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150 Years Ago Today - A Knock on Rev. A.D. Gillette's Front Door...

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Private Watkins, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    150 years ago today Reverend Dr. Abram Dunn Gillette received a knock on his front door that forever changed his life and wrote his name in the history books...

    The Reverend Doctor Abram Dunn Gillette was greatly puzzled. On the afternoon of July 6 (1865), Assistant Secretary of War Thomas T. Eckert arrived at Dr. Gillette's front door in a carriage and asked the pastor of Washington's First Baptist Church to attend to the doomed conspirators at the Arsenal. Seward's assailant, Lewis Paine, had personally asked for Dr. Gillette by name and desired his spiritual attendance and consolation.

    Upon reaching the Arsenal, the perplexed but willing and kindly minister was conducted at once to Powell's cell. The good clergyman knew nothing of the condemned man and was "much concerned to learn why he had chosen him, a loyalist, in preference to other clergymen of his own faith who were in admitted sympathy with the Southern Cause."

    Powell explained that he had heard him preach not long before:

    "Do you remember a bitter, sleety Sunday last February, when you preached in the Reverend Dr. Fuller's church in Baltimore? It was then I heard you. I sat with two ladies in one of the end pews to the right of the pulpit. There were scarcely more than a score of people in the church as the walking was so icy and dangerous. My companions and myself were the only occupants of the end pews on either side of the chancel. I had hoped that perhaps you might remember the circumstances, as you frequently turned towards us as if addressing us." (According to the "Local Matters" section of the Baltimore Sun for February 13, 1865, this would be Sunday, February 12.)
    Powell related to Dr. Gillette that he was the son of a Baptist minister and in conversation pertaining to his mother and family, broke down in tears, weeping bitterly for the first time since his sentence had been pronounced.

    In conversation with Powell, Dr. Gillette claimed that the prisoner told him that:

    "he thought he was doing the right thing in attempting to kill Secretary Seward, as he still claimed to be a Confederate soldier; aside from that, he admitted that he believed it would give peace to the South. He thinks now that it was all wrong, and blames the Rebel leaders for his death, though he did not fear to die. Several times he expressed his thanks for the kind treatment which he received from officers while in the prison. He stated that he was led into the conspiracy by Booth and John Surratt.
    Powell continued to agonize over Mrs. Surratt, telling the Reverend Dr. Gillette: "She at least, does not deserve to die with us. If I had no other reason, Doctor - she is a woman, and men do not make war on women."

    Dr. Gillette was impressed with Powell's intelligence in direct contrast with the newspaper accounts that portrayed him as a coldblooded killer with a moronic mentality. Lewis requested the clergyman to write his parents and tell them he had repented and had his hope of heavenly - if not earthly - pardon. Throughout the long night, the prisoner took special advantage of Dr. Gillette's ministrations, alternately praying and weeping. His last prayer was, as suggested by his friend, Dr. Gillette, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Finally towards dawn, emotionally drained, Powell was able to get about three hours of sleep.
    (All excerpts above from Alias "Paine", by Betty J. Ownsbey - an excellent read!)
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
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  3. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    The Reverend Dr. Abram Dunn Gillette:
    Reverend-Gillette.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
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  4. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Another photo of Dr. Gillette:
    2015-03-07 11.22.02.jpg
     
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  5. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    And one more...
    Abram.jpg
     
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  6. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    And of course, here is Lewis Powell, to whom Dr. Gillette ministered in his final hours...
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Allie

    Allie Captain

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    The picture of Paine/Powell has always fascinated me - it has such a modern feel and appearance, it could have been taken ten years ago as the cover for an album by an emo band.

    Thanks for the information about Gillette.
     
