Jean Smith and Grant (cont.)

I received this message from a reader last week and it speaks for itself.
Your posts about Jean Edward Smith's Grant biography greatly amused me. Aside from the plagiarism issue, I strongly suspect Smith really knows nothing at all about Grant, period. It is my belief that all the book's research, and possibly a good deal of the writing, was done by anonymous assistants. I came to this conclusion from an e-mail exchange I recently had with him.

One of the illustrations in his Grant bio is a drawing that the caption states was done by USG at Monterey, during the Mexican War. I was a bit puzzled by this, as I had never seen this drawing before, and I had never heard that Grant continued to create artwork after he left his drawing classes at West Point. The book's photo credits said the drawing was in the "Ulysses S. Grant Papers," without specifying where this particular set of "papers" is located. I wrote to the Library of Congress, where the bulk of Grant's papers are kept, asking them about this drawing. They replied that they did not have it, and suggested that I ask John Simon about the drawing's provenance. I did so, and got back a very nice reply from him saying that he did not believe Grant produced any artwork in Mexico, he had never seen that particular picture before, and would very much like to know where Smith got his information! Dr. Simon gave me Smith's address, so I (feeling a bit like Captain Ahab in search of the whale, at this point,) wrote to the author himself, hoping for an end to this mystery.

Nope. Smith replied that he couldn't remember where he found this drawing or where he got the idea that Grant drew it in Mexico, but he said that he thought it could be found in Volume One of the published Grant papers. (This, after I mentioned in my letter to him that John Simon, editor of the Grant papers, had no idea where the picture came from.) Smith said he would check his Grant material and tell me what his sources were regarding this enigmatic picture. Well, that was nearly three months ago, and I have yet to hear back from him. I'm not sure if he forgot to send me the information--or if he simply had no information to send! Either way, I definitely got the impression that in the back of his mind he was thinking, "Ulysses who?"

If this is typical of professional historians nowadays, I say bring on the amateurs.
More on Smith and Grant later this week.