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Grady's Grant compelling
December 3, 2012 - Mike Donahey
President Ulysses S. Grant occupies two distinct positions in American history.
Many credit him — and deservedly so —with the Union’s victory in the Civil War. His capture of Vicksburg gave control of the Mississippi River to the Union at a critical juncture in the war and his dogged — and sometimes controversial — pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee brought the bloody conflict to an end. He was President Lincoln’s favorite general, an honor earned only by working hard and working smart.
As a president Grant ranks among the worst. Several scandals took place during his administration which caused historians to criticize him as ineffective, due to his poor choices of appointees. They embarrassed him greatly.
Marshalltown’s Pete Grady brought the story of both Grants — and more — to life this past weekend at the Iowa Veterans Home. His effort was not cursory.
The Marshalltown Community Theater veteran was detailed, informative and entertaining — all done in a one hour show. Grady not only starred, he wrote, directed and produced it. “Memoirs and Selected Letters ” Grant’s book — which was completed shortly before he died — was effectively used as were other historical references.
Grady knows Grant well — and this knowledge paid huge dividends during the performance. We got to know Grant as if we were talking to him at the kitchen table.
For example, Grant's well-publicized drinking problem was brought about by depression — which had taken root during Grant’s first stint in the army. He was away from home frequently, and found comfort in the bottle. The audience also learned much about Iowa’s role in the Civil War. Many Iowa soldiers accompanied Grant in victory and defeat. (Although only a state for approximately 15 years, Iowa had more troops per capita enlist than any other).
But the skillful Grady did not get bogged down in too many details, conversely, he gave the audience just enough to whet its appetite for more. We learned Grant failed at several business ventures in St. Louis, after having resigned his first commission earned at West Point. His father saved him from financial ruin and ignominy by giving him a clerking position in the family’s Galena, IL. store.
Fate was kind to Grant when the Civil War broke out. He re-enlisted, was granted his officer’s commission again, and made history. Adding to Grady’s presentation was use of IVH’s historic Whitehill Auditorium. It not only allowed IVH residents to see the show free-of-charge for two performances, but provided an intimate venue which would have been lost on a large stage.
Let’s hope Grady reprises the role in the near future or treats central Iowans to a new show.