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The Articles started December 2007.
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General Grant reunited with his chair
By Barry Schrader.................................September
This could be one for the history books: Gen. U.S. Ulysses
Grants camp chair reunited with its original owner some
150 years later. Except, of course, for one detail Grant
But the original chair survives and is
now housed in Sycamore.
At the Civil War living
history event Sept. 11 at Sycamore Park, the man portraying Grant
was Larry Werline, a longtime re-enactor who has been doing this
for 13 years.
But something special happened while
he was in character: Orion Carey showed up with one of the generals
camp chairs used 150 years ago during the Civil War, and Werline
got to actually sit in it. Carey, also from Sycamore, had inherited
the artifact from his grandfather a few years ago and has had
it restored. The walnut framed folding chair still has its original
horsehair and straw seat, but new upholstery made of Italian
silk with a Victorian design and repairs to some of the other
parts were done at considerable expense.
is the provenance, which you hear a lot about on the PBS series
"Antiques Roadshow." It seems Grant retired back home
to Galena after the war and at some point gave this chair to
a family friend, including with it a personal letter from Grant
and a photo of him in the chair. The chair was eventually obtained
by Careys grandfather, Robert Keicher, but was in disrepair
and left in storage for many years. Carey and his parents were
living near his grandfather at the time of his death and Keicher
decided Carey should have it. His mother has Grants letter
and photo documentation safely tucked away, but Carey has decided
to display the valuable heirloom on special occasions.
23, received the chair when still in his teens and said he decided
at one point to scrap his vacation plans and spend
the money on a professional restoration by a firm in Wisconsin.
He has no regrets. He comes from a family of history buffs and
collectors. His one grandmother, Roxy Carey, is on the board
of the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society, and he has shown the
chair during Veterans Day observances in Genoa.
Grant-related artifacts he owns include photos, a book of memoirs
written by the general, and a heavy litho stone with an engraving
of Stonewall Jackson. Carey has become quite attached to the
chair and assured me it is not for sale.
Sycamore resident Larry Werline, dressed as General Ulysses
S. Grant at a civil war encampment at Sycamore Community Park
on Sept. 11, poses with a camp chair once owned by Gen. Grant.
The chair is owned by Orion Carey of Sycamore. (Photo by Curtis
Clegg)Orion Carey (mugshot)
Werline said it really made his day to actually use the same
chair transported for Grant from camp to camp during the war.
He believes there were only three custom-made chairs that Grant
Explaining what transpired during the weekend
encampment, Werline said they depict the soldiers of Illinois
Battery G, a light artillery unit mustered out of Sycamore between
1861 and 1865. He has created both dress and field uniforms identical
to those worn by Grant and also has his beard trimmed just like
Grant did in his early 40s when he took command of the Union
As an aside, Werline told me that a corporal
in the original Battery G, Sam Churchill from what is now the
town of Cortland, received the only Medal of Honor among all
the soldiers in DeKalb County during the Civil War. He earned
the medal in 1864 at the Battle of Nashville when his artillery
unit was overwhelmed by Confederates, and no infantry support
was in sight. Many soldiers fled but Churchill stood his ground,
reloading the cannon 11 times and firing it all alone, then surviving
to tell about it. After the war he relocated to Lawrence, Kan.,
where he is buried.
Let's hope the Sycamore History
Museum makes this re-enactment an annual event so more people
can learn about Civil War-era history, and we will get to see
that historic chair again.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
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DeKalb, Ill 60115