Food, Fun and Music – Civil War Days Coming to Naper Settlement, Naperville, Illinois, In May

Civil War reenactment. Robert W. Mann - CC BY-SA 3.0
Civil War reenactment. Robert W. Mann - CC BY-SA 3.0

Naper Settlement in Naperville, Illinois, is having their Civil War Days on May 20-21 from 10 am to 4 pm. Each day at 2:30, hundreds of Civil War reenactors will recreate a battle. Other reenactors will be on hand, portraying historical figures.

Max and Donna Daniels will be on hand portraying President and Mrs. Lincoln as they have for thirty years. The two recently retired from performing as the famous couple, but are making an exception for the Civil War Days.

According to Daniels, the Naper Settlement was the first place the two of them had ever performed a Civil War reenactment. They had a play about the Lincolns and were looking for a place to perform it when they contacted Naper Settlement. Instead, they were asked to perform as the President and his wife at their Civil War reenactment. Now, it feels like a homecoming to the Daniels each year.

The Daniels are happy knowing that they made a career of portraying history in an entertaining way to younger generations. They still perform as the Lincolns for schools and libraries.

Max Daniels has a physical resemblance to Abraham Lincoln which is how he first came to be associated with the role. He feels that Lincoln is a symbol of America. Starting out as a poor child in a log cabin with a dirt floor, he went on to become the most powerful man in the country. Daniels feels that Lincoln’s life shows that anything this world hands you can be overcome.

Donna enjoys performing as Mary Todd Lincoln because it gives him a chance to tell the story of the Civil War from a woman’s perspective. She feels that people too often think only of the men in the war. She says there is a lot to learn from what Mary dealt with as the first lady and the criticisms directed at her.

The Civil War Days will also feature presentations and debates. Lincoln and Jefferson Davis will hold a discussion which will cover the Dred Scott case and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, among other topics. The Dred Scott case denied a black man the right to sue for freedom which would lead to Lincoln getting the presidential nomination. The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed the citizens of Kansas and Nebraska were allowed to decide for themselves whether they would allow slavery in their states which angered citizens of the northern states.

David Walker portrays Jefferson Davis. He strives to be authentic in his reenactment as the President of Confederate States of America, using primary sources for his material. “I’ve always felt that both sides need a proper story told, without the South just being about the slaveholders.”

Chris Dosch is another reenactor who will be at the Civil War Days. He’ll part of the battle, dressed in red pants and a coat with gold buttons. He’s portraying a member of the Chicago Zouaves, Company A. The Zouaves were known for their light infantry tactics and drill. The Zouaves were another aspect of the Union’s infantry, with its own importance to the war, Patch reported.

The event is designed for the entire family. There will be food, fun and music. Shoppers can visit “Sutler’s Row” to purchase Civil War-era reproductions. The historic buildings at Naper Settlement will be open for touring. The Weed Ladies will be offering silk and dried florals in the Daniels House.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE