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Lincoln, Davis hold debate on the bluff

ERIC J. SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — George Buss portrays Jefferson Davis during the Meet the President and Picnic event held at the Natchez Bluff Saturday evening. During the event, actors portrayed Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln and Jefferson Davis while simulating a political rally.

NATCHEZ — Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis stood toe to toe at the bluff Saturday to engage in a debate that never happened in history.

In fact, the two never even met.

ERIC J. SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Larry Elliott portrays Abraham Lincoln during the Meet the President and Picnic event held at the Natchez Bluff Saturday evening.

The National Park Service sponsored the debate that brought the two opposing leaders together for dialogue.

Actor George Buss channeled Davis, leader of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Larry Elliott portrayed Lincoln, with Mary Todd by his side.

The “statesmen” took time to present their cases for Union cohesiveness or Confederate succession to the crowd that gathered on the bluff to listen and look.

Lincoln insisted that seccession is the essence of anarchy.

Davis said he wanted to advocate state sovereignty.

The purpose of the fictionalized debate is to provide a better understanding of what people were thinking in the 1860s.

“I think people either tag onto one (philosophy) or another,” said David Wyrick, who organized the event.

Wyrick works for the National Park Service’s Natchez National Historic Site as chief of interpretation and resource management.

“This gives people on both sides a chance for a different perspective,” Wyrick said. “It’s a step back in time to let people now know what the country was thinking then.”

Wyrick said with the Civil War sesquicentennial occurring throughout the next five years, staging a faux debate on the bluff seemed like a perfect fit.

“We want to commemorate, not celebrate, the Civil War,” Wyrick said. “We know now the cause and catalyst for the Civil War is slavery. But this way we get to hear what (these leaders) were telling the public at the time.”

Wyrick said he is pleased with the turnout that attracted more onlookers as the sun sank into the Mississippi River. The event was designed to resemble a festive, political rally atmosphere. Families brought lawn chairs and buckets of chicken to picnic in the grass.

“I’m happy with the turnout,” Wyrick.

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