10 - April 1865 - The Epilogue

By Joan C. McCulloh

         April 1865 brought both joy and sorrow to Mercersburg as it did to many other towns, farms, and cities throughout the North.  When the townspeople learned of Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, they were ecstatic with joy.  Dr. Henry Harbaugh of the  Theological Seminary of the German Reformed Church wrote in his diary on April 10: “Today at half-past eleven the dispatch was brought to my study giving notice of the surrender of Lee, and that Sheridan had again whipped Johnson.  The bells were rung an hour from 12:30 o’clock on.  The flag was raised on the seminary and the students sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ on the cupola {of Main Hall}.”  Dr. Thomas Creigh also noted:  “Considerable excitement….church bells ringing, stores closed, and guns being fired off.  May the news be true…and may this rebellion have received its death blow.”

         But when news reached town that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated on April 14,  joy quickly turned to sorrow.  Dr. Creigh was incredulous when he first heard the news and wrote:  “Rumor says that President Lincoln has been assassinated, also Sec’y Seward - so the telegram says but cannot believe it…can see no motive for perpetrating such a deed.  Much excitement in town.” When the news was confirmed, the local churches planned a community service of prayer. Dr. Creigh wrote:  “Sunday was a solemn day in the churches and the following Wednesday a union service was conducted in the Methodist church for the Martyred President. The church was draped in mourning, and all the church bells tolled, and stores and shops closed - a large assemblage and solemn!”

         On July 30, 1865, Dr. Creigh entered into his diary this statement and desire:  “Most of the young men are returning from the army.  God has preserved them in the midst of danger.  May they give their hearts unfeignedly {sic} to Him.”  

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