Trinity UCC, Gettysburg

I’ve been attending different church services the last few weeks–which may not seem like a topic for an historical fiction author’s blog–expect that every church I have attended was used as a hospital during the Civil War. (Any church that was around during the Civil War was used as a hospital in this town).

This week I attended Trinity UCC on High Street, which had its origins in 1790 when the congregation met in a log cabin school room adjacent to the present building. The cornerstone of the church that now stands at the intersection of High and Stratton streets was laid in May 22, 1851. In 1863 this building served as a hospital for wounded soldiers of both armies during the Battle of Gettysburg, and in 1918 it served as a “Y” hut for the soldiers of Camp Colt during World War I.

The church was remodeled in 1892 with the addition of the vestibule, tower, and stained glass windows. The windows are absolutely beautiful. Just like any of the churches in Gettysburg, visitors are always welcome.

Last Sunday I attended another historic church, Christ Evangelical Lutheran on Chambersburg Street. This is the oldest building in Gettysburg continuously used as a church, and was one of the first to be established as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg. Originally founded in 1836, this was the third of three Lutheran institutions started by Samuel Simon Schmucker and his colleagues. (The Seminary, founded in 1826, and Gettysburg College—originally named Pennsylvania College—founded in 1832, being the others).

Christ Lutheran Church

Built in 1835~1836, the church still has its original foundation, brick walls, front pillars, bell tower, bell, floor joists, rafters, and beams. The original, plain glass windows were destroyed during the Battle, and were later replaced with stained glass. The same key and hardware from 1836 are used to open the church’s front doors.

This photo shows two historic Linden trees that witnessed the rich history of Gettysburg for nearly 170 years. Sadly, they were removed last year for safety reasons. You can also see the plaque at the bottom of the steps that tells of the death of Chaplain Horatio Howell during the Battle of Gettysburg.

There are many versions of what happened to Howell, but the most likely is that as Howell emerged from the hospital/church from the center door at the top of the steps, a Confederate at the bottom of the steps demanded that he surrender his sword. Howell, instead of unbuckling his weapon, tried to explain that he didn’t have to surrender it because he was a noncombatant. The Confederate was apparently in no mood to negotiate, and shot and killed Howell while standing at the spot now designated by the marker. Howell’s body fell at the landing/portico on the top of the steps.

The marker’s inscription shows that approximately 30 years after the battle, when the marker was placed there, the veterans were still bitter about the way that Howell died. It reads:
In Memoriam
Rev. Horatio S. Howell
90th Penna Vols.
Was cruelly shot dead on these church steps on the afternoon of July 1, 1863.
“He delivereth me from mine enemies. Yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me.”
18th Psalms
48th Verse
“He being dead yet speaketh.”
Hebrews 11, 4th

This plaque gives me chills every time I pass by it, as it brings to mind the terrible events that occurred here even as we go hurrying by in our daily lives more than a century later. I don’t know how many people drive by or walk by without ever reading the memorial, but as we approach the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, I hope more will take the time to reflect on what happened here.

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at just two of our local churches. I’ll be attending more services in the future, and will keep you posted!

Jessica James


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