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Monday, April 13, 2015

The "Commemorating Sergeant Stephen Weatherlow" Story

St. James Episcopal historic churchyard with
the bell tower in the background.
It was an ordinary day.  Was preparing for my trip to the Lancaster County Courthouse to take photos and participate in the event that celebrated the ending of the Civil War 150 years ago on April 9, 1865.  Then I read on my church's website that they too would be celebrating with the ringing of the bells at 3:15 PM as well as encouraging anyone who had relatives, who were in the Civil war, tell their stories about the war.  One such person who had a relative in the war was Ginger whose 1st cousin, five times removed, was a sergeant in Company 1, 126th New York infantry and served in the Civil War for four years on the Union side.  
A look up into our bell tower with the rope to ring the
bell hanging, ready for action.
I walked into our church proper where there was access to the bell tower about 2:45 PM and waited.  Years ago I climbed the circular stairs to the bell tower more than once to take photos of the church yard and connecting chapel that was build in the early 1960's.  Neat climb, but rather scary with all the bats that called the tower home at that time.  Not unusual to have a few of them flying around or at you as you climb the metal stairs.  
Our church tower now has screen around it to keep the birds and bats from living in it.  
Photo I took years ago from the tower.
Well, shortly a few parishioners arrived and we greeted one another.  Ginger had decided that her grandsons would read a short summary about her cousin as well as participate in the ringing of the bell.  About 3:00 PM Sergeant Stephen Weatherlow was commemorated by her grandsons who told of his experience during battle.  He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on the fourth day of July, 1863 and had his leg amputated at 6:00 PM that evening.  He laid in the woods about 40 feet from the the amputating table until July 11th when he was then carried out of the woods and put under a tent that had been located at the field hospital.  The following day a doctor from Philadelphia dressed his leg for the first time since it had been amputated.  It was in such bad condition that it had to be re-amputated on July 25th.  
Ginger's grandsons presenting the story
about Sergeant Stephen Weatherlow.
About December 1st he was sent to a Baltimore hospital where they discovered gangrene got into his leg and ate the flesh off the end of the leg, up to the shinbone.  It had to be amputated a third time.  It took 21 years of walking on crutches before he was able to wear an artificial leg.  He lived the rest of his 93 years in Seneca Falls, NY where he was a postmaster
.  Wow, what a story told by Ginger's grandson and documented with photos held by her another grandson.  Eventually a few others told their stories and at 3:14 the two boys grabbed the bell rope, not being able to wait any longer, and rang the bell.  Shortly other bells in the city could be heard.  The bells chimed for four minutes, one minute for each year of the Civil War.  I said my goodbyes and headed to the Courthouse for the next event.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


Another photo I took of the church tower years ago. 
Plaque on the Duke Street side of the historic church.

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