Shelter from the Storm:
A Conversation about U.S. Grant’s Last Days
EAST CHATHAM – Elizabeth Diggs, a playwright living in Austerlitz, NY, has been studying the life of Ulysses S. Grant for more than 8 years. During the past 4, she’s been crafting a play focused on a critical time in his life – when writing his memoirs was the only way his family would survive.
Hugh Howard, a Spencertown resident and historian/writer, spends his days visiting and researching historic American residences. From modern steel and glass boxes to antebellum mansions and the homes of famous national figures – coincidentally including Civil War leaders.
And that’s where the two figures having mutual interests. Howard’s Houses of Civil War America just happens to include images of General Grant’s last residence. That same structure features importantly in Digg’s new play, GRANT & TWAIN – premiering on September 27th in a full scale production at PS21 in Chatham.
“Grant had lost all his money in a financial scam,” explains Diggs, “and, in spite of being a former President, he had no place to shelter his family. At the same time, he was considering writing his Civil War memoirs as a last ditch way to gain some income.” An unlikely partnership with Mark Twain gave the General a way out, a writing contract with Twain’s newly formed publishing company. And shelter? A friend and admirer of the President, Joseph Drexel, lent him his Adirondack house in Wilton, New York. Known as The Cottage, Grant died there on July 23rd, 1885, just four days after his final proofreading. It is now a National Historic Site.
On Saturday, July 14th, Hugh Howard and Elizabeth Diggs will appear together at Red Rock Historical Society, 407 County Road 24, East Chatham beginning at 4pm. The informal conversation will focus on Grant and his life at The Cottage, but may range into a much wider sphere. Both writers are well-versed in the history of the Civil War and may well include some of Grant’s strategies, or touch upon his birthplace in Point Pleasant, Ohio. (After his death, the edifice spent months being shipped around the U.S. on a railroad flat car as a tribute – allowing an adoring public a chance to “touch” his life). The lecture is open to all. A $10. donation is appreciated and refreshments will follow the discussion. To learn more about the play, go to www.GrantTwain.com. For tickets to GRANT & TWAIN, go to http://ps21chatham.org/event/grant-twain/ .