Good books have a wonderful way of sparking our interest in people we’ve known of but never really known. I’ve lived in New York near Grant’s Tomb and now live in St. Louis near Grant’s Farm. I knew Grant was the general most responsible for winning the Civil War and later President–though for me he was always obscured by the shadow of Lincoln.

Then along came Jean Edward Smith’s remarkable biography. After reading it, I am now–in spite of his habit of smoking cigars–an enthusiastic fan of Ulysses S. Grant. I actually enjoyed reading the war accounts, in which Grant’s brilliance and resourcefulness eclipsed even the appalling casualties. And I was delighted to learn that he shared my abhorrence of war, telling Bismarck, “I never went into the army without regret and never retired without pleasure.” During his presidency, he did everything in his power to keep the peace and held to his principles under intense political pressure. Yes, thanks to Smith, Grant is now among my heroes.