The Blue and the Gray Come Back to Life in Los Angeles, California
When discussing the Civil War, Los Angeles does not usually take a prominent part in the discussion. A tiny hole-in-the-wall of a town in 1861 in a state far from the action back east, it is easy to forget that this conflict affected the entire nation. On Saturday this page from the city’s past was brought back to life. Ironically, the location for this revival was a cemetery: Angelus Rosedale in the West Adams District. Each September this cemetery hosts a themed living history tour. The idea is simple: actors portray a few of the permanent residents there. Guided groups walk the land between the headstones, visiting each of the reenactors as they tell their stories. This year’s theme was “A Gathering of the Blue and Gray.”
Among the facts revealed over the course of the tour is that Los Angeles was a hotbed of Confederate sympathizers early in the war (San Francisco, then a much larger and more important city, was equally strong in its support for the Union). The performers portrayed such people as: the widow of a Confederate general who lived in Pasadena while her husband fought and died in Tennessee; a battlefield nurse who lived to the age of 101; an escaped slave who enlisted in the Union army, then went on to become a minister and chaplain of a unit of buffalo soldiers; a future stage and silent film actor who ran off to enlist as a Confederate drummer boy at age 13; a Confederate who would join the U.S. Army after the war and win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in capturing Geronimo; a young Union volunteer who one day became one of the founders of Union Oil and founder of a Bible college (Biola, the one that features the red “Jesus Saves” sign downtown); and a German immigrant to St. Louis, who enlisted in the Union Army before serving in several political posts in his hometown until his Southern California retirement. A welcome addition to the tour was an actor in a Union soldier’s uniform who cheerfully admitted he did not represent any one person. Instead he was the typical soldier of the war and he explained in detail what his life in combat was like.
The actors were of varying quality. Some could have spent a little more time learning their monologues – they seemed to be reading them. The tour provides for an interesting glimpse into the city’s past. In fact, it highlights the fact that Los Angeles has a history – it so often seems the opposite. Even more importantly, the tour captures the fascination that cemeteries hold, the way that a walk through one can lead to all kinds of questions about the lives of the residents. For one day, in the peaceful environment within the city yet separate from it the visitors, they had a chance to answer.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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