312-578-9501 | www.shannonlawgroup.com MARCH 2019
A SALUTE TO PRESIDENT U. S. GRANT Lessons From History, Delivered by Ron Chernow
Ron Chernow is one of my favorite authors. Through his relentless research for first party historical records, Chernow and his team breathe life into history. Don’t believe me? Ask all the people who have seen the musical phenomenon Hamilton, which is based on Chernow’s biography of Hamilton. Chernow makes history cool. He has written other great books as well, like Washington: A Life (a biography of our nation’s first president) and Titan (a biography of John Rockefeller).
young Americans sacrificed their lives. Grant’s victory over the Confederate Army and his gracious meeting with General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865 in Virginia are the background “stuff” every American should know and understand. To me, a significant part of this book is how Grant’s loyal friends and family were vigilant in keeping this very talented individual on the straight and narrow — away from alcohol — so he could focus on his strengths. Grant needed his family during these times, and his wife and friends guided him through it all. The second half of Grant explores his two-term presidency from 1868–76. When I compare the troubles of our time to those of Grant’s time, there is an argument to be made that our country was in a lot worse shape than it is now. During the Civil War and its aftermath, our country was divided more than any other time in our history. 620,000 men died during the Civil War, and the outcome was a giant dumpster fire. Lincoln had been assassinated, and the ill-equipped Andrew Johnson presided over Reconstruction. Grant inherited the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, which terrorized black Americans and sought to keep them from voting. Grant’s greatest triumph of his presidency was his relentless protection of black Americans’ civil rights. He worked tirelessly to crush the Ku Klux Klan. Frederick Douglass called Grant “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.” Through his dedication to his fellow men, Grant saw that, as a nation, we had much more in common than that which divided us. We are created for something great. What we have in common clearly outweighs our differences. When I think of the present problems in our home state of Illinois — namely the lack of respect for human life, huge debts, record crime rates, education problems, and more — I truly believe they can be solved through faith, sacrifice, hard work, and ingenuity. As Americans, we have a track record for solving much bigger problems. Grant and other terrific books by Chernow remind us of that fact.
Each book shares three major themes:
1. We are each created for something great.
2. We need others to help us through our lives.
3. We have much more in common than that which divides us.
Chernow’s latest 900-page work is a biography of Ulysses S. Grant. After reading Chernow’s masterpiece, I have a much broader view of this man and, more importantly, a better perspective of the Civil War. Chernow’s books ( Washington, Hamilton, Titan , and Grant ) explore the greatest parts of each figure’s life, as well as their seamy and not-so-flattering sides. In other words, Chernow reveals their humanity. Grant is a story of struggle, hardship, resilience, redemption, glory, loyalty, and a fall from grace. At the age of 39, Grant had retired from military life and was working for his father’s business in Galena, Illinois. Grant had a lifetime struggle with alcohol, especially when he was away from his family, and at this point in his life, it did not appear that he was created for anything great. That all changed on April 12, 1861 when the Confederate Army shelled Fort Sumter in South Carolina, setting the stage for the Civil War. The book tracks Grant’s rise over a four-year period from a humble shopkeeper, to local army leader, to a general who won battle after battle, and finally to the Commanding General of the Union Army.
Our family’s driving trips from Illinois to Florida will never be the same as we pass the hallowed grounds where thousands of
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