"The crux of the matter is if you consider Reconstruction a disaster then Grant becomes a symbol of that," says historian Eric Foner, whose acclaimed 1988 book "Reconstruction" is one of the defining works on the post-Civil War era. "If you see Reconstruction as I do, and as most historians do, as flawed, but honorable and that it's very unfortunate it didn't succeed, then Grant looks better."
"Slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. It was not the only cause, but it was the underlying cause," said Eric Foner, a Columbia University history professor and a leading expert on the war. "As a historian, I would prefer the president had a better handle on American history."