What Lincoln Would Have Tweeted

A graduate student at Utah State University is a new kind of Civil War re-enactor. Instead of dressing up in period clothes, the student, Tom Caswell, uses Twitter to send short messages in the voice of Abraham Lincoln and other historical figures.

Mr. Caswell is one of the organizers of TwHistory, a Web site devoted to historical re-enactments via Twitter. For their first event, they staged the battle of Gettysburg in the voices of a handful of key characters, including Lincoln (whose famous speech there is, appropriately, famous for its brevity).

“Each Twitter account in the re-enactment represents a historical figure, and you are trying to portray that person’s actions as accurately as possible,” said Mr. Caswell, in an e-mail interview. “We use the first person to give the feeling that the event is happening in real time.”

Marion Jensen, another graudate student working on the proejct, cued up the Twitter messages in advance, using scheduling software. He based the messages on diaries of soldiers. “At breakfast time I would tweet, ‘Eating beans for breakfast,’” he said. “Whenever possible we tried to use exact quotes.”

The researchers say that such re-enactments can be used as learning excercises for students, who can be assigned to research historical diaries and other sources to write the tweets.

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