First rate telling of the story of a President and national hero comparatively forgotten in modern America (I know he seemed la minor note in my American history education). The fact is, Grant was more popular than Lincoln in his time, and had a huge effect on America both during and after the war.
Grant was a man full of fascinating contradictions. After a series of terrible failures in civilian life he became a huge success as a General, leading the north to victory in the Civil War after things had looked quite bleak(but only after a couple of reversals of fortune of his own along the way). A fierce, almost heartless warrior, he was also a tender and deeply devoted family man, almost to the point of obsession. A shy man, not given to speeches, who led with a quiet strength and self-discipline, and yet was also, by most accounts a functioning (ad at times barely functioning) alcoholic. The son of an abolitionist, Grant owned slaves himself, and saw slaves as inferior beings, only to be open minded enough to slowly come to embrace their emancipation not only as a military tactic, but as a moral stance. He became a fighter for African-American rights as a General and a President. A physically small man, humble in many ways, who rose to greatness, only to be knocked down (and rise up) repeatedly after the war. A man brilliant enough to be a great leader in war, but naive enough to be taken in by con-men as President.
For me, the first part was the more powerful of the two, perhaps because it covered fewer years, plus the sheer emotional power of the war itself; the overwhelming loss of life, and drama of the struggle make it hard for his later life in politics to pack quite the same punch. But I found all of it highly interesting, and unlike some of the always well made American Experience films, I learned a great deal I didn't know, not only about a seminal American figure, but also about the Civil War and Reconstruction as well.
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