This multi-hour biography of Ulysses S. Grant paints a portrait of one of America's most paradoxical leaders. The greatest hero of the Civil War, Grant was a brilliant military strategist who rose from obscurity to a rank ... more »held previously only by George Washington. Propelled into the White House by his battlefield success, Grant lacked the political skills to deal with the issues of the era: reconstructing the South and managing the nation's rapidly expanding economy. Seven years after leaving office, Grant was financially ruined by the collapse of an investment house in which he had placed his assets.« less
Charles Ashbacher | Marion, Iowa United States(email@example.com) | 09/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always been ambivalent about Ulysses S. Grant, both as a General and as a President. His record as a General was one of success, but at the expense of an enormous amount of blood. His administration was rocked with scandals, so severe that had they happened in modern times, it is unlikely that he would have survived as President. Yet, his greatest failing was also his greatest strength. He was a man of utmost character and principle, and he found it difficult to understand that other people did not share those traits. Lacking this sense of cynicism towards others, it was impossible for him to anticipate the unsavory actions of his nonmilitary associates. This is all the more unusual, because he never had any difficulty discerning the deceptive practices of his battlefield opponents.
This tape has forced me to rethink my opinion of Grant the General. His record of successive victories is largely unmatched in American military history, and his conquest of Vicksburg was one of the most well-planned military operations in the history of the world. He also was a great strategic thinker, understanding that the fall of Vicksburg doomed the Confederacy. Until I viewed this tape, I had no appreciation for Grant as an original military thinker. After seeing the descriptions of how he carried out many of his campaigns, it is clear that he was a great military commander and the person most responsible for the Union victory.
My opinion of his presidency has also been rather low, but this tape has forced a serious upward revision. He faced enormous problems, the intransigent elements in the South refused to accept anything but apartheid, and if Grant made a mistake, it was in realizing that military defeat did not change the attitudes in the South. He just could not comprehend the deep hatred for blacks that was a fundamental part of the psyche of so many southern whites.
This tape also reminds us that the United States citizenry has experienced terrorism in the past. The white supremacist groups that arose after the Civil war terrorized blacks and white sympathizers for almost a century. People were brutally killed, homes burned and bombed so that black people were forced to accept a denial of their rights as citizens. Grant did all he could to help the freed slaves, but the country had no stomach for any additional federal action and most people just wanted the whole problem to go away. Ironically, the one solution that may have worked was for the U.S. to annex the Dominican Republic and turn it into a state that black people could migrate to. Grant proposed the plan to congress, but few were willing to accept a black run state on equal terms with all others.
This tape is one of the best in the biography series produced for PBS. Grant is truly an American hero, and like so many, was humble in his enormous success. If he had not been there to save the union, it is doubtful that Lincoln could have done it. I enjoyed this tape so much, I watched it twice just to see if I had missed anything the first time."
Doesn't capture Grant's essence, but intriguing
Candace Scott | Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA | 12/25/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Ulysses S. Grant was an extremely difficult man to get to know. He was shy, taciturn and not in the habit of revealing his feelings to many outsiders. It's always been difficult for historians and film makers to accurately portray the man and most often, they have failed in their interpretations. Though the American Experience PBS project is at the apex of historical biography, this one on Grant falls a bit wide of the mark.Problems abound from the get go: the production is uneven, occasionally plodding and doesn't reveal much of Grant as a human being. Though they take pains to introduce his parents, siblings and give a thorough overview of his childhood, there is something intangible missing. Though he was retiring, Grant was still a vibrantly alive man. He had fierce appetites and had a desire to be somebody. None of this is really explored in the film and it results in massive frustration for the discerning viewer. The interviews with historians are uneven. Unfortunately, the producers elected to have Geoffrey Perret air his opinions on Grant, none of which are historically valid or interesting. Brooks Simpson and John Simon fare much better, and their views are entertaining and reliable.Much of the documentary focuses on Grant's Presidency, which is a curious facet of the film. The revisionist aspect of the show reveals USG to have been a much better President than he's given credit for, but the content again induces more questions than it answers.Grant was a fascinating man with rare depths of emotion and feeling. He's worth getting to know, even though the journey is sometimes a complex experience. That description would sum up this futile attempt to shine a light on the psyche of this remarkable man. Though the film has definite merit, it simply doesn't begin to showcase what an incredible man Grant was. The definitive film of Grant has yet to be made."
