Brooks D. Simpson
Ulysses S. Grant once remarked that he had never intended to be a general, a president, or a writer--but he became all three. He embarked upon the third of these careers after he had proven a miserable and gullible failure at something he had so dearly wanted to become--a businessman. In the wake of the collapse of Grant and Ward, a Wall Street brokerage firm managed by his son and two unscrupulous swindlers, Grant found himself destitute. Only then did he reconsider his earlier refusal to contribute several articles on his campaigns to the Century, a monthly magazine that was embarking upon a project to publish recollections about the Civil War composed by that conflict's leading surviving figures. His first effort, a rather short and lifeless description of the battle of Shiloh, proved so unsatisfactory that Robert U. Johnson, coeditor of the series, visited the general and coaxed him into understanding that what seemed incidental to him was of great interest to the reader who wanted to know Grant's own experiences and thoughts. Grant accepted the advice and soon discovered that he actually liked writing. Encouraged by the articles, Johnson suggested that Grant compose his own account of his military career: the evermodest general asked, "Do you really think any one would be interested in a book by me?"1
If Grant's impoverished finances led him to write about the war, shocking news about his health made it a necessity. As he bit into a peach one summer day in 1884, he complained of great pain; however, it was not until the fall that he sought medical advice. It did not take long to discover that Grant had throat cancer. In a race against death, he began to write. Determined to prevent the general from making another business mistake--and doubtless with an eye to his own prosperity--Samuel L. Clemens, known to all as Mark Twain, became Grant's publisher.
The resulting work was the product of Grant's pen. Those skeptical