QUINCY -- Ulysses S. Grant, the renowned Civil War general who went on to become president of the United States, will be the focus of a two-day symposium April 27-28 in Quincy.
More than 130 history buffs have already signed up for the free symposium, which will feature a series of nationally known speakers and an appearance by Larry Werline, an acclaimed Ulysses S. Grant impersonator.
Werline, who dresses as Grant and remains in character throughout his performance, will greet visitors when they arrive for the symposium's registration period from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, April 27, at the History Museum, 332 Maine. He also will give a talk that night at the Kroc Center.
The History Museum will serve as headquarters for the symposium, but several other venues in downtown Quincy also will be used for presentations and historic tours that weekend.
The symposium is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County and the Tri-State Civil War Roundtable.
Beth Young of Quincy, a member of both groups, is the organizer and chairman of the symposium. She said the event is being held at this time because of the confluence of several noteworthy events, including the 200th anniversary of the founding of Illinois and the 150th anniversary of Grant's election to the presidency in November 1868.
In addition, the symposium will begin on April 27, which is Grant's 196th birthday. He was born in southern Ohio in 1822.
Young said the symposium will highlight Grant's connections to Illinois, Missouri and Quincy.
Grant's most notable Quincy tie occurred July 11, 1861, when, as a young Civil War colonel, he led the Union Army's 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment on a mission from Springfield to confront a series of Confederate uprisings in Northeast Missouri.
Grant's troops marched to Naples, camped near Perry and later took a train to Quincy, assembling along the Mississippi River near what is now Clat Adams Bicentennial Park. That afternoon and evening the soldiers were ferried across the river to West Quincy, Mo., where they camped. "By the 13th, they were in Palmyra," Young said.
Tim Jacobs, commander of the Civil War Roundtable, said Northeast Missouri was a hotbed of Civil War skirmishes in the early part of the war -- unlike Illinois, where virtually no fighting took place.
"Grant went into hostile territory from Quincy," Jacobs said.
"They found there was a rebel enclave around Monroe Station, which is now Monroe City. They were sent there to try and quell the rebel uprising. By the time they got there, the rebels had left."
Grant and his troops didn't stay long in Northeast Missouri. After a period of weeks the regiment was directed back to southern Illinois. Then from Cairo, they headed off to Grant's first big military engagement -- the Battle of Belmont in southern Missouri near the border with Kentucky on Nov. 7, 1861.
Grant, who was victorious in that clash, would go on to become a brigadier general and earn a series of major victories over the Confederacy.
"I think Grant is probably the man that ended the Civil War," Jacobs said. "With that, he gets a lot of the accolades."
Grant later won election to two terms as the nation's 18th president. Young, a retired teacher, said Grant is widely credited for improving the conditions for Native Americans and African Americans. He also played a key role in the reconstruction of the South in the years following the Civil War.
Young said at least a dozen new biographies about Grant have been published since 2000, and his stature in the eyes of historians has been steadily rising.
"He's now considered in the top half of American presidents," she said.
Jacobs said there has been "a resurgence in interest in Grant" in recent years, which adds to the timeliness of the symposium.
The Historical Society and the Civil War Roundtable have teamed up to bring in five speakers for the two-day conference. "They're all well known, and they have a really good background in history and in Grant," Jacobs said.
Young said the conference is free thanks to the generosity of many local businesses that are underwriting the costs.
Organizers hope people will pre-register for the event by signing up through the Historical Society's website at hsqac.org or by calling the society 217-222-1835.
In addition to sponsoring the symposium, the two organizations are also involved in an effort to erect a monument in Clat Adams Park recognizing Grant's departure into Missouri with the 21st Infantry on July 11, 1861. Young said Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore and four former mayors, Chuck Scholz, C. David Nuessen, Verne Hagstrom and John Spring, are leading a fundraising campaign to pay for the memorial, which is slated to be unveiled on July 11. Harrison Monuments is donating the artwork being used for the memorial.