“Grant Under Fire” and “Lincoln’s Autocrat”

Civil War News has finally posted my response to Dr. John Marszalek’s unprofessional and mistake-ridden review of Grant Under Fire. As the Executive Director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, whose mission it is to “preserve the knowledge of [Ulysses S. Grant’s] importance in American history,” Dr. Marszalek should have recused himself if chosen for this task. Especially if he himself selected Grant Under Fire for a review, his own ending sentence boomerangs back at him: “Readers can draw their own conclusions.”

And Marszalek complained that Grant Under Fire “contains the most negative comments of any history book I can recall.” He obviously hadn’t read The Life of Edwin Stanton. William Marvel’s biography of the Union Secretary of War is far more scathing of Stanton than I am of Ulysses S. Grant (and Grant Under Fire, at least, is a self-professed exposé). Both books, however, are based on a wealth of primary sources. Dr. Marszalek can’t get away with maligning a book just because it doesn’t reach the same conclusions as he does concerning the reputed heroism of Grant, Sheridan, and Sherman (his own biographical subject). Paul Taylor, by the way, gave Lincoln’s Autocrat a “must-read” status in his Civil War News review of Marvel’s biography, demonstrating that a negative portrayal does not preclude fine research.

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