General Ulysses S. Grant reenactor to appear at Walk Back in Time

By Dave Faries, Editor
Posted 9/20/21

Curt Fields sometimes finds himself recalling moments from the distant past.

One night he sat on stump listening calmly as General Sherman moaned about their dire situation. On another occasion …

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General Ulysses S. Grant reenactor to appear at Walk Back in Time

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Curt Fields sometimes finds himself recalling moments from the distant past.

One night he sat on stump listening calmly as General Sherman moaned about their dire situation. On another occasion Fields watched as his troops were ferried south of Vicksburg.

"I don't know how much of me he's taken over," Fields said. "Sometimes it's difficult to separate the two of us."

The "he" in question is General Ulysses S. Grant. As a living history performer, Fields has studied the man, poring over letters and diaries, orders delivered in the field, memoirs written after the turmoil of war and time in the White House, histories put together by other historians.

Fields has portrayed Grant more than 1,000 times over the past decade. So it's understandable if some of the general's habits creep into his daily life. But there's a positive to this immersion into all things Grant.

"I have come to genuinely like him," Fields explained. "He was a nice guy, a devoted family man. He had a great sense of humor."

For Fields, however, Grant's defining characteristics were his willingness to gain from experience – "he never made the same mistake twice" – and his tenacity.

"He never gave up," he observed.

Fields brings Grant to life once again at Walk Back in Time. As a living historian, he becomes the general in persona and manner. In question and answer sessions, Fields can step back to address topics as one of the leading historians on the man and his time.

One subject that people invariably bring up is the myth of Grant's drinking problem. As an officer separated from his family, stationed in the west before the Civil War, he indeed took to alcohol in hopes of alleviating his loneliness. After a brief bout with the bottle that threatened his station in life, however, he quit.

Grant was not known as a drinker during the Civil War. He did, however, go through dozens of cigars.

In the Southern telling of Grant's success on the battlefield, it was his bloody head butting that led to victory. But he was, instead, a genius known for daring moves, nimble side steps, unexpected maneuvers and a calm realization of battlefield realities. All combined for an innate understanding of what was necessary to achieve both tactical and strategic results.

After launching an ill-fated attack at Cold Harbor in Virginia, for instance, he made up for the mistake by detaching the majority of his army quietly from the line, slipping them across the James River where they were poised to strike for Richmond before Robert E. Lee knew what had occurred.

"My favorite moment of many is on May 7th of 1864," Fields said. Previous commanders of the Army of the Potomac embarked on a single campaign, fought one or a cluster of battles generally ending in a stalemate and retreated back north.

It was different with Grant.

"After the Battle of the Wilderness, when he came to the intersection of the Orange Plank Road and Brock Road at night and turned the army to the south," Fields explained. The soldiers, long frustrated by pointless campaigning, began to cheer – angering Grant, who planned for a silent maneuver.

"They realized they were not going back," Fields pointed out.

Fields always had a passion for Civil War studies. But he was never interested in reenacting. His involvement in living history came after somewhat of an epiphany.

In 2008 he attended a festival commemorating the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. Abraham Lincoln – or, rather, a living history performer – was at the event and Fields posed for a snapshot with the towering figure.

Standing next to the president that day, Fields realized he is a body double for the general and former president. "I thought 'I wonder if I were to grow a beard I could look like Grant."

In festivals and in photographs, Fields brings the past to life.

"When you take a picture, there's no Curt Fields involved," he said. "People have a picture made with General Grant. When you see me, you are looking at him."

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