Tucked on a side street in Gettysburg Pennsylvania is a small monument to Horatio Stockton Howell, Chaplain with the 90th Pennsylvania Regiment that was killed on the steps of College Lutheran Church. The Church had been established as a Union hospital shortly after the battle of Gettysburg began.
Chaplain Howell was born near Trenton New Jersey on August 14, 1820. He was the fifth of seven children born to William and Abigail Howell and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1853 and served the Church in Delaware Water Gap Pennsylvania.
While serving the Church in Elkton Maryland, Chaplain Howell says firsthand what he called the “evils of slavery.” He was convinced by the influence of his Mentor, the Rev. James Wilson that the institution of slavery “would reduce to the condition of brutes those whom God had created in his image and for whom Christ had died.” It was his mentor that urged him in 1862 to enlist in the Army as chaplain.
On July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederates engaged the Union troops near the Lutheran Theological Seminary. The 1st Corps had established a field hospital in the Church located not far from the seminary itself. By midafternoon on that day, it was reported that more than 140 men were laying in the sanctuary and on the benches being tended to by hospital personnel and Chaplain Howell.
As the battle lines shifted on that day, the 1st Corps pulled out of Gettysburg back to Cemetery Ridge. Hearing shots outside the Church Chaplain Howell turned to one of the surgeons he had been assisting and said, “I will step outside for a moment and see what the trouble is.”
What happened next come from the recollection of Sgt. Archibald