Dr. Curt Fields presented the Ulysses S. Grant of 1840-1861 to us. Focusing on a specific segment in the life of this familiar historical figure brought a depth of understanding missing in the telling of a complete biography, and Dr. Fields did this brilliantly. His demeanor, very cool civilian clothing of those years, and skillful use of period language speaking as Grant, completed a great evening for us. (In any of the commentary that follows which may be critical, they are concerning Grant, not the excellent first-person impression of Dr. Fields as Grant.)
Successful as a West Point officer during the Mexican War, he afterward struggled; first, in trying to make a go of opportunities while posted in California, and then in civilian life to earn a living as a farmer and real estate agent. It was painful to contemplate his seeming bad fortune and lack of ability in that. As presented, Grant had debleating health problems during these years, which seemed to dissipate when war came on again. It seemed that during the fortunate years of the country’s expansion, Grant sank, and during the tragic years of its civil war, he rose. The same can be said of Abraham Lincoln in the political sphere of the nation during the same period. Both men were Whigs who had opposed the Mexican War.
This presentation renewed an interest in me about Grant and, I am sure, many others, so that I got a paperback copy of the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant and read over the pages devoted to the Mexican War. In the Ken Burns series on the Civil War, Lincoln and Grant are described as a team in which the one had a genius for politics, the other a genius for war, and in their work to save the Union they deserve both our respect, admiration. The Grant of this program was first-person and not intended as biographically objective, and its significant points might be critically examined for a balanced view, but in helping one understand more about the man within the historical figure, it was superb.