155 years ago an up-and-coming captain was in Mattoon to muster local boys into the service of the Union Army during the early days of the Civil War. That officer is forever etched in our memory as General Ulysses S. Grant, and he will return along with Civil War re-enactors and special events during Mattoon’s General Grant Days September 22nd through 25th. General Grant Days is being conducted to increase public awareness of the Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse/Camp Grant Municipal Park landscape architecture project.
Nationally-renowned presenter Ken Serfass will portray Grant during several appearances over the four-day event starting with a program for Mattoon High School students on Thursday, September 22nd, followed by a free public presentation for the Coles County Historical Society from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Mattoon Depot’s Lone Elm Room.
Activities on Friday, September 23rd begin with a presentation for Mattoon Middle School students at 9 a.m., followed by a General Grant photo op at 11:45 a.m. at the United Way Golf Outing at Meadowview Golf Course. Then, it’s a journey west to Springfield’s Old State Capitol State Historic Site for re-enactments before General Grant returns for activities on Saturday and Sunday in Coles County.
A Civil War encampment featuring Downs, Illinois-based Company D, 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment re-enactors with authentic uniforms and equipment will be held Saturday, September 24th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the site of the Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse at North First Division Street and Shelby Avenue. The event is free and open to the public. General Grant will interact with the assembled troops and visitors, and the soldiers will perform several period activities including drills and camp duties. At 5:30 p.m. Grant and the adult re-enactors will retire to House Brothers Tavern for a one-hour reception before traveling to Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site in Lerna for a reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m. featuring music by the Un-Reconstructed String Band.
Free public General Grant presentations will be featured Sunday, September 25th at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Lincoln Log Cabin to round out the weekend’s activities.
The General Grant Days events are being held to encourage continued public support for the Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse and Camp Grant Municipal Park project that will feature a bronze Civil War infantryman statue, presentation amphitheater and a dedicated re-enactor interpretative area. The project will recognize Camp Grant, a Union muster camp for Illinois infantry regiments from 1861-1865. The camp existed throughout the Civil War and was ultimately named Camp Grant because the future Union general and later U.S. President’s interaction with the volunteers of the 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment at the camp. In May 1861, then Illinois recruitment and training officer Captain U.S. Grant performed some of his first Civil War duties at this location.