George Scott of Waukegan, Ill., portrays American author Mark Twain. He will appear in character at the Fillmore County History Center's "Dinner with the Generals" event on Thursday, June 13, along with Civil War reenactors portraying famous generals.
George Scott of Waukegan, Ill., portrays American author Mark Twain. He will appear in character at the Fillmore County History Center's "Dinner with the Generals" event on Thursday, June 13, along with Civil War reenactors portraying famous generals.
Grab a fork for what's generally meant to be a Civil dinner.

Take for Granted that it's an occasion to Mark on the calendar.

"We're going to host generals Grant, Custer and Stuart on the lawn of the history center, under a canopy where we'll have a catered dinner from the Branding Iron, emceed by none other than Mr. Mark Twain, of Hannibal, Missouri," said Debra Richardson, director of the Fillmore County History Center.

Richardson is excited to present this upcoming event with the Civil War-era generals and the renowned author, portrayed by performers who know the gentlemen's histories so well that they could be mistaken for them. This special event, "Dinner with the Generals," on Thursday, June 13, will include a dinner and "press conference."

Master of ceremonies Twain, better known as George Scott, noted, "People say I look more like Mark Twain than Mark Twain did...I'm a natural Mark Twain look-alike...curly white hair, squinty hazel eyes and short ears,"

Scott was born in Forest Lake, Ill., and grew up in Waukegan, Ill., "Jack Benny's hometown," to become a Mark Twain reenactor.

"I also have several white suits, bow tie, a steamboat-lookin' coat and some Mark Twain-lookin' shoes with a buckle on the side, a straw hat and derby for on the street, and also a brown suit with a vintage Dobbs hat. People call me Mark Twain even when I'm not dressing the part," he added.

Scott began portraying Twain in the spring of 2002, after he retired - having seen a Ken Burns television special, and hearing comments from friends who said he looked like Mark Twain. He officially began his tribute career by appearing in Waukegan, Ill., in a local parade and also at the senior living center, then touring in Hannibal, Mo.

"I've toured Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and Minnesota, done shows for the Clean Water Convention in Peoria, Ill., stayed at the Mark Twain Hotel, been a guest of honor at the Walk Back in Time in Mexico, Mo., appeared for the retired veterans in Quincy, Ill., done shows at the Heritage Days Civil War Reenactment in Galesburg, Ill., and appeared at the Prairie Days in Vandalia, Mo."

Scott often walks in parades, dances on parade floats, passes out his postcards to those along the street and shares the wisdom of the author who was born Samuel Clemens, but for whom the rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated.

"As a street performer, I do Mark Twain humor and pose for thousands of family photos. Many times, I open with, 'They thought I was dead.' Many people say the Mark Twain quote, 'Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.' One of my favorites, especially with the kids, is telling them when I was a little boy, I drowned six times in the Mississippi and once in Bear Creek, tryin' to learn how to swim. Then my mother told my younger brother Henry, 'now you don't go swimmin' until you learn how'."

Scott enjoys meeting people from all over the world, putting a smile on their faces, giving parents a chance to have a fun time with their kids. He also enjoys addressing people that happen to be disabled and tries to make them feel special, complimenting their caregivers.

He feels that it's rather important for those he encounters to understand that Mark Twain had a very special gift and a great imagination.

"He used humor in pointing out world problems, political views and religion," Scott said. "Most of all, he was way ahead of his time. His ideas still apply today and should be taught. Besides being a writer, he was an inventor, activist, world traveler, printer, steamboat pilot, husband, parent, publisher, humorist, humanitarian...all this after quitting school when he was 12. He said, 'I never let schoolin' interfere with my education'."

The generals - Ulysses S. Grant, George Armstrong Custer and Jeb Stuart - are brought to life by Larry Werline of Sycamore, Ill., Tom Peacock of Caledonia, Ill., and Andy Hare of Belvidere, Ill., respectively, and perform at approximately 20 weekend events per summer.

Peacock, a chimney sweep by day, spoke for the men of the company, Grant, Lee, Custer and Company, which the men formed after meeting one another at various Civil War reenactments and educational events. They now work together to appear at events across the country, such as in St. Louis, at the Missouri State Historical Society, Gettysburg and more.

"All of us bear resemblance to the characters we portray," Peacock said. "I became General Custer as a reenactor because everybody kept comparing how I look to General Custer. Larry, who is General Grant and also worked for Oracle Corporation, had been doing it for a while and had some success at it, and he told me I should pursue a career as Custer. General Lee, who won't be there, but is portrayed by Paul Wood of Wheaton, Ill., was in the same reenactments, and we decided to branch out and become Grant, Lee, Custer and Company. Andy Hare, who is Stuart, works as an Illinois Tollway Authority mechanic, but we all are uniformed in authentic uniforms - we dress the way our characters did. We've been doing this for about 12 years, and we have extensive knowledge of our characters."

Peacock pointed out that his character, Custer, is most recognized for his role in the Battle of Little Bighorn but in his shoes is much younger and in the Civil War.

"We strive for authenticity. We do extensive research before we present," he added. "We don't just do monologues - we try to bring our characters to life. We're always reading, always looking for new information anyplace we can find it. I won't add anything to my character unless I've confirmed it and seen it in at least two different places. We feel that people should feel that they're actually meeting with an historic character. We stay in first person when we're sitting at the table and remain in character."

After the dinner at the Fillmore County History Center, the men are bound for Wasioja, Minn., where they'll participate in a reenactment with hundreds of other Civil War enthusiasts.

"We're going to reenact the last days of the Civil War," Peacock stated, adding that they greatly anticipate entertaining Fillmore County museum dinner attendees. "We'd like them to expect to be informed and entertained at the same time, and they'll learn things they'd never known before about the generals."

Richardson promised a rousingly genuine Civil War evening with the generals. "I don't think any Civil War generals have visited Fillmore County, and getting all three generals in one evening, along with a great American author, is so exciting."

She added, "I'm hoping to have a Civil War-era tent for photo opportunities so people who have tickets can have their pictures taken with any of the generals when they come to dinner."

"Dinner with the Generals" is slated for Thursday, June 13, at 7 p.m. on the lawn of the Fillmore County History Center, with the generals' "press conference" to follow at 8 p.m.

Dinner tickets are $25 and available through advance sale only, and reservations may be made by calling the history center at (507) 268-4449 before June 6.

The press conference is open to the public.

The Fillmore County History Center is located at 202 County Road 8, Fountain, Minn.