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Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Narrated by: Robin Field
Length: 29 hrs and 34 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Summary

Among the autobiographies of great military figures, Ulysses S. Grant’s is certainly one of the finest, and it is arguably the most notable literary achievement of any American president: a lucid, compelling, and brutally honest chronicle of triumph and failure. From his frontier boyhood, to his heroics in battle, to the grinding poverty from which the Civil War ironically rescued him, these memoirs are a mesmerizing, deeply moving account of a brilliant man told with great courage as he reflects on the fortunes that shaped his life and his character. Written under excruciating circumstances—Grant was dying of throat cancer—and encouraged and edited from its very inception by Mark Twain, it is a triumph of the art of autobiography.

Grant was sick and broke when he began work on his memoirs. Driven by financial worries and a desire to provide for his wife, he wrote diligently during a year of deteriorating health. He vowed he would finish the work before he died, and one week after its completion, he lay dead at the age of 63.

Publication of the memoirs came at a time when the public was being treated to a spate of wartime reminiscences, many of them defensive in nature, seeking to refight battles or attack old enemies. Grant’s penetrating and stately work reveals a nobility of spirit and an innate grasp of the important fact, which he rarely displayed in private life. He writes in his preface that he took up the task “with a sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to anyone, whether on the National or the Confederate side.”

Public Domain (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“The best [memoirs] of any general’s since Caesar.” (Mark Twain)
“One of the most unflinching studies of war in our literature.” (William McFeeley, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Ulysses S. Grant)

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Outstanding

Fine narration of classic military memoir. Grant's measured imperturbable manner is well-tempered by Robin Field

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Profile Image for Trent
  • Trent
  • 20-08-12

Surprisingly funny and very informative.

What did you love best about Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

I consistently found Grant's humor in his stories about his personal experiences and later in the war to be irrestible. Add the real life perspective of each campaign that brought the war home to me.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

His revelation that by acting quickly he usually benefitted much more than he did for waiting for the preparations to be perfect was intoned in nearly every decision he describes after that.

Have you listened to any of Robin Field’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not but I enjoyed him immensely. I would have rated him a 5 but had to knock something back a bit. His dry humor honestly made this a book I have recommended about 10 times since listening to it.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh out loud many times, which is not what I expected from a Civil War biography. Grant's writing is very clever and humble in a way that has you empathizing with every situation.

Any additional comments?

This biography rings true because while his achievements are numerous, he consistently is humble about his role and his comparative talents. He is able to explain his actions and strategies with the eye witness perspective that is not found in most "history channel" narratives. He continually brings the plight of the struggling soldier into view so that it does not seem a chess game but a real life and death struggle with lives in the balance.

15 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • H. Connelly
  • 20-04-13

Lived up to expectations

What made the experience of listening to Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant the most enjoyable?

The story itself and the narrator

What was one of the most memorable moments of Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

When Lee's Army surrendered, I cheered! I was so sad by the part when Grant learns about the death of Lincoln. Recently saw the movie Lincoln, tied back to Grant's autobiography nicely.

Which scene was your favorite?

Lee's surrender

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Simply, "US Grant"

Any additional comments?

It's long, no doubt. It never got boring to me and it's amazing to listen to Grant writing in the first person about things that happened 150 years ago.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Rick
  • 12-11-17

A Great Warrior

Ulysses S. Grant never intended to pursue a military career, but his time at the head of the victorious Union army forever changed the conduct of war.

These are the memoirs that Grant wrote as he was dying of throat cancer, determined to provide for his family. The work has long been acclaimed for his clear, no-nonsense writing that also may reflect the droll humor of his editor and publisher, Mark Twain.

“The distant rear of an army engaged in battle is not the best place from which to judge correctly what is going on in front.” Grant led from the front, with a simple goal of defeating and destroying the Confederate army, even though he was always magnanimous in victory.

In the US Civil War, battles always stop at sundown. There is the curious challenge of pursuing an enemy through territory “where nearly every citizen was an enemy, ready to give information of our every move.” The further the army penetrated, the longer its fragile supply lines, whether by road, river or railroad. Cut off the supplies and the army withers, especially if residents refuse to cooperate as well.

It doesn’t require a student of military science to appreciate the logic and creativity that determined battles won or lost between armies of the 19th century. While battles are fought in the daylight, there are instances of troop movements by night, usually by river, with whole muted regiments sliding past unsuspecting pickets. Masses of troops are used as decoys while larger ones pass behind mountains to gain position. And then things go wrong—delays occur, the battle shifts, and commanders even fail to carry out orders. It is a massive game of chess with the future of a nation at stake.

Robin Field is the perfect narrator, who manages not to sound like one. He IS Gen. Grant, and before long you’ll start to think of him as a wise, modest, practical man who celebrates his victories, admits to his shortcomings, and generously gives credit where it’s due.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Gary A. Hill
  • 22-11-12

History brought to life!

