I just finished Ron Chernow’s biography on Grant and I thought it was excellent. Chernow does a stupendous job recasting the often mischaracterized U.S. Grant as a brilliant strategist and a great war hero.
What I found most intriguing about the book was the accidental nature of Grant’s life.
- His father forces him into a Military career and he enters West Point reluctantly, showing little interest in military matters.
- Grant shows promise in the Mexican American War, becoming an officer. But he is castigated for drunkenness and forced to resign.
- Post-war, he tries his hand at several business ventures and they all fail. Due to his guileless nature, he is repeatedly cheated by others.
At the outset of the Civil War in 1841, Grant is 40 years old and working an entry level role for his two younger brothers at his father’s store. He is impoverished, melancholy, and an alcoholic.
Four months later, Grant would become Brigadier General. Within three years, he would be given command of all Union Armies in the Civil War.
Life is more accidental than we think. We don’t always know what our story is going to be. Grant certainly didn’t.