President Abraham Lincoln, as portrayed by Mike Elliott of rural Wheeler, shares his experiences in the White House with students in rich Niebrugge's U.S. History class at Teutopolis High School.

Wearing his familiar stovepipe hat, the bearded man came out of a side door into Rich Niebrugge’s U.S. History class at Teutopolis High School.

    President Abraham Lincoln — as portrayed by Mike Elliott of rural Wheeler — wanted to try out a speech on the class he planned to deliver the next day at Gettysburg, Pa.

    “I have been asked to go there and say a few words,” Lincoln said. “I’ve jotted down a few thoughts and I’d like to practice this speech on you.”

    “This speech” is, of course, known to generations of high school students as the Gettysburg Address. Friday was the 147th anniversary of one of the most famous speeches in American history.

    Lincoln told the class he enjoyed speaking in front of young people, adding it helped him get away from the stress involved with a wartime White House.

    “The White House is almost like an ivory tower,” Lincoln said.

    The president defended himself against critics who wondered how he could possibly manage a major war.

    “It’s true that the Civil War is a terrible war with a terrible price,” Lincoln said. “But I do have military experience.”

    The president then recounted his time in the Black Hawk War of the 1830s.

    “I led many raids and saw much bloodshed,” he said.

    Lincoln admitted the Civil War — or War Between The States, as it was known at the time — had consumed his psyche.

    “Since becoming president, I have been burdened by the Civil War,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing, war. The Union must be preserved, but it will be at a terrible cost.”

    Lincoln told the class about a recurring dream he was having about being assassinated. After seeing a depiction of the real Lincoln on his deathbed, the ersatz commander-in-chief appeared shaken and took his leave of the class.

    (Of course, the real Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865.)

    Elliott, who appeared at Grove Grade School in rural Jasper County earlier this fall, portrayed Lincoln as a native Kentuckian who never really lost his accent.

    “I had to guess at the accent,” he said. “I came to the conclusion that because he learned to speak in Kentucky, that he would have spoken with a Kentucky accent.

    Elliott said he’s tried to learn enough about Lincoln to be able to answer questions in character.

    “Hopefully, if somebody asks me a question, I can respond as Abraham Lincoln, not as myself.” Niebrugge, who grew a Lincolnesque beard for the occasion, said the Lincoln portrayal may have helped students understand the Civil War era a little better.

    “I did everything I could to bring the Gettysburg Address to life,” he said.     Student Toby Greuel said he enjoyed the portrayal.

    “I think it’s pretty neat that people impersonate people from history,” Greuel said. “It helps make the class more interesting.”

    Student Megan Shannon said she was just glad to have the change of pace.

    “It’s something different,” she said.

    Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or



Trending Video