The Chamberlain Round Table has had two excellent programs since returning to the Morrell Room, Curtis Memorial Library in October. The October 12th program featured Bob Conner discussing how James Montgomery’s abolitionist stance influenced his pre-war and wartime experiences as a Union Army officer. Bob effectively pointed out how Montgomery’s career was far more complex than is portrayed in the movie Glory. Our audience came away with a clear view of Montgomery’s pre-war activities with the free-state movement and a much better understanding of the scope of his wartime service. Many thanks to Bob for providing a compelling view of this controversial abolitionist leader.
On November 9th we enjoyed the program presented by Ben Kemp, of the Literary and National Landmark of the U. S. Grant Cottage State Historical Site, entitled “Grant and Twain: Authors and Friends.” Ben’s presentation was intriguing. Ulysses Grant and Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) seemed unlikely friends and colleagues who shared an awareness of injustice and unfairness. Ben pointed out the encounters that brought the two men together as friends and, in spite of their well-known successes, how both of “the Sams” also experienced significant losses, disappointments, and failures in their lives. Both were “invented in the caldron of the Civil War” and both would be noticed for their talents. Their similarities were profound, among them being family men who were forced into separation from their families, sharing an appreciation for the “common man,” being storytellers in their own right, and both becoming world travelers later in life. Ultimately, it was Twain’s personal intervention that procured an exceptionally lucrative publishing deal for Grant’s memoirs, thereby ensuring the Grant family a secure financial future . . . just as the general would have wanted.