The Man Who Saved the Union by H. W. Brands

I just finished reading this massive tome.  Those who have read widely in Ulysses S. Grant scholarship will probably not find something here they didn’t already know, but I don’t believe Prof. Brands’ goal was to unearth anything new regarding Grant.  He’s using biography as a device with which to tell the history of the United States.  His previous volumes included biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The book is enjoyable to read and only has a few minor inaccuracies that I could detect.  For example, there is a typo on p. 634 that reads, “The pallbearers, including William Sheridan, Phil Sherman, …”

I liked the short chapters.  It made it easy to put the book down and come back to it because one can finish a chapter in just a few pages.

I think one would find more of the analyses students of the war and Reconstruction are looking for in Brooks Simpson’s work, but if all you’re looking for is a one-volume biography of Grant, this book would be a pretty good choice.


  1. Good to know. I did read Brands book on Jackson – And I am looking for a book to read on Grant. Your review gives me direction .

    1. Nancy, if you’re looking for a good short book on Grant see Josiah Bunting’s book.

      Stay away from Michael Korda’s book. Brooks Simpson’s first volume gives some really good, balanced analysis. The second volume isn’t out yet.

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