Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant/Nora Brooks

As far as historical figures go, Ulysses S. Grant was not high on my "pay attention to" list, so I almost skipped last night's visit by Nora Brooks, aka Julia Grant (as in Mrs. U.S.) to the Caldwell Historical Society meeting.

So glad I didn't.

Two years ago I attended a session where Nora Brooks presented herself as the daughter of Robert E Lee, so I knew this presentation would be outstanding. But Ulysses S. Grant? Really?

I was so wrong.

The real Julia Grant
He has moved up on my appreciation scale, not top notch, but higher. After all, this was from a "wife's" point of view. Nora Brooks did such a marvelous job impersonating Julia Grant that I became lost in the moment, especially when she described his anguish at developing a war plan, their sadness during the death of President Lincoln, and the tormented final year of his life suffering from the throat cancer that claimed him.

After the hour long (seemed like five minutes) presentation, she came out of character for a question/answer session. She was asked how she chose her characters and if she planned another. She posed that back to the audience, who would you suggest, then responded. She prefers the Civil War era because that's what she is comfortable with and in this small theater style, comfort counts. She crawls into the skin and the mind of her character, then dresses the outside to match. She researches and speaks in character only what she discovers.

As she talked, I thought to myself, who in my Lessons Learned would I like to become if only for an hour?

I don't know if being in a Civil War era mindset influenced my decision, or as in this case, being present with the "wife" of a general, but I knew the answer to that question right away. I would like to be inside the mind of the wife of this man:

Fate Lane
 Fate Lane.

Lafayette Lane to be more exact. He served in Company B of the 46th North Carolina Regiment of Infantry and was with Lee at the surrender at Appomattox, which would also put him with the husband of Julia Grant at Appomattox. I heard "her" version of the surrender. I'd like to hear Fate's wife's version.

I'm not sure about her name, I know I have it somewhere in my research, surely. But this woman, this first wife of Fate's, oh what a story she took to her grave. She shared him, she did, with six (some reports say even up to eight) more women, all at once. Their cabin in the mountains was a two story log building surrounded by six, seven, eight slightly smaller cabins housing his other "wives." But wait. Not to excuse his actions, but there's more to this story than meets the ear.

These were war widows, wives of comrades that didn't return from the war between the states. They had nothing. They had no support, and in most cases, no family, no money coming, no food other than what they could scrape together.

So he took them in, gave shelter to them, assumed the husband's role and had a large family. Forty-two children! Need I say more?

I can't think of another character in my book that I would like to be for an hour than Mrs. Fate Lane. Just imagine.

Catch of the day,


1 comment:

  1. Fate Lane has an amazing story. You could springboard to so many stories from "lessons Learned." Have you thought about historical picture books for middle grade students? The research has just begun!!