Lemont Historical Society Commemorates 150th Anniversary of Civil War
A new exhibit is now on display at the Old Stone Church, 306 Lemont St.
About 25 people gathered in the Old Stone Church, 306 Lemont St., on Friday to hear the words of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, a commander in the war who later became president, and Mary Ann Bickerdyke, one of the first women to act as a nurse.
Lemont, a “northern” Illinois city took the side of the Union, while southern Illinois had allegiance to the Confederacy. One reenactor from Cairo, Ill., spoke of how the war was tearing his family apart. His son would be joining one side while a family member in Lemont was joining the other.
Grant, played by Scott Whitney of Winnebago, said the same thing happened in his family.
“My wife’s parents were Southern planters who owned slaves.," he said. "My father, an Ohio tanner, was for abolition and never felt any pity for those with slaves. He didn’t even come to our wedding.”
Grant/Whitney said he preferred the ideology of Stephen A. Douglas, who ran against Abraham Lincoln for president.
“But when the first shot was fired at Ft. Sumter, you either became a patriot or a traitor and I intended to be one of the former, ” he said, noting that the notion of seceding from the United States was treason.
Ft. Sumter, a federal fort in South Carolina, was fired upon by Confederate soldiers in 1861.
Reenactor Helen Milam of Lockport portrayed Mary Ann Bickerdyke, known as “Mother” and the “Cyclone in Calico.” She ministered to soldiers at a military base in Cairo, Ill.
“I came from Galesburg and was asked to deliver supplies down to Cairo and saw first-hand the death and disease and filth that our Illinois boys are living in," she said. "Some of these boys were on death’s door when I came. I asked them to come out and take a bath and get a fresh-cooked meal from the victuals I brought from home.
"They kept saying they were too sick, but I finally talked them into coming out for the baskets their families made for them. They came out for the fresh-baked bread and blackberry jam.They sure didn’t want to take no baths, that’s for sure. Oh, the stench."
The Historical Society’s new Civil War exhibit features a picture of Lemont resident John Warden, who was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War. Another photograph shows the Brown brothers of Lemont, who also served in the war.