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Misread Ulysses?

“No great American has suffered more cruelly and undeservedly at the hands of historians than Ulysses S. Grant. The dominating influence of pro-Southern historians early in the twentieth century—an influence that tainted scholarship on the Civil War for decades—helps to explain Grant’s abysmal reputation. But it does not explain Grant’s fate in full, nor why the vilification of the man has continued into our own time. Grant is caricatured both as a drunken military brute and the heavy, venal presidential overseer of what Mark Twain, in the satiric novel he wrote with Charles Dudley Warner, called the Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. In fact, Grant’s presidency, far more than his generalship, has been the chief reason why condemnation of him has proved so enduring and so nearly universal. And therein lies a paradox—for Twain, who named the age, was also one of Grant’s closest friends in his later life, the man who arranged for the publication of Grant’s Personal Memoirs, a genuinely great book, and whose admiration for Grant led to the general’s initials appearing in the dedication of Huckleberry Finn. By the lights of the received wisdom, the combination makes no sense. Yet Twain is still remembered as Twain, whereas Grant is remembered as the sort of figure Twain should have ridiculed.”
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