Boone County Historical Society Presents Lincoln’s Lebanon
Writer / Matt Keating
Fans of President Abraham Lincoln will thoroughly enjoy the Boone County Historical Society’s upcoming free Lincoln’s Lebanon event, including a Civil War re-enactment. The event will be held on September 24 and 25 at Memorial Park.
Jane Hammock, a member of the Boone County Historical Society board, says the event is built around a unique premise. “It is a Civil War re-enactment based on the premise of when Lincoln stopped at the railroad crossing in Lebanon,” Hammock says.
On the way to his inauguration, Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois, on February 11, 1861, with family, friends, his valet and a bodyguard. “He gave a farewell address in Springfield before leaving, as he knew with the state of the union, he might be killed,” Hammock says.
For the next 10 days he made stops in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.
“He stopped in Zionsville and Lebanon and gave short talks from the back of his railroad car,” Hammock says. “On the evening of February 11, 1861, the train made a stop at South Lebanon Street where Lincoln addressed Boone County residents. The premise of our event is great. What if Lincoln had gotten off the train, traveled north to a field, and visited with Boone County residents talking about the upcoming events, especially since states had started to secede from the union?”
The same train carried Lincoln’s body back to Illinois after his assassination.
“The body train traveled through Whitestown, Indiana, at 1 a.m. on May 1, 1865, to a bonfire surrounded by citizens paying their respects,” Hammock says. “The train traveled through Lebanon, Thorntown, Colfax and Lafayette, where citizens paid their respects.”
The event will include actors in roles for Lincoln, General Robert E. Lee, a mortician, a physician and a blacksmith, as well as medical demonstrations.
“Our Mr. Lincoln, who does not break character, arrives at the historical marker on South Lebanon Street for a photo op,” Hammock says. “Then he boards a horse-drawn carriage for his ride to Memorial Park. There he greets the citizens and gives a brief speech. He then mingles with the crowds, answers questions and meets with the soldiers.”
The Lincoln actor will have a debate with the actor playing Lee.
“Our mortician and physician both give demonstrations and scheduled talks during the event,” Hammock says. “A funeral for a fallen soldier is conducted by our priest after the battles. The priest then gives a talk about being a priest during the conflict. Our medical guy has displays of medical equipment from the era. The blacksmith has a working forge and shows how smithing was done.”
Battles will occur at 2 p.m. each day of the event, with live cannon fire.
“A funeral is held after the first battle and a camp dance is held on Saturday night,” Hammock says. “On Sunday we will feature a church service and the second battle. During the battles, soldiers fire their weapons and some of them will act like they are dying during the battle. One of the soldiers who passes during the battle has his funeral afterward.”
A band will play during the two-day event as well as the camp dance. “The Christian Commission has a church service at 10 a.m. on Sunday, September 25,” Hammock says. “The Catholic service is done in the Union camp. We hope to have Lebanon citizens participate in the church services. Notices will be sent to local churches.”
Hammock says the Boone County Historical Society has been organizing the event for 14 years.
“We are still trying to give the community a free history lesson,” she says. “How many people know Lincoln stopped in Lebanon? The re-enactors love to come to Lebanon since the park is like the old battlefields, with both open areas and tree-lined areas.”
The Boone County Historical Society receives all funds for the event from donations.
“We do not charge our vendors and we pay for the soldiers, cannons, impersonators and demonstrators, although at a small fee,” Hammock says. “The local Zonta Club serves meals so another nonprofit in town is allowed to raise funds. We are lucky the Zonta Club uses our event for a fundraiser by selling food. Everyone loves their biscuits and gravy. We usually have a few vendors. We have a homemade-bread guy who sells his wares. We also have the local potter who gives demonstrations and sells his wares.”
The Brookshire Charitable Foundation has been the society’s presenting sponsor for several years and is their biggest contributor.
“The historical society members organize the event, and are there all weekend emptying trash, registering soldiers, distributing ice for the soldiers’ food, setting up sound systems and selling our historical books,” Hammock says. “The Fall Creek Suttlery will
have a large tent of period items for the soldiers to replace their items and for local people to purchase. We can also always use volunteers to help with setup on Friday, and man the historical tent on Saturday and Sunday.”
For more information, call the Boone County Historical Society at 765-483-9414 or go to boonecountyhistorical.org.