Walcamp festival brings history to life
KINGSTON – What started out as a hobby has become a full-time profession.
Twenty-five years ago, Max Daniels gave up his position with a prominent bank to portray Abraham Lincoln. With his wife, Donna, at his side, the two give 200 performances a year, mainly throughout the Midwest.
“She is two-thirds my better half,” Max said of his wife, who portrays Mary Todd Lincoln.
The couple was one of many Civil War re-enactors at Walcamp’s annual fall festival. The event is always held the first Sunday in October to thank those who have used the facilities throughout the year, according to board member Audrey Konrad. Among other events, there were games, arts, crafts, food, music and the re-enactors.
Since this is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, one re-enactor, Gayle Peterson of Rockton, said there’s much more interest in it these days.
“You can learn a lot more about it this way than you do in school,” her niece and co-re-enactor Carol Linkenheld said.
For those who attended the one-day festival last Sunday, there was a lot of learn. The re-enactors gave talks on a variety of Civil War subjects, including rifles, Army life and how more soldiers actually died from disease than enemy fire. For $5, you could even fire a musket.
“The kids like to do that,” said re-enactor Dean Hull, who drove from Danville to attend.
Konrad led demonstrations on how to make apple cider, grind coffee and bake pies.
For his part, Max Daniels gave a talk on the “Genesis of the Gettysburg Address,” which was only a couple of minutes long.
Daniels, who said he always tries to deliver the speech as if he was doing it for the first time, said people were shocked at Lincoln's brevity. Back then, he noted, people were used to oratories that lasted two hours.
It’s not until you hear someone deliver it in person, Donna Daniels said, that the full impact of what Lincoln was trying to say fully hits you.