If Grant had looked in mirror,
he may have seen Curt Fields
Curt Fields’ resemblance to Gen. U.S. Grant is what some witnesses would describe as eerie.
This career educator and former history teacher is the same height and similar weight (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) and has the same body style of the commander who won the Civil War. Through extensive research, Fields also presents an accurate persona of the Union general in first person speaking presentations and in responses to questions from his audiences.
Fields, who holds a doctorate from Michigan State University, has been a lifelong student of the Civil War and began portraying Grant three years ago after his continuing study of the American conflict resulted in respect and admiration for the general.
After realizing he and Grant were the same size, he added a beard to his portrayal. That nailed the resemblance and Tennessee audiences quickly were drawn to his presentations at speaking engagements, living history events and re-enactments.
“I’m still a teacher at heart,” the Collierville, Tenn., resident acknowledges, “and this is the best possible format for teaching accurate history lessons that are important and most likely to be remembered.”
Fields, who is now expanding his portrayals into Kentucky and other states, has taught from the junior and senior high school levels through college and spent 25 years as a high school administrator before retiring. He now contracts as an educational consultant.
As a period history buff and long-time teacher about the Civil War, Fields sees instruction about the war as “absolutely critical.”
“The Civil War is the event that shook our country and the world, with neither being the same since,” he stated. “The war is the defining event and moment in the history of the United States and was the crucible that made us a UNITED States, putting us on the path to being a world power and an industrial giant.
“If we don’t want to commit the same errors of the past, then we must know and understand our history. Why we fought the Civil War and how we resolved the problems that led to it, then came together in the decades after it, is to understand how the United States ultimately became a world power and leader.”
Abraham Lincoln had great respect for Grant and his ability to win. By the same token, Grant “had deep respect and personal liking for the President,” Fields pointed out.
It was a relationship that worked, despite the fact the two never met until March 1864.
“Grant had the ability to see a battle or campaign in a panoramic way that was inclusive of all actions, regarding who was supposed to be where, when and doing what,” Fields said. “He was quiet and kept his ideas and plans to himself. He held only one council of war as a commander and never had another one, saying they only served to confuse leaders when the battle was joined.”
Fields said Grant would personally write all of his orders and send them out by courier.
“Then, he would quietly wait until results were brought to him,” he continued. “That waiting would include sitting in harm’s way of bullets and shell fragments flying around him and his staff while he whittled and smoked, never flinching.
“Grant was well known for his absolute calm under fire.”
And, the General kept his private life decidedly separate from military affairs.
“According to Julia’s (Mrs. Grant) memoirs, Grant loved a good joke and could be the life of the party with his friends in private circumstances,” Fields commented. “And, he was a doting and tolerant father.”
At the surrender at Appomattox Court House, a splendidly dressed Gen. Robert E. Lee was said to have commented about Grant’s disheveled appearance. Grant apologized, saying he did not have time to change. But appearances were not all that important to the Union leader, according to Fields.
“Grant’s appearance was not so much disheveled as uncaring about military décor and pomp,” the portrayer offered. “The General was comfortable feeling that his men knew who he was.”
Fields takes all this into consideration when portraying Grant, but his appearance certainly isn’t disheveled. He wears a tailored uniform with waistcoat or vest and opts for cavalry boots as was the preference of the General, who was an excellent horseman.
Despite his portrayal of a Union commander, Fields continues to be welcome in Confederate camps and the populace in and around his Memphis suburb of Collierville. It doesn’t hurt, he confesses, that he’s a member of the Sons of Confederate veterans and a relative of Pvt. Thomas Paul Stewart of the 12th Mississippi infantry, who fought the entire war with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Fields can be contacted at email@example.com.