Brooklyn: Plymouth Church, Beecher and the Civil War a Photo Essay UPDATED

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Pat Young

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Although I live on Long Island, I am often in historic Brooklyn to visit my girlfriend. Over the coming weeks I will be sharing some picture that I have taken of Civil War era sites and buildings in that most beautiful of boroughs.

The first comes from my visit there Sunday to a church that figured prominently in the coming of the Civil War. Plymouth Church was a Congregational church founded by transplanted New Englanders. The church was built in 1849-1850.

Added 8/7/2015 I have added new pics of the interior of the church.


plymouth  church brooklyn.PNG
 
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Pat Young

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The statue of Henry Ward Beecher was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who designed both Mount Rushmore and the Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain in Georgia. It is ironic that New York's leading abolitionist was memorialized by the same artist who etched Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee into a mountainside.

The statue is controversial in the neighborhood because the black figures are shown at the base of it in a subordinate pose.

plymouth henry ward beecher.PNG
 
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Pat Young

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In February 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most important speeches of his life at Cooper Union. It established him as a major contended for the presidency. The day before, he worshiped at Plymouth Church, which was seen as a way of him identifying with the growing anti-slavery movement in New York. He also went to services at Plymouth three weeks later. This is the only New York church where Lincoln is known to have worshiped at.

There is a "Lincoln niche" in the churchyard memorializing those visits.


plymouth lincoln.PNG
 

Pat Young

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This street outside of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn has seen a lot of things that belie its quiet appearance. During the 1850s the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves and it was the scene of notorious "slave auctions" to raise money to buy freedom for slaves. People like Mark Twain, Clara Barton, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, William Thackery, and Martin Luther King spoke here.

plymougth street scene.PNG
 
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ErnieMac

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Henry Ward Beecher contributed to the coming of the Civil War in his own right, not just vicariously through the efforts of his father and sister. In early 1856 Beecher, during a public meeting at the Plymouth Church to promote anti-slavery emigration to Kansas, is quoted as saying he "believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well .... read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle." Arms raised for the Kansas freestaters would frequently be referred to as 'Beecher's Bibles.' http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1856-02-08/ed-1/seq-6/

On April 14, 1865, at the request of President Lincoln, Beecher was the principle orator at the ceremonial raising of the American flag at Fort Sumter on the anniversary of its surrender. The flag raised was the same one Major Anderson had lowered four years before.
 

Pat Young

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Henry Ward Beecher contributed to the coming of the Civil War in his own right, not just vicariously through the efforts of his father and sister. In early 1856 Beecher, during a public meeting at the Plymouth Church to promote anti-slavery emigration to Kansas, is quoted as saying he "believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well .... read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle." Arms raised for the Kansas freestaters would frequently be referred to as 'Beecher's Bibles.' http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1856-02-08/ed-1/seq-6/
We tend to forget the martial aspect of militant Christianity.
 

Pat Young

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On April 14, 1865, at the request of President Lincoln, Beecher was the principle orator at the ceremonial raising of the American flag at Fort Sumter on the anniversary of its surrender. The flag raised was the same one Major Anderson had lowered four years before.
I wonder how common it was for Protestant divines to participate in such obviously triumphalist manifestations.
 
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Blessmag

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The statue of Henry Ward Beecher was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who designed both Mount Rushmore and the Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain in Georgia. It is ironic that New York's leading abolitionist was memorialized by the same artist who etched Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee into a mountainside.

The statue is controversial in the neighborhood because the black figures are shown at the base of it in a subordinate pose.

View attachment 37016
Eye of the beholder. guess I do not see subordinance
 

ErnieMac

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They were trained public speakers. Just a year and a half earlier Edward Everett, trained as a Unitarian preacher, gave the formal oration at Gettysburg prior to Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address. Given the religious bent of the era I would be surprised if any significant dedication did not involve a Protestant minister.
 

Pat Young

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They were trained public speakers. Just a year and a half earlier Edward Everett, trained as a Unitarian preacher, gave the formal oration at Gettysburg prior to Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address. Given the religious bent of the era I would be surprised if any significant dedication did not involve a Protestant minister.
I am just surprised that a minister would be there to celebrate a military conquest.
 
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Pat Young

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The statue of Henry Ward Beecher was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who designed both Mount Rushmore and the Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain in Georgia. It is ironic that New York's leading abolitionist was memorialized by the same artist who etched Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee into a mountainside.

The statue is controversial in the neighborhood because the black figures are shown at the base of it in a subordinate pose.

View attachment 37016
CASH tells me Borglum was associated with the KKK during his Stone Mountain days. Anyone know about this.
 

KansasFreestater

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Beecher, during a public meeting at the Plymouth Church to promote anti-slavery emigration to Kansas, is quoted as saying he "believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. . . . Arms raised for the Kansas freestaters would frequently be referred to as 'Beecher's Bibles.' http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1856-02-08/ed-1/seq-6/
Yup, many a rifle arrived in Kansas in a crate marked as Bibles. They were shipped to what came to be known as the Beecher Bible & Rifle Church. Some friends and I visited it a few years ago. It's a pretty funky place, since it's both a tourist site and a church that is still in use, with a regular congregation and weekly services.
 
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KansasFreestater

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The first minister of Plymouth Church was Henry Ward Beecher. The beautiful churchyard contains a statue of him. Beecher was the son of Lyman Beecher, who helped stir up anti-Irish riots in Boston. His sister Harriet Beecher Stowe would write Uncle Tom's Cabin.


View attachment 37015
Gorgeous photos, Pat. Having never been to New York -- and having grown up watching so many movies made in Manhattan that give the impression that the city's all concrete and vertical -- I'm still always amazed when I see how verdant parts of it are!

Of course, there's Central Park -- designed by that awesome Civil War hero (at least, I count him as a hero!) Olmsted.

But I believe you about Brooklyn being a jewel. My niece recently returned from a couple years of living there -- and I never tire of her stories of it!
 
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