It’s hard to imagine what 16-year-old Sergeant Robert Howard felt as he walked home to North Carolina from the Appomattox Court House 150 years ago today.
Perhaps a sense of confusion and disappointment. Probably relief.
To mark the milestone anniversary of the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Americans rang bells across the nation, including 13 church sites here in Delaware, for four minutes at 3:15 p.m on April 9.
Ann Howard’s great-granddaughter, Kim Burgmuller, thought of him as she rang the New Castle United Methodist Church bell. She never met her great-grandfather, but often heard the family story of Howard’s walk home. He served in Company A of the Second Regiment in North Carolina Junior Reserves for the Army of Northern Virginia, which he joined in April 1864. Burgmuller was born in North Carolina but grew up in Delaware and now resides in New Castle.
Old Swedes Foundation Executive Director Rebecca Wilson and Board Member Max Dooley heralded the anniversary by tugging on the gold and red bell rope at precisely 3:15 pm. They were proud to take part in the national observance.
Another New Castle bell-ringer, Russ Smith, has familial ties to Appomattox. Smith, who rang the bell at the New Castle Court House Museum, had a great-great-grandfather who enlisted for the Union in September 1864. Private Joseph Jackson, who was a blacksmith from Brandywine Village (now part of Wilmington), was involved in the pursuit of Gen. Lee from Petersburg to Appomattox, Smith said. Records show Jackson served in Company B of the Eighth Delaware Regiment in the Army of the Potomac.
Smith discovered his great-great-grandfather’s service after doing some genealogy research at the National Archives. “I’m a Delaware history buff and a Civil War history buff, so it was really gratifying to find it,” he said.
Other bells in Delaware tolled to mark the anniversary of the war’s end: At Dover Presbyterian and Wesley United Methodist churches; John Bell House; Kent County Courthouse; Legislative Mall’s Liberty Bell and The Old State House in Dover; Bethel Methodist, Lewes Presbyterian and St. Peter’s Episcopal churches in Lewes; the Lewes Historical Society; and Immanuel Episcopal in New Castle.