In 1885, Ulysses S Grant died a hero. Revered in the north for his victories against the Confederacy in the American civil war, he was respected in the south for his generosity towards disbanded rebels, whom he permitted to return home in peace after their commanders’ surrender. Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Grant became the face of the Republican party, and was twice elected president, serving from 1869 to 1877. His administration was mired in financial scandal, but out of office Grant restored his reputation, travelling the world as an unofficial ambassador. At the end of his life, bankrupt after a bad investment and dying in agony of throat cancer, he recaptured people’s imagination, finishing the manuscript of his memoirs just before his death.