Welcome to California, Mr. President!
Visiting California was something President Abraham Lincoln said he wanted to do. But, on April 15, 1865, Lincoln’s desires to see the full breadth of the United States tragically died with him.
Fast-forwarding about 150 years, Lincoln portrayer Wayne Scott – in a way – fulfilled Lincoln’s original wish by speaking at the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento on November 19, the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Under grey skies eerily similar to the conditions in Gettysburg 150 years ago, Mr. Scott presented a brief history of the Battle of Gettysburg and the aftermath that led to the establishment of a National Cemetery there in 1863. To the delight and awe of dozens of school children, and as many as 200 spectators, Mr. Scott ended his presentation with an “in character” reading of the famous Gettysburg Address (Lincoln himself read the speech, too – he did not have it memorized).
The commemoration ceremony also included an unveiling of the newly-repaired headstone of Corporal James D. Kent, a Civil War veteran from Illinois, who moved west after the war and served in the Sacramento Police Department. The unveiling was conducted by Lt. Jim Hendrickson of the Sacramento PD, who remarked on the dedication of Mr. Kent, and how he continued to serve his country and community even after the war.
As a solemn close to the ceremony, Camp 22 Commander Jon Henry and Vicky Contente, representing the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, laid a wreath at the grave of Corporal Kent, followed by the playing of “Taps” by Ray Arenholz. Mr. Arenholz played the famous call on a bugle authentic to the Civil War era.
Following the ceremony, “President Lincoln” was surrounded by school children seeking photos and autographs. Mr. Scott remarked that he had never before had so many requests, and thoroughly enjoyed spending extra time with the inquisitive admirers.
Mr. Scott, who can trace his family lineage to Lincoln’s ancestors, is known for his studiously authentic portrayal. Every detail of his clothing, even his eyeglasses, are true to articles Lincoln actually wore; his pocket watch is an exact reproduction of one that Lincoln is known to have owned. Such is Mr. Scott’s obsession for authenticity, that even his stage set-up includes a carved mahogany presidential seal made by the same company that supplies them for the present-day White House.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were many re-enactors in Civil War uniforms and period dress. Some of the ladies wore traditional mourning clothes that would have been worn by Civil War widows. The re-enactors came from as far away as Reno, NV, including Craig Ivy and Steve Fore, who portrayed Lincoln’s armed escorts, and bugler Ray Arenholz.
In addition to the Sacramento Police Department, the Old City Cemetery Committee must also be recognized for their support. The event was well covered by local media, too, including spots on TV and radio news, and a front-page feature in the Sacramento Bee. By all accounts, the event was very successful, and very likely will become an annual celebration.