  8. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Abram Dunn Gillette was born at Cambridge, Washington County, N.Y., September 8, 1807. He studied in the preparatory department of Hamilton Institution, graduated from Union College, was ordained in Schenectady, and in May 1831, became pastor of the Baptist Church in that place, where he remained four years, then removed to Philadelphia, and became pastor of the Sansom Street Church. In 1839, the Eleventh Street Church (Philadelphia) having been formed under his leadership, he became its pastor, holding that office until 1852, when he accepted a call to Calvary Church, as it is now called, in New York city. In 1864 he removed to Washington, D.C., and was pastor of the First Baptist Church in that city five years. He then went to England, where he delivered a series of lectures to the students of Mr. Spurgeon's college, and, for a time, was the stated supply of a Church near London. For two years after his return (1872-74), he was corresponding secretary of the American and Foreign Bible Society. From 1874 to 1879 he was pastor at Sing Sing, N.Y, which was his last regular pastorate. He died at his summer home, Bluff Head, on the shore of lake George, August 24, 1882. Dr. Gillette was the author of several memorial volumes, and frequently contributed to various journals.
    ADG_medium.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
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  9. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    Well done! I enjoyed this thread immensely.
     
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  10. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Dr. Gillette described himself as a "loyalist" in expressing his surprise at Powell's request to see him; he actually had two sons in the Union Army:
    • Captain James Gillette, a veteran of many battles, served in the Army of the Cumberland, and

    • Daniel Gano Gillette DGG_medium.jpg , who had been captured and held as a prisoner in Texas until war's end.

    None of this, however, tainted his heart or affected his sincere kindness to and care for Lewis Powell.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
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  11. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Dr. Gillette was of course quite familiar with all of the events that led up to that fateful knock on his front door 150 years ago today. After the death of Lincoln, he preached a very moving sermon, one that was subsequently published due to its eloquence and impact on a grieving population… excerpts of which follow:

    God Seen Above all National Calamities
    A Sermon on the Death of President Lincoln
    April 23rd, 1865
    By A.D. Gillette, D.D., Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Washington D.C.

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple – Isaiah vi, I

    When a little babe dies, all fathers and mothers weep with the sorrowing parents, and press their own dear lambs nearer their throbbing, loving hearts; for they know how frail the tie is that binds them to the pledges of their mutual love.

    When parents die, the children of their neighbors cling more closely to their parents, and are in deepest sympathy with those who are sorely bereft; for they realize that ere long it may be their bitter lot to drink of the sorrowful cup of orphanage.

    If a faithful pastor falls from his sacred relation into the silent tomb, every church feels admonished that he whom they obey and revere in the gospel may be called from their service to go up higher.

    When the Executive head of a great nation falls, all nations become mourners; for they know that the ruler they look to carry them on in improvements and give them desirable perpetuity and stability on earth, is also a man, and must ere long die, and may be called to his dread account in a moment least expected, and when they seemed most to need his guiding hand in the affairs which so vitally concern their common and individual good…

    The knell of death has sounded; it sounded first from the steeple of this Church; the authorities of the nation have paid funeral honors to him they officially surrounded, prudently counseled, loved and respected. The electric throb has sent the thrilling sensation to the extremes of our country, and swift winged ships are bearing it to all people who live beyond the seas. The lofty form that so recently bowed to welcome the humblest citizen to the nation’s mansion has been shrouded and coffined, and committed to careful hands, to be borne to their home on the prairies, where in less exalted position he was not less loved than here…

    So let us, my brethren, now that our honored President has died, “See also the Lord on high,” His train in gracefulness and glory filling the temples of our land, and the hallowed place where we now worship. We should see the Lord above all national calamities, so that we might place our confidence for future success in a certain help in time of trouble.​
     
  12. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    The impact on Dr. Gillette of his brief but intense time with Lewis Powell was considerable, as noted in the book Reminiscences of the Life & Labor of A.D. Gillette, published by his friends & associates in 1883:

