On June 30, 2016 a telegraph was released by Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, advising area Waynesville residents that General Ulysses S. Grant and his telegraph signal corps are making their way to the Pulaski County, Missouri seat. Unlike Colonel Albert Sigel’s Union forces permanent occupation of Waynesville during the Civil War, the 2016 occupation of Waynesville will only last two days and is part of Old Settlers Day, a living history event, that will feature horesemanship and infantry drill demonstrations, artillery inspections, cavalry drills, and a Civil War battle reenactment. In attendance will be United States President Abraham Lincoln (Lance Mack) and General U.S. Grant, portrayed by Wayne Issleb.
Issleb has been portraying Ulysses S. Grant since 2008. While serving as a reenactor in the 36th Wisconsin Civil War Infantry squad he had let his beard grow out and decided to don a bow tie and officer’s slouch hat. His fellow living historians noticed a strong resemblance between Issleb and Grant. In 2010 in a small town in Wisconsin Issleb fully embraced the role of the Union General. Soon after, other living historians joined up with Issleb and “U.S. Grant Field HQ” was born.
Issleb’s extensive knowledge of General Grant brings a unique level of authenticity to his portrayals. Issleb has studied Grant extensively, including 15 years of research and artifact collecting. Issleb owns several items that were once owned by Grant himself- including original writings and a cigar standing ashtray that Grant possessed during his presidency. Not one to rest on his laurels, Issleb is still learning about U.S. Grant. Having walked in Grant’s footsteps in places like Vicksburg, MS. and Galena, IL. brings even more insight of the man himself into Issleb’s portrayals. Issleb has portrayed General Grant for the Sons of Union Veterans and in an upcoming cable network documentary.
During Old Settlers Day attendees will be able to visit troop camps. Issleb describes a typical Union camp as busy place and would have included Cavalry, Infantry, Officer’s Quarters, Artillery, Medical, and sometimes signal corps members. “U.S. Grant Field HQ” features a period telegraph office, with an operator, for demonstrations. Issleb tells us that although the telegraph was around for 20 years before the Civil War, it was merely considered a novelty. During the war, communication, and the telegraph was key. President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ran the war from Washington. The telegraph connected all the armies and allowed coordination. Waynesville’ location on the Wire Road was strategically important, which led to Colonel Albert Sigel being ordered to “Occupy Waynesville” beginning June, 1862. Col. Sigel’s brother, General Franz Sigel, was stationed at nearby Rolla, MO., during the war. Franz Sigel and U.S. Grant became friends during the war, sitting beside each other during the “Grand Review Parade” in Washington shortly after the war. Franz attended Grant’s funeral in 1885.
Issleb, always the Grant scholar, also tells us that General Grant’s grandfather, Captain Noah Grant served in the Revolutionary War and fought alongside Waynesville’s namesake, General Anthony Wayne.
Issleb, who is from Kenosha, WI., is looking forward to meeting people at Old Settlers Day in Waynesville. He will be speaking from the bandstand Saturday at 10:30 and will also be found at his Field Headquarters.