The Grant You Never Knew
TrappedInTexas | TX | 09/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After watching numerous DVDs about the Civil War, I became intrigued about Hiram Ulysses Grant. This DVD filled in a lot of gaps and I learned some interesting things about him. In 1821, the American Colonization Society was formed to return blacks to Africa (thus the colony of Liberia). Lincoln gave this concept consideration. What I learned in the DVD was that in his presidency, Grant pushed for the annexation of Hispaniola, not to relocate blacks (and get rid of them), but to give them the option to leave, thus impressing upon white southerners the importance of black people in their labor force and encouraging them to pay better wages and treat their employees better so that they wouldn't relocate to the Caribbean instead. He tried, unsuccessfully, twice to push this through. His efforts to ensure that black Americans were treated fairly (prosecuting KKK members in South Carolina) caused him a lot of grief and contributed to his failed presidency.
His name doesn't ever pop up in discussions of great presidents, and he doesn't seem to be appreciated as an American very much either, or not as much as I think he should.
Buy the video, see what you think."
Frustrating PBS DVD "Ulysses S. Grant"
Robert Paul Goodrich | Southbury, Connecticut USA | 11/06/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The content of this DVD is to be praised. However, one is always forced to watch the full PBS introductions and all the credits and advertisements of both parts before one is able to manually choose to move through the sections. This is very frustrating and totally unlike any other DVD I have watched. In addition, the printed 15 to 34 numbering sequence shown for Part Two is, in fact, 1 to 20 in the DVD. There is great annoyance until one learns how this DVD may be played. Question: Is this standard for PBS?"
The most popular American of the 19th century
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As I watched this PBS Home Video of "Ulysses S. Grant: Warrior President," I was very conscious of how this documentary compared with the celebrated Ken Burns documentary on "The Civil War." First, I was very much aware of the stylistic differences between the two, especially in terms of Michael Whalen's music, which tended to remind me of the background music I often hear on computer games. I make a point of watching "The Civil War" once a year, so I plead guilty to thinking that is the way any and all documentaries dealing with that topic should sound and look. Second, I came to the conclusion that the strongest part of this documentary was the second half, focusing on Grant "The President." Written, produced, and directed by Elizabeth Deane, the second videotape has the advantage of going well beyond the end of the Civil War and therefore constantly providing us "new" information. The first half, done by Adriana Bosch, bears the burden of covering most of the same ground Burns did tracking Grant's military career as "The Warrior." Certainly I learned more about Grant's accomplishments as President than I had ever heard before, since the history textbooks tend to focus on the scandals that plagued his administration rather than his attempts to bridge the animosity between North and South that continued for years after the Civil War ended. Ultimately, I was struck by two central ideas behind this documentary. The first was that Grant was the most popular American figure of the 19th century. This is one of those ideas that seem obvious once you consider it; after all, Lincoln was not beloved until he was dead and buried. But I would have named Andrew Jackson as deserving that honor, forgetting for a moment how much he was hated in certain quarters. The second idea offered up confirms the first, and that is the argument that the death watch for Grant, as he was dying of throat cancer and struggling to finish writing his memoirs so his family would be taken care of after he was gone, was responsible for bridging the sectional differences between North and South. This might be a romanticized assessment of the situation, but by the end of this documentary there is a desire for Grant's legacy to be more than the best selling memoirs of the 19th century. "Warrior President" justifies this conclusion by focusing throughout on how Grant was an honorable man, a reasonable man in unreasonable times as we are told several times, who tried to provide equality for African Americans. Grant always admitted to his errors, both on the battlefield and in the White House, and along with the way he handled Lee's surrender, would be the most compelling evidence of the man's personal honor. Furthermore, the documentary does not gloss over the man's many failings. However, there is a concerted effort to look at both his generalmanship on the battlefield and his memoirs as clear evidence of a superior mind.Finally, I am struck by the idea that if it were not for Grant's memoirs we would have little basis for insights into what the man was ever thinking. "Ulysses S. Grant: Warrior President" offers a nice combination of biographical detail with critical insights from a variety of talking heads. Grant is one of those historical figures whose reputation will always be in a state of flux depending upon what emphasis you place on various aspects of his life. This documentary does not compel a particular conclusion, since the case it advances is be no means dogmatic, but it does offer up a series of perspectives for viewers to consider in reassessing the man."