wrong-doing ever attached to his name in connection with the transactions of this firm or in any of his public acts or personal business dealings with his fellow-man. James D. Fish was indicted in June following the failure of the bank, for embezzling and misapplying the funds of the association, and Ferdinand Ward was indicted at the same time for aiding and abetting him. In December, 1884, upon closer examination of the law and a fuller knowledge of the facts, both Fish and Ward were re-indicted to more fully cover all their transactions, including false entries in the books of the bank made for the purpose of deception. The trial of Fish was held during March and April, 1885, occupying a month, and resulted in his conviction. Exceptions were taken by his counsel to some of the points of law involved and arguments were heard before the full bench on these exceptions in June, 1885, with the result that the Government was sustained and Fish was sentenced for a term of ten years in the penitentiary. Ferdinand Ward, in the meantime, was confined in the Ludlow Street jail, under arrest by the State authorities, which prevented his trial under the Federal indictment as an aider and abettor of Fish. He was, however, indicted by the State Grand Jury, for larceny in obtaining money under false pretenses by the use of checks on a bank in which he had no funds, with the intent to deceive and defraud. His trial commenced on October 28, 1885, lasted one week, and resulted in his conviction and sentence to the penitentiary for a term of ten years. Fish, after serving the greater part of his sentence in the Auburn State Prison, was pardoned by President Cleveland. After his release from the penitentiary, he lived in strict retirement and spent much of his time in his library among his books and papers, of which he had a rare collection. He died at his residence in Brooklyn, N. Y., in March, 1912, at the advanced age of ninety-three years.”

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