Lee and Grant
William Rasmussen & Robert Tilton,
Review by: Greg Bayne
Hardcover: 360 pages: Publisher: Giles Publishing (Feb 2008) Commissioned by the Virginia Historical Society. ISBN-10: 1904832369
When I was sent this review copy, I thought, "Here we go, another Grant versus Lee book". I soon found that I was very wide of the mark with that comment. Both Rasmussen and Tilton are popular historical writers and have produced a tour de force. In this book they look to reappraise the story of these two remarkable men. They use the word "Reinventing" in the introduction. To the wider public this may be an important phrase to attract them to buy it, but to me, and I am sure many CW enthusiasts will agree, both Grant and Lee are not in need of any reinvention.
This book does not cover the day to day minutia of Civil War campaigning. The Civil War section only covers 56 pages, and I was disappointed with the lack of detail, but clearly the scope of this book is not to tell that particular story. Many authors have covered that. This book sets out the story of two men and how their lives were affected through their birth, their childhood, their entry into the service of their country, their Civil War years and finally their post war careers. Their stories weave in and out, never meeting, but remaining in context and time with each other. We see Lee the son of Virginia aristocracy where honour meant everything. In contrast Grant is born of the working class and toils on his fathers' farm, wondering where his next meal is coming from.
The Mexican War helped mould these men. Similar experiences in the field but different lessons. Upon its end Lee continued with the service and Grant got out.
I approached this book on a "tell me something I did not know" basis. I know great deal about Lee and quite a lot about Grant.
This book told me many things that I did not know amongst them that Lee's image was used in a 1942 Navy recruiting poster and it told me great deal about Grant and his Presidency years. It is also lavishly illustrated with some familiar images but also with some very rare photos.
This book arrived with a heavy reassuring thud. It will sit comfortably on my coffee table for quite a while. Two great men with great stories behind them.