    Many public duties outside of his church relations fell upon him. One of the most memorable and trying of these was his service as spiritual adviser to the would-be assassin of Secretary Seward... When called, after his trial and condemnation... Dr. Gillette found this youth to be the son of a Baptist minister, ingenuous and sincere, in early life a professed Christian. Such had proved to be the serpent fascination of the chief conspirator, that he had been made to believe that the private assassination of the one whom he regarded as the chief violator of the rights of his country, was as honorable and as much a duty as to shoot an enemy in battle. Not till he had taken his seat in the saddle, after his daring attempt, did the character of his act as a crime break on him... He offered no defense on his trial; he met his fate as a penitent for his crime against God and man; but death to him was that of many who fell in the same cause on the battle-field, except they were never conscious of wrong, while he was the penitent... looking to Him who had suffered even for those like him misguided. The faithful following-up of this sad yet grateful duty wore upon Dr. Gillette's nervous sensibilities, as he often said, more than months of ordinary pastoral duty. In his journal he speaks of spending the night with him; of accompanying him at the gallows, when he and others, "one a woman," met their fate; and he says "The vision haunted me for nights! It was horrible!" (pgs. 102-104)​
     
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  13. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Thank you Nathanb1...
     
  14. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    After spending all night with young Lewis Powell, Rev. Dr. Gillette remained with him throughout his remaining few hours of July 7, 1865. During that time, Powell gave Dr. Gillette a copy of the death warrant that had been issued to him, and Dr. Gillette procured a straw hat for Powell as protection against the sun's rays and placed it upon the youth's head just before the death march began.
    upload_2015-7-7_8-19-33.png
     
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  15. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Up on the scaffold, a puff of wind struggled through the oppressive heat and dislodged Powell’s straw hat, which Dr. Gillette retrieved and placed back on his head. "Thank you, Doctor," Powell whispered, "I shall not need it much longer." (Alias "Paine", Ownsbey)
    upload_2015-7-7_9-7-50.png
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
  16. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Shielded by umbrellas, General Hartranft read the findings of the court, and with that official duty over, the religious exercises took place. Dr. Gillette advanced to the front of the platform to publicly thank, at the request of Lewis Powell, the officers of the prison and all who had charge of them for their uniform kindness. (Alias "Paine", Ownsbey)
    upload_2015-7-7_9-8-39.png
     
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  17. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Dr. Gillette then delivered a fervent prayer for Powell:
    upload_2015-7-7_9-9-24.png
    “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we pray thee help this dear friend to commit his soul into thy hands as unto the hands of a faithful Creator – dependent upon all the mercy and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ in hope of eternal life, through faith in Him. Grant him forgiveness for all his sins, an easy passage out of this world, and if consistent with thy purposes of mercy, a share of those delights thou has in store for thy people. Receive him into thy presence, we humbly ask, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen” (Alias "Paine", Ownsbey)
     
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  18. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Close-ups of Dr. Gillette kneeling, praying for Lewis Powell, 150 years ago today, July 7th.
    upload_2015-7-7_9-10-23.png
    upload_2015-7-7_9-12-17.png
     
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  19. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Abram Dunn Gillette lived for 17 more years after that hot July day in 1865, always carrying with him the memory of those poignant events that began with a simple knock on his front door. He now rests at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by family and loved ones.
    upload_2015-7-7_13-27-24.png
    "They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever."
    "Abram Dunn Gillette, Born Sept 8 1807 - Died Aug 24 1882"
     
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  20. Private Watkins

    Private Watkins 2nd Lieutenant

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    Ok, here's my final word on the good Reverend Dr. Gillette... (I gather this has not been a very popular thread, so after this it can fade into the sunset of July 7, 2015...), why do I care about the good Doctor? Well, for one I think his is a fascinating and very compassionate story that offers a different perspective than the typical mainstream story-line on July 7, 1865. In addition, though, there's this connection: a brass telescope presented & inscribed to Dr. Gillette in 1859... I only wish it could talk and tell us of all the things it's "seen"... did it get carried off to war by one of Dr. Gillette's sons, or was it used to peer upon old Jube's rebels threatening the gates of D.C...? I guess we'll never know, so we'll just have to be satisfied with knowing a very small part of its owner's story from July of 1865.
    MJM245-01.jpg MJM245-02.jpg MJM245-03.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
  21. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Mickey Dolans of the Monkees.
     
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