QUINCY — A man nationally known for his portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant will be in Quincy later this month for two programs sponsored by the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County and the Tri-State Civil War Round Table.
Curt Fields will present "Ulysses S. Grant: The Desperate Years" at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the O'Donnell-Cookson Life Celebration Home, 1435 State.
Fields also will be a featured speaker Feb. 28 at Youth Symposium II, an educational historical experience for Quincy High School and Quincy Notre Dame High School students at John Wood Community College.
The program, which is open to the public, and the symposium both help further the missions of the historical society and the round table to educate all ages on local history.
About 170 students from both schools will hear from four speakers -- Dr. Tim Jacobs talking about Civil War medicine; Pam Brown as Mary Todd Lincoln; Brian Ellis as Walt Whitman; and Fields as Grant talking about the Battle of Shiloh.
"So many people tell me history was so boring, but when we do something like this, we're telling stories, and it's not boring. Really, history is a series of stories," HSQAC President Arlis Dittmer said. "I'm hoping the students get a flavor of that."
Dittmer said the diverse group of speakers will offer varied perspectives on the Civil War.
"So many innovations always come out of war in medicine and in nursing. Most people think nursing as a profession came out of the Civil War. The Mary Lincoln impersonator will have a very different take. It was a war of loss for her, her children, her relatives, her husband," Dittmer said. "Grant is a fascinating person and overlooked sometimes. There's a lot of myths around some of the Southern generals, their stateliness. Grant was short, stubby and had a cigar in his mouth all the time. He was a good general and a soldier's general."
Turning the focus on the Battle of Shiloh ties in with Quincy history.
"Quincy is a rarity in terms of the state of Illinois and the Civil War. There were so many major personalities directly connected to Quincy," said Beth Young, a member of both the HSQAC and the Civil War Round Table. "Grant left for the war from Front Street. Lincoln was here. Douglas was here."
Gen. James D. Morgan and Gen. Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss, both from Quincy, "played big roles in the military in the war," Young said. "They were very significant."
HSQAC board member Dr. George Crickard is underwriting the cost of the symposium as a way to make history more interesting for young people.
The evening presentation will highlight another portion of Grant's story.
Fields will focus on Grant's life after West Point and before the Civil War, highlighting his life during the Mexican War, his years of military service on the West Coast and his failures in business along with a multi-media panorama of Grant and Civil War scenes shown in the round.
"It won't be the general. It won't be the president," Young said. "It will be the years of trying to find a job. Once he was so desperate he sold firewood on the streets of St. Louis."
Grant-related items from personal local collections will be on display along with a mezzo-tint portrait of Grant recently donated to HSQAC by Ruth and Howard Snowden. In addition, the replicated body, casket and catafalque of President Abraham Lincoln from the Kibbe Museum in Carthage will be displayed in the home's side chapel.
The presentation also will include a panorama of Grant and Civil War scenes shown through the home's new multimedia system.
"With what I do as a funeral director, we love to tell the stories of the folks in our community," said James O'Donnell, owner of O'Donnell-Cookson Life Celebration Home. "This was a neat way to share some historical relevance of Grant in our area and help share that story. We had some neat ways to do that with some of the technology we have at the funeral home now."