Historian and journalist Ron Chernow, who is best known for a biography of Alexander Hamilton that was made into a widely successful Broadway musical, followed up in 2017 with a widely-acclaimed biography of Civil War General and President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1977). The book challenged conventional wisdom about Grant and the Civil War, that he was an incompetent drunkard whose administration was mired in scandal and nepotism. “This man has suffered from more misleading stereotypes than perhaps any other leading figure in American history,” Chernow told the PBS News Hour. The scandals and nepotism were a minor part of his administration. “Far from being a brutal and clumsy general, he was a strategic mastermind of the war.” He was an extremely sophisticated military strategist who had a detailed plan for ending the war. He worked hard to protect newly freed slaves and to expand the right to vote. Grant repeatedly sent federal troops into the South to rein in the KKK, which was terrorizing African Americans, and finally brought 3,000 indictments against the Klan to crush them.
He rose from an impoverished clerk in a leather goods store to command one million men by the end of the war. His opponents excoriated him as a drunkard. He was indeed an alcoholic — it was something he struggled with his entire life. He joined a temperance lodge in his 20s, and it was a problem he finally conquered by the end of his life.