What did you love best about Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

The fact that this is Grant's personal account of events is compelling.

What did you like best about this story?

Details, of course!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Sadness, at the grand scale of losses, on both sides.

Any additional comments?

Absolutely loved the accounts from a personal view. Even though Grant was not an "average" man, we must keep in mind that the accounts were written 20 years after the fact. I'm referring to accounts of personalities, etc. Anyone interested in Civil War history would enjoy this book.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Kim G. Bruno
  • 13-12-15

A Classic

You can see why Grant won the Civil War. His writing is direct and clear - which must have been essential before and during battles. The book - read by Robin Field in a clear and engaging style - shows how the childhood lessons paid dividends when Grant became a Lieutenant General and commander of the Union Armies. It also displays his humility and forgiveness. While the Confederate commanders and politicians could have been executed for treason, Grant laid a different path and helped to bind the wounds torn open by the war.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jeff
  • 30-04-13

Better listen than I expected

Any additional comments?

I gravitate toward detail when it comes to military histories. So this was right up my alley. However, if you don't stay away. I found it very helpful to go to Google Earth to keep up with deployments, battles, etc. The narration was spot on.

On substance, Grant does not go into any detail about losses but does so with victories. I had to continually remind myself this book was written in the 1880s and that might have passed muster then, but not now. Even with that drawback I found myself liking Grant as a person more as chapter followed chapter. He comes off as a decent human being notwithstanding the ghastly horrors of which he was part, especially in the final two years of the war.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-01-13

Grant's Memoirs - incomparable!

Would you listen to Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant again? Why?

Yes. It is so mush more entertaining than I expected. A first hand account of history, yes, but also just a really good book. I will listen to it over and over again because it's so chuck full of information presented in a down to earth manner.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

When I realized what a talented author Grant was. The book isn't dry as one might expect from a military man.

Have you listened to any of Robin Field’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me appreciate how lucky this country is to have had Grant lead the troops in the Civil War. The book isn't dry because of Grant's self deprecating humor. He made me laugh throughout the book.

Any additional comments?

Highly recommend it!

4 people found this helpful

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  • djayarchivist
  • 02-12-12

Wonderful telling of a fabulous story

What did you love best about Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

The writing and reading went together seamlessly. It felt as if I was listening to Grant tell his own story.

Have you listened to any of Robin Field’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't listened to other performances by Field, but I will be!

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

With a story as grand and terrible as that of a civil war it's hard to choose one moment. Grant's dismay at the loss of life at Cold Harbor is particularly poignant as he recognized its futility and his responsibility for it.

Any additional comments?

To get the full picture of Grant's story, be sure to listen to the Appendix. These official reports offer insight into his decision making process that is sometimes missing from the narrative in the Memoirs proper.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Bill Staley
  • 10-10-17

For anyone interested in American history

Laura Ingalls could have written his early life. He sounds like Mark Twain's more serious cousin, with the searing honesty turned up and the cleverness dialed down, but keeping the irrepressible dry humor. The subordinates who let him down are lightly roasted. His frustration with his superiors in Washington DC is evident, as is his respect for Lincoln. The troop movements are a bit dense in an audiobook, but not terrible. Access to a book of Civil War maps will be helpful. Mostly what comes through is how he thought through what his opponent might do and made his own countermoves accordingly. Unfortunately, it does not extend very far after the Civil War. Although we know in advance how and where the war ended, the book is surprisingly suspenseful.

His thoughts about Robert E. Lee are one of the joys of the book. General Lee is always in the narrative. Grant comments with frustration on how the Northern press adored Lee.
Then he corresponds with Lee. Finally, he meets Lee face to face. As a writer, Grant rises to the momentous occasion.

Robin Field is the perfect narrator. I forgot that there was a narrator. His laconic, midwestern, understated style is perfect. At first it seems like he might be too low key, but he's not. His inflections are varied and perfect. He never, ever sounds like he is thinking about something else. I checked other versions of the Memoirs. I do no understand why anyone would want to listen to someone with a British accent reading Grant's Memoirs.

The story of how the Memoirs were written and the involvement of Samuel Clemens in its publication is fascinating, as is the possibility of Mr. Clemens applying a light edit to make his friend's do-or-die book more marketable. Just a thought.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Shopper (Houston)
  • 06-01-16

Great Memoir from a Great Man!

My husband and I listened to this memoir together with great interest. Grants's writing is easy to understand. Having maps of areas he was referring to would have been helpful but not necessary. This memoir begins with Grant's early life, covers his military service in the American-Mexican War, then continues on into his distinguished service in the Civil War. It does not cover his terms as U.S. President. The more I listened to this memoir the more my respect for this great man grew. Grant was given a job to do, that is to defeat the confederacy, and he did it in much less time than previous generals who occupied his position prior to him.

The narration of this book by Robin Field was excellent. I highly recommend this book.

3 people found this helpful