In the wake of a scandal-ridden presidency and sick with cancer, Ulysses S. Grant took up the pen at the urging of his friend and editor Mark Twain, and set down his self-effacing Personal Memoirs. The result is one of the finest--and most closely studied--first-person accounts of warfare ever written.
As commander of federal forces in the west, and later of the entire Union army, Grant oversaw some of the bloodiest actions of the war, among them the battles and sieges of Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Richmond. In his recollections of these fights, Grant praises his officers and men, who, he writes, "knew what they were fighting for." Quick, as well, to praise the gallantry of the enemy, Grant insists that the Civil War was fought not over states' rights, but over slavery, pure and simple, and he reckons that, considering postwar political and economic progress, "It is probably well that we had the war when we did."
To this abridged version--which would have benefited greatly from the addition of explanatory notes and a more useful introduction--historian Thomas Fleming adds an essay on the role of West Pointers on both sides of the conflict. Students of military history will find that essay worthy, and Grant's memoirs essential. --Gregory McNamee [via]