Seven score and 10 years ago, Abraham Lincoln made one of the most famous speeches in American presidential history.
Four months earlier, the site where Lincoln gave the speech was the site of a bloody three-day battle many historians view as the turning point in the Civil War. On Saturday, that speech and the history surrounding Lincoln were celebrated and remembered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Jeffersonville.
Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and Friday and Saturday, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — which is celebrating its 175th year in existence this year — hosted two days of events commemorating the historical event.
W.K. McCullouch said he and co-chair of the Gettysburg Anniversary committee Steve Fleece are both history buffs and they wanted to do something to commemorate the 150th year of Lincoln’s famous words.
“I saw that there were several commemorations of the battle, but there were no commemorations of the address,” Fleece said.
He said no one was really doing a commemoration on the speech that was able to encapsulate the purpose of fighting the war in two minutes and inspire, what Fleece said is an open-ended comment on the United State’s great commission and that its citizens should be continuously working to improve the nation.
The church had its own ties to the Civil War as its minister in the 1860s joined the Union Army to serve as a chaplain in the Army of the Cumberland. The army was part of Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s march to the sea, at the end of which the chaplain resigned, because he did not like what he saw, McCullouch said.
On Friday the congregation hosted re-enactors and a dinner based off of a menu that was served at the Lincoln White House. Saturday included a day-long symposium featuring five different speakers that addressed different topics of the Civil War.
The first speaker was Donna McCreary, a Charlestown resident and expert and re-enactor for the former first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln.
McCreary told the story of the Todds to those in attendance with Lincoln and the scandals that ensued. She also highlighted how the Todd’s story encapsulated that of the nation, as the family split its loyalties on the Northern and Southern borders.
Phil and Jennie Bartelt, former neighbors of McCreary, said they came to see her presentation and were interested in the social interactions and politics that took place behind the scenes of the Lincoln administration, including the passage of the 13th Amendment.
“It’s quite something to think about what took place,” Phil Bartelt said.
Speakers throughout the remainder of the day covered topics that included Frederick Douglass: Lincoln Critic, Conscience, and Ally; The Episcopal Church and the Religion of the Lost Cause; A New Birth of Freedom; and Seeds of Inspiration: Southern Indiana boyhood helped shape Lincoln’s character and beliefs. The day closed with a community service of commemoration and rededication, as well as dramatic readings of the Gettysburg Address and the second inaugural address.
Out in front of the church, a group was presenting a visual for passers-by.
It included Civil War reenactors that are part of a group that represents the Vernon Greys, form North Vernon, which were part of the Indiana’s 6th regiment of the Union Army.
Along with period rifles, letters and Confederate money, the reenactors were hoping to draw attention to the events being held inside the church.