My Uncle, Ulysses .S. Grant, served as the 18th president of the United States of America and the Civil War abolitionist Union general that brought the Civil War to an end and freedom to people enslaved.
This piece of family history was generally known growing up, especially joking about the mere fact during elementary school years with a friend related to President Taft. As kids, we walked with our heads high for a few minutes having some introductory knowledge about our mutual connection to the White House, American history, and presidents.
Neither of us, or at least just me, knew of the historical depth to our relatives.
This year clarified how Grant was my uncle, about 5 previous generations from my mom's side of the family. My uncle in Ohio reminded me of the generational links beyond what we found out several years back regarding the Scottish heritage of the Grant clan in which my parents enjoyed traveling to Scotland for a once in a lifetime vacation trip. They decided to pass on purchasing the kilts knowing 1) their sons would not wear skirts and 2) the skirts were expensive!
Needless to say, it's shocking and humbling to learn an in depth look of Grant through a Christian adult's eyes.
The Grant book by Ron Chernow stood out on an airport store book-stand while prepping for a return flight and picking up snacks in the airport. The large, bulky book finally broke open a couple years later in summer of 2020 -- the year of global craziness.
I normally heard the negatives of Grant regarding alcohol consumption, cigar smoking, and bad business deals. The fun, great facts of Grant were his greatness in the Civil War and becoming a president. The recent years, especially summer of 2020, the American cultural disdain for history, American history, statues, and even Civil War figures (regardless of side, beliefs, actions, or efforts) intersected with time off to read about my uncle Hiram Ulysses Grant (later renamed by accident at West Point as Ulysses S. Grant).
Grant had a love of people and horses which seem to flow through our family generationally. My childhood years were marked with my dad watching westerns (e.g. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Wyatt Earp) and trying to keep our three horses (quarter and appaloosa) before needing to sell them to financially survive church ministry since equestrian costs rose and pastoral ministry strained. Later my college years would have an unexpected turn from my athletic baseball career to pursue pastoring which led to finding work in equestrian therapy for two years. I assisted in helping kids with disabilities and special needs through the use of horses -- hence the 5th Mr. Nate Children's Book, Heroes on Horses: Our bumpy ride around the world!
Ron Chernow clearly brought attention to Grant's love of people and horses. Chernow brought a different, dissected, and deeper perspective to Grant. Chernow immediately summarizes Grant's life generationally in describing his family heritage of abolitionists. The twist lies in Grant's relationship to Julia, his wife, and her family of slave-owners. Though confusing, Chernow makes clear from wide-biographical research that Grant never succumbed but rather fought against slavery.
Grant's life is filled with twist and turns, highs and lows, great loss and great gains, and horror and heroism.
Grant serves two presidential terms and later dies from throat cancer because of his throat drying out heavily smoking cigars (est. 20 daily) during his time in the Civil War. Grant finishes his memoirs days before his death in order to ensure Julia was financially sustained after an awful business deal that drained them in the last years of their life. Mark Twain signs Grant's book business deal in order to increase the author profit margins acknowledging the situation as a friend. 300,000 memoirs of Grant sold after his death and provided Julia a substantial help.
His legacy lives on, whether someone attempts to destroy his Civil War statue in San Francisco, CA. It lives on in family, inspirational impact on future generations, and the freedom of millions.
The Complete Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant nows sits on my "To Read" bookshelf suggested beyond Chernow's inspiring memoir quotations by my uncle (my dad's brother) who loves reading and reading about the Civil War.
Our generation could learn so much from Grant about a divided nation, sustaining character, religious heritage, inspirational fighters for good, how to endure death and loss, intersection of belief and behavior, similarities and differences to our national culture today, motivations and actions to actually care for others, how to not live by people's gossip and slander, how to correct mistakes and endure consequences, and how to leave a long-lasting impact on a nation that provides and leads to freedom.
Life is a fight to live and freedom for others to live is worth fighting.
Biography -- Grant by Ron Chernow: https://amzn.to/2I5Jv5N
Autobiography -- The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: https://amzn.to/358cC0G
History Channel Grant Documentary Mini-Movie Series - 3 Full Episodes. Available on Amazon Prime Video Streaming: https://amzn.to/356v3TG
History Channel Grant Documentary Video Playlist
U.S. Grant Cottage