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“Grant and the Siege of Chattanooga” presented by Ken Serfass  (as General Ulysses S. Grant)

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“Grant and the Siege of Chattanooga” presented by Kenneth J. Serfass, Gunnery Sgt USMC, retired
as Ulysses S. Grant

 Program Notes: Chattanooga

After the Confederate victory at Chickamauga in northwest Georgia in September 1863, the Union army retreated to the vital railroad junction of Chattanooga, in Tennessee. Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg laid siege to the city, cutting it off from all Union supplies.   In response, President Lincoln ordered Major General US Grant to Chattanooga.  After arriving in late October, soon refortified the city, opening up a desperately needed supply line, and began maneuvers to lift the siege.

My talk is always centered on the qualities of US Grant that have made him a hero to me.   Most of the talks are topical to his war experiences and also relate back to his youth in Ohio and West Point years.

For military programs, many come to realize that Grant was a grand strategist, and not a localized tactician.  His was a position of macro management, and these map plotting presentations work to portray things from the strategic level, leaving the tales of regimental and personal bravery to other occasions for the most part.

I use this map and my similar Vicksburg and Overland campaign maps with school groups and others for a more hands on approach.  It is visual learning, and when somebody holds a marker with the label on it, they touch it, they see it, they speak it, the lesson sticks much better than what a lecture would do.   It is very effective. 

I also made the map markers to look like something Grant's boys would have played with, more than something slick and modern.  I try to keep my impression in the period as much as possible and won’t use any multimedia gizmos, and only microphones when the room is just too large for this old Marine's voice to fill up.  I have found that when an audience buys into the notion that they ARE meeting a figure from history, there is magic to remember.

Gunnery Sgt Kenneth J. Serfass was born in Bethlehem, PA on June 18th, 1966.  He joined the USMC in 1984 and his final tour was with the First Marine Division Band during Operation Iraqi Freedom and retired from the Marine Corps in July of 2004 to become a music teacher. 

Ken WAS a civil war reenactor and now is a first-person impressionist with nearly fifty years of study of his childhood hero, US Grant.  He now works as a full-time professional living historian portraying Ulysses S. Grant, presenting between 11 and as many as 23 appearances each month between February and November each year as his work season.

Ken began appearing publically as General Grant in 2009 while living in San Diego CA, even then speaking at events across the country and he presents in as many venues as are relevant to the life of Grant.  From horseback tours and rail road excursion rides, at living history and roundtable events to public libraries on a regular basis across many eastern and southern states, and annually in Southern California at Huntington Beach’s Civil War Days over Labor Day weekend, Ken is established firmly on both coasts. 

He has appeared at Pamplin Park near Petersburg VA, and at several national park sites on an annual basis.  In 2015 he was invited to join The Federal Generals Corps, a living history organization hosting first person impressions of many of the most well-known Union generals in the American civil war, to be their “Ulysses S. Grant.”  This past July he presented at Petersburg NPS for the Crater Commemoration, and the following day at City Point NPS, Grant’s war time Virginia headquarters.  They now have invited him back to make this an annual occurrence.

He has spoken on Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign to the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Association to develop broader civil war study among their guides.  He is the only Grant impressionist to present his own topical programs at the General Grant National Memorial, in New York City, presenting first person public interactive addresses, as General and also as President, and has developed Junior Ranger programs for NPS, bringing America’s youth closer to history. 

Ken’s travels and experiences and are serving to inspire two books he is writing, first to share what it’s like to live the life of a great American hero and the other is historical fiction and science fiction combined around his adventures presenting living history, set in the civil war and dealing directly with US Grant’s activity in Virginia in 1864.    

Entertaining and educational, the spectrum of venues includes schools, all sorts of service and history clubs, as well as museums, and business groups seeking leadership training and inspiration.  Ken’s work has generated a great following of supporters and others who share his love or American history and the attributes of positive role models throughout our national past.  Many are happy to refer him to others so they too can talk to history and share in our rich heritage.

It is with a profound honor that he tells the story of one of America’s greatest military leaders and Ken takes it very seriously to reaffirm Grant’s place of honor among the most respected people of our nation’s history.  His passion for the subject is evident in his presentation, and it is hard not to be affected by his enthusiasm for his subject and believe that you’ve met US Grant in living history.