I greatly admire Ulysses S. Grant. Why? A first-hand observer of Grant answers that question much more eloquently than I can. Theodore Lyman served as an aide to Major-General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac. Grant was in the field with the Army from 1864 until the end of the war. Lyman saw Grant nearly every day during that period. In a June 12, 1864, letter to his wife, Lyman wrote of Grant: "He is the concentration of all that is American." (George Agassiz (editor), Meade's Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from The Wilderness to Appomattox (1922), page 156.)
T. Harry Williams writes:
Grant's life is, in some ways, the most remarkable one in American history. There is no other quite like it.
. . .
People were always looking for visible signs of greatness in Grant. Most of them saw none and were disappointed. . . . Charles Francis Adams, Jr., grasped immediately the essence of Grant -- that here was an extraordinary man who looked ordinary. Grant could pass for a "dumpy and slouchy little subaltern," Adams thought, but nobody could watch him without concluding that he was a "remarkable man. . . . in a crisis he is one against whom all around, whether few in number or a great army as here, would instinctively lean. He is a man of the most exquisite judgment and tact."
T. Harry Williams, McClellan, Sherman and Grant (1962), pages 79-83.
As he was dying of cancer, Grant -- in a final act of fortitude and integrity -- wrote his memoirs in order to pay off his debts and to provide for the financial security of his family. He completed the memoirs less than a week before his death.
Grant begins: "My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral."