The first volume of Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs begins with the author's formative years and his military service, continuing until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War.
In Volume I, we learn of Grant's early life and education, his entry into the West Point military academy, and what influenced his views on life and the situation of the United States as a nation. General Grant's gradual rise from his original posting as second lieutenant is charted through the various conflicts and skirmishes he was involved in.
Various battles such as Monterrey, and sieges such as Vera Cruz, are recounted in this volume, with Mexico's actions and abilities as an enemy much detailed. Grant is keen to narrate the experience from his perspective as a junior officer, bringing perspective of both the strategic planning and the tactical maneuvers such conflicts entailed together with the morale of the rank and file ahead of each skirmish.
We also hear of Grant's resignation in 1854, and how issues over supporting his family financially and emotionally played their part. His return to the Army, as tensions rose following the election of the anti-slavery President Abraham Lincoln, is thereafter related along with the activities of the U.S. Army as war crept closer and was declared by the secessionist states of the Confederacy.
The later chapters of Volume I mention Grant's injury and participation in battles such as Shiloh, and his famous advance upon Chattanooga. Ulysses S. Grant demonstrated courage and ability in the face of an enemy more dogged and skilled than he had ever faced before; through levelheaded aptitude, he steadily rose through the command structure.
Declining to glorify war, Grant writes meditatively on the loss of life and destruction he beheld in his military roles. To a large extent this autobiography corroborates accounts by Grant's associates that he was a methodical and moral person, able in his work and convinced of the righteous abolition of slavery.
Chiefly, accounts of battle as it was in the nineteenth century characterize this memoir. First and foremost, Ulysses S. Grant was a military man with an intense interest in strategical movements and battle tactics. However, he also frequently recalls the personalities and views of his friends, colleagues and enemies in a manner which enlivens the book's tone. Furthermore, we gain an impression of Grant as a family man, with a profound devotion to his wife and children.
Together with U.S. Grant's own recollections, which are detailed and comprehensive, we find in this edition appendices in the form of original correspondences sent and received regarding the Union and Confederate forces. At the time he authored his memoirs in the mid-1880s, Grant was determined in spite of illness to add to the burgeoning historical narrative as a reliable source. With this autobiography, it is indisputable that he achieves this goal.