Friday, March 7, 2014

Travelogue: Civil War Re-Enactment, Part 6

Grant's Press Conference

Event: Civil War Re-Enactment
Date: Sunday, February 16, 2014
Location: Calico Ghost Town

On the main street stage, General U.S. Grant is having technical difficulties.  The same electronic equipment that gives him access to the microphone also plays soft but distracting frontier music.  Eventually, Grant just shuts it off, to the applause of the audience.

Grant on Stage

"I never did care for music," he says.  "The military band wanted to know my favorite song, so they could play it during dinner.  I told them I have two.  One's 'Yankee Doodle.'  And the other one isn't."

Grant is wearing a black coat with shiny buttons on it.  It's a civilian frock with the military insignia's sewn on--a duster, like he saw Zachary Taylor wear.  He's got a cigar in his hand; after being asked a question, he puts it to his mouth, pausing for reply.  A man in the audience asks why he smokes cigars.  Grant answers in this day and age everyone smokes.

  But he's very ardent that doesn't drink.  Not at this time, toward the end of the Civil War. (Though drinking did cause him disgrace earier in his military career.)  Someone in the audience starts to press him on this matter.  Here the impersonator breaks character and says that as a former Marine and someone who followed Grant since he was 8, he's convinced that General Grant could not have run a successful military campaign if he were drunk.

There are many other stories.  Like the time Grant took his son to a hotel and no one knew who he was until he signed the guest book.  Thereupon everyone made such a fuss that he couldn't eat.  That same night there was a reception for his upcoming promotion, but someone forgot to invite.  Someone whisked him away at the last minute.  The room parted like the red sea when he arrived; they made him stand on a sofa so everyone could see him. Lincoln spoke to Grant afterwards and expressly told him not to give him his military plans, because Lincoln, by his own admittance, was a terrible gossip.

A Terrible Gossip

But my favorite vignette is brief and telling.

The Battle of Shiloh, 1862. The first day of fighting didn't go well.  The Confederate general took Grant by surprise.  The expected reinforcements didn't come in until later that evening.  In the midst of all this chaos, Grant sat under a tree, whittling.

"We lost today," Sherman commented.

"Yep," Grant calmly replied.  "We'll whip 'em tomorrow."

And they did.

* * *

To Be Continued...

Disclaimer: All quotes are approximate.

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