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Honest Abe authenticates Pipestone's Civil War Days

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WORTHINGTON -- Strolling among the soldiers, traveling salesman, camp followers, historical presenters and other participants Saturday at the Pipestone Civil War Festival was one of the most notable figures in American history.

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President Abe Lincoln, accompanied by his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, reviewed the troops, made public appearances and offered several speeches and historical presentations during the course of the weekend. On Saturday night, a special program, "An Evening with the Lincolns," was slated for the Pipestone Performing Arts Center.

"It's our first visit," to Pipestone, noted the president, as he sat under a tree and looked over notes for a speech on Saturday. "and it's been a happy one. We've had nothing but kindness, and anything to get away from Washington city is a reprieve."

Max and Donna Daniels, from Wheaton, Ill., don the costumes and personalities of Abe and Mary Lincoln at about 220 events each year, mostly at similar Civil War events from the end of April through the middle of October. They maintain a Web site -- www.abeandthebabe.com -- to promote their endeavors.

"I got cast in a play as Mr. Lincoln," explained Max Daniels about how they got their start as re-enactors. "I was the tallest and ugliest guy in the room, so I got the part. I was born in L.A. -- Lower Alabama -- and Lincoln was not somebody we studied with much depth."

A stint in the military brought Daniels to Illinois -- "Land of Lincoln."

"The more I studied, the more intriguing the man is, and I'm still learning," Daniels said. "It's been a joy to see how we got this nation formed ... a nation that is the envy of the world."

Max said his wife wholeheartedly supports the re-enactments, which have turned into a full-time gig for the pair.

"She's a real driving force," he said, adding, "She's my better two-thirds."

The Daniels cater their performances to the event. Sometimes, Max said, it doesn't amount to more than a "meet and greet," while other occasions prove to be much more elaborate. For the Pipestone event, he honed up on some specific aspects of Lincoln's presidency and was preparing for a short presentation on Lincoln's pardon of Native Americans following the Dakota Conflict of 1862.

"I'm going to explain why I allowed so many of them not to be executed," he said.

Later in the day, Daniels came face to face with a descendant of one of the men who was pardoned in Mankato and was visibly touched by the encounter.

Daniels enjoys not only the history aspect of the portrayal, but also the humorous side of the nation's 16th president, although he said there are also some extremely somber moments in their presentations, such as the death of the Lincolns' son. Saturday evening's program would end with the Lincolns leaving for the theater --the date is April 14, 1865.

"Just thinking about going to the theater gives me a headache," said Daniels, now returning to presidential mode. "Although Mrs. Lincoln says it's a new play, and she thinks I'll get a bang out of it."

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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