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Thursday, April 27, 2006

More About the 18th President: U.S. Grant

April 27th is the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant, soldier and 18th president of the United States. From Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac:
Grant's book did not appear in bookstores, but was sold by subscription, and it was Mark Twain's idea to send out former Union soldiers, in uniform, to sell the subscriptions door to door across the country. The book eventually sold more than 300,000 copies. It provided Grant's family with $450,000 in royalties, the largest amount of royalties that had ever been paid out for a book at that point in history.Critics and writers of the time were shocked at how well Grant wrote. His book Personal Memoirs (1885) is one of the few books ever written by an American president that qualifies as great literature. Among the most famous passages in the book is Grant's description of Robert E. Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Court House.
Grant wrote,
"What General Lee's feelings were I do not know ... [but] my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause (slavery) was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse."


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