This year, I’ve made and effort to read books outside of my typical genre. In other words, I’m reading more biographies, non-fiction, and fiction books. I also began listening to audio books via Audible. I’m still not sure if I count listening to an audio book as “reading a book”, but I think I’m in the minority on that one. So for now, listening to a book counts as reading a book.

With two young kids and a busy schedule, finding time to read for fun is challenging, but necessary. After each book, I plan to write three things I learned from the book; specifically after reading a non-fiction book. I’m doing this for two reasons: to continue my efforts in becoming a better writer and to record specific things that I gleaned from the book, some of which may be used in future sermon illustrations.

The first book in this series is Grant by Ron Chernow. This was the first audio book I listened to via my Audible subscription. It’s a pretty big book and took roughly 48 hours to listen to the entire thing. The book is a historical account of Ulysses S. Grant, Northern Army General in the Civil War and 18th President of the United States. Here’s three things I learned about the man who is portrayed on the American $50 bill.

1. Identity Issues.

Ulysses struggled early on with his identity. The successful general and president fought early on in his life to figure out “who he was”. He struggled with alcoholism and as a result, was discharged from the military. This led him into a deep time of depression and poverty. He tried his hand at different occupations, but nothing ever suited him, that is, until he reenlisted at the forefront of the Civil War, eventually promoting to the highest position in the Northern States Military.

Grant’s identity issues stem all the way back to when he was a child. He was born “Hiram Ulysses Grant”, giving him the unfortunate initials of H.U.G., a favorite monicker used by the boys on the play ground in reference to Grant. Things changed when he entered West Point when a congressional referral incorrectly wrote Ulysses S. Grant on the application. Grant stuck with the name which eventually led to nicknames as “U.S. Grant”, “Unconditional Surrender Grant”, and “Uncle Sam Grant”.

2. The Presidential Years.

Grants years as president were viewed unfavorably, mainly because from a business standpoint, Grant was often fooled by con men. Recent history now highly favors Grant’s presidency because of the incredible challenge of reuniting a divided nation. Interesting, during this era, presidents didn’t campaign or even decided to enter the race; they were chosen by their peers. Grant had no interest in being a politician, yet the people elected him. He is credited from keeping the country from reentering another Civil War by being gracious and considering to the men and leaders of the Confederate Army. He never considered having them  killed for treason, but instead saw an opportunity for reconciliation.

3. Grant’s Fight Against Slavery.

Grant was a strong proponent of the anti-slavery movement, which was an unpopular opinion where he grew up. His father-in-law considered killing him due to his stance on slavery. As General and President, he often employed former slaves and aided in their efforts to move up in society. On his death bed, he wrote a letter of recommendation for his butler, Harrison Terrell, a man who was born into slavery so he could take a job as a War Department messenger.

Here is an excerpt from the book which displays Grant’s hatred of racism and slavery. “Terrell’s son Robert had just graduated cum laude from Harvard. While he was there, Grant had provided him with a beautiful letter to obtain summer work in the Boston Custom House: ‘My special interest in him is from the fact that his father – a most estimable man – is my butler, beside I should feel an interest in any young man, white or colored, who had the courage and ability to graduate himself at Harvard without other pecuniary aid than what he could earn’.

Robert Terrell was to become friend Booker T. Washington and become the first black municipal judge in Washington.”

Grant also was highly involved in fighting the Klu Klux Klan and their evil. He appointed men to go after them at prosecute their crimes. His hatred for racism and slavery was on display in his personal life and in his politics. It was even a concern of his moments before he passed away.

I highly recommend this incredible book. I found every aspect of Grant’s life fascinating. there’s much more to be said, but I’ll leave it to you to grab a copy of this book and read – or listen to it.