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Excerpt from The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Last Full Measure

by Jeff Shaara

The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara X
The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1998, 560 pages

    May 1999, 560 pages


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He returns home with a strong sense of despair for the condition of the Mexican peasantry, which he sees as victims of both the war and their own ruling class. It is an experience that helps strengthen his own feelings about the abominable inhumanity of slavery.

Returning to St. Louis, Grant receives reluctant consent to marry Julia, and eventually they have four children. He receives a pleasant assignment to Detroit, but in 1852 he is ordered to the coast of California, an expensive and hazardous post, and so he must leave his family behind. The following two years are the worst in his life, and despite a brief and enjoyable tour at Fort Vancouver, he succumbs both to the outrageous temptations of gold-rush San Francisco and the desperate loneliness of life without his young family. Shy and withdrawn, he does not enjoy the raucous social circles of many of his friends, and the painful isolation leads him to a dependency on alcohol. His bouts of drunkenness are severe enough to interfere with his duty, and his behavior warrants disciplinary action. Because of the generosity of his commanding officer, Grant is afforded the opportunity to resign rather than face a court-martial. He leaves the army in May 1854 and believes his career in the military is at a painful conclusion.

He returns to his family unemployed and penniless, and attempts to farm a piece of land given him by Julia's father. With no money to provide the beginnings of a crop, Grant attempts the lumber business, cutting trees from the land himself. He eventually builds his own house, which he calls, appropriately, "Hardscrabble."

He is generous to a fault, often loaning money to those who will never repay the debts, and despite a constant struggle financially, he is always willing to help anyone who confronts him in need.

In 1859 he is offered a position as a collection agent for a real estate firm in St. Louis, and trades the small farm for a modest home in the city, but the business is not profitable. Though he is qualified for positions that become available in the local government, the political turmoil that spreads through the Midwest requires great skill at intrigue and political connections, and Grant has neither. He finally accepts an offer from his own father, moves to Galena, Illinois, in 1860, and clerks in a leather and tanned goods store with his brothers, who understand that Grant's military experience and West Point training in mathematics will make for both a trustworthy and useful employee. But the politics of the day begin to affect even those who try to avoid the great discussions and town meetings, and Grant meets John Rawlins and Elihu Washburne, whose political influence begins to pave the way for an opportunity Grant would never have sought on his own.

As the presidential election draws closer, Grant awakens to the political passions around him, involves himself with the issues andthe candidates, and finally decides to support the candidate Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln is elected, Grant tells his friend John Rawlins that with passions igniting around the country, "the South will fight."

Persuaded by Washburne, Grant organizes a regiment of troops from Galena and petitions the governor of Illinois for a Colonel's commission, which he receives. After seven years of struggle as a civilian, Grant reenters the army.

Serving first under Henry Halleck, he eventually commands troops through fights on the Mississippi River at Forts Henry and Donelson, each fight growing in importance as the war spreads. Promoted eventually to Major General, Grant is named commander of the Federal Army of Tennessee, but still must endure Halleck's fragile ego and disagreeable hostility. On the Tennessee River at a place called Shiloh, facing a powerful enemy under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston, Grant wins one of the bloodiest fights of the war, in which Johnston himself is killed. Here, Grant's command includes an old acquaintance from his days in California, William Tecumseh Sherman.

Copyright© 1998 by Jeffrey M. Shaara. All Rights Reserved.

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