Savas Beatie, 2015, 168 pp., $14.95
Image Courtesy of amazon.com
One of the greatest Civil War memoirs are the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. However, there are those who do not know about the battle which Grant took to write these incredible passages. As part of the Emerging Civil War Series, Chris Mackowski has given us a look into the personal difficulties of what it took to write these sentences. We see General Grant now as a great hero of American History but there are those who believe that without his Personal Memoirs, he would never have gained the status of one of the great literary figures of his time.
Chris Mackowski is the cofounder of Emerging Civil War and has authored more than a dozen books throughout this series. He has written articles for such magazines like Civil War Times, America’s Civil War, Hallowed Ground, and Blue and Gray. He is a writing professor at Saint Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York and a historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge which is a historic property on the Spotsylvania Battlefield. Other works of his include Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front, The Dark, Close Wood: The Wilderness, Ellwood and the Battle that Redefined Both, and Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac’s Valley Forge and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union.
Grant’s Last Battle is a unique work which encapsulates the final years of Grant’s life and the struggles which he went through in order to write his memoirs. Though he was the commander who gained the surrender of Robert E. Lee and a President of the United States, Grant went through financial ruin later in his life. Mackowski chronicles this descent towards the ruin and tackles the subject with a definite grace and research. His historiography within these pages is second to none as he introduces the many “characters” who were part of Grant’s life during this time. One of the more interesting chapters was the one which dealt with Mark Twain and not only tackled the great American writer, but also dealt with General Lew Wallace. Many might know Wallace from his bestseller Ben-Hur,but there were also differences, personally, between Grant and Wallace. Grant blamed Wallace for decisions made at the Battle of Shiloh, but due to the writing of the memoirs, there were divisions which seemed to be repaired. As with many of the other works in the Emerging Civil War Series, the book has numerous appendices which add to the work of the author. Some of the subjects include Grant’s Tomb, myths of Grant, and the friendship between Grant and Twain. Overall, what is reached in this book is a complete look into the writing of Grant’s memoirs and the fight he had after his presidency.
I highly recommend this book not only to fans of the Emerging Civil War Series, but to people who are interested in both General and President Grant. Within these pages, a sad tale is told about the end of his life, but it is a book worth reading to get an idea of the complete spectrum of the man. Mackowski has done another great service to the Civil War realm by giving us another book about a lesser known subject on a great man.