To counteract the long periods of boredom and monotony, soldiers made their own entertainment while on campaign in Mexico. Theatrical productions were particularly popular. Plays were produced by the soldiers themselves or professional troops were hired to perform. At Corpus Christi in early January 1846, the officers of the 8th Infantry completed a theater capable of seating 800. The officers originally intended to stage their own plays with themselves playing all the parts. However, when Ulysses Grant drew the role of Desdemona in Othello, there were second thoughts and a professional actress from New Orleans was hired to play the female roles.
This article has a lot of information on this performance:
According to historical accounts, Grant's dry run as Desdemona was so ludicrous and unconvincing that the director recruited a New Orleans actress as a last-minute replacement.No playbills or newspaper advertisements of the production survive. But it was common for troops to put on productions for entertainment or host professional traveling troupes, Jones said. So Jones' account of the actual production is fictionalized.
Grant's cross-dressing stab at Shakespeare is mentioned in his memoirs and those of Longstreet, Jones learned.