President Lincoln’s brilliant decision to elevate Ulysses S. Grant to General in Chief of the Union Army following Grant’s victory at Vicksburg on July 3, 1863 was further justified by the success of Grants first assignment following his promotion in the battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Jeff Shaara in his new historical novel The Smoke at Dawn , the third in his Civil War Trilogy, places Grant in the Cumberland following the Confederate defeat of General Rosecrans by Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Chickamauga Creek. Grant immediately demoted Rosecrans and replaces him with General George Thomas and brings in Sherman’ s army for support. The Union army has been under siege in Chattanooga and Grant orders the siege broken at whatever the cost. Bragg, sinking in his own bombast and his repeated failure to lead , is on the verge of converting a great Confederate victory into a bitter defeat. As Sherman rides to the rescue of General Thomas and the Union Army, he makes a rare mistake by misreading the geography, giving Bragg one last chance of grasping victory from the jaws of defeat.
There is plenty of drama as Shaara tells the story of this epic battle with the versatile vehicle of historical fiction that , following in his fathers footsteps , is his trademark. Shaara is the son of Pulitzer Prize winning Michael Shaara, author of The Killer Angles.
The two previous novels in the trilogy are A Blaze of Glory , the battle Shiloh and A Chain of Thunder, the Siege of Vicksburg. Search gordonsgoodreads.com reads for other Jeff Shaara historical novels based upon the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II.
It would have been easy to wrap up my President’s week blog with a most deserving biography, Truman by David McCullough. Few could question that salute. However, Jean Edward Smith author of GRANT will get the honor of closing out President’s Week. Smith’s work is a remarkable eye opener and a re-evaluation of General in Chief Grant and President Grant.
Lovers of history understand that time often serves former presidents better than the present. Then again, history is not a science but rather observations of mortals. Smith’s full-scale biography of Grant sheds tremendous perspective regarding his accomplishments on the battlefield and as the first two term president since Andrew Jackson. The detailed study of Grant’s childhood and early life provide the framework for this great piece of historical writing.
I must admit that before tackling Grant I had somewhat of a dim view of his presidency based in great part upon popular conceptions. What Jean Edward Smith accomplished so well in this biography was to reconcile many of these popular views with the facts. As just one example, few would remember that following the disastrous Andrew Johnson term after Lincoln’s assassination, Grant did more to help Reconstruction than anyone and the same was true for his efforts to enforce constitutional freedoms to the newly freed slaves as American Citizens. In retrospect, Grant’s accomplishments as president are outlined as remarkable as his on the battlefield!
If you love American History, you will do yourself a great favor by heading for the library or Amazon. Not only is GRANT the story of his presidency but it is a battle by battle description of Grant’s skilful leadership during the Civil War. Jean Edward Smith is a scholar and you will come away from his book with a scholarly view of Grant at this important time and place in American History.