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home : arts, entertainment and events - archive : entertainment June 24, 2016

7/25/2013 10:25:00 AM
Old State Capitol commemorates Ulysses S. Grant
The business failure who became a Civil War success

SPRINGFIELD — The spotlight shines on Ulysses S. Grant at the Old State Capitol this summer with an exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of Grant’s victory at Vicksburg and his success commanding the Union Army.

The Old State Capitol, where Grant worked during the early days of the Civil War, will host the exhibit until the end of August. Visitors can also meet “General Grant” on Tuesdays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. as part of the History Comes Alive program, which continues weekly until September 1.

Today Grant is remembered as a general and president, but he was on a much different path prior to the Civil War. Grant tried his hand at many occupations after his first stint in the army ended in 1854. From farming to debt collection, he couldn’t find success in a career outside the battle lines..

In an effort to provide for his family on Christmas in 1857, Grant was forced to pawn his gold pocket watch after another unsuccessful economic season. The receipt for his watch is on display as part of the exhibit.

The display also includes documents written by Grant shortly after his first major victory at Fort Donelson, after another Union victory at Shiloh and during the Siege of Corinth.

A letter written to General William T. Sherman in the midst of the Vicksburg Campaign accompanies the other documents in the collection.

In August, the exhibit will rotate in different artifacts, including correspondence with his friend, Congressman Elihu B. Washburne of Galena, and a letter from Confederate general Robert E. Lee to President Andrew Johnson concerning the terms of surrender Grant offered him at Appomattox Court House.

When the Civil War broke out, Grant enlisted in the Union army and became a major architect of Union victory and restoration. His triumph at the Battle of Vicksburg was one of the most important victories of the war. He captured the key Mississippi River city and was then given command of the entire U.S. Army, which he led to victory over the Confederacy.

His military successes led to Grant to the White House, where he served two terms.

The Old State Capitol State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (, was where Abraham Lincoln served as a legislator, delivered his “House Divided” speech and managed his transition to the White House after being elected president. Grant served there as a military aid to the Illinois governor and adjutant general before being assigned to combat.

The site is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with tours available during open hours. For more information, call (217) 785-7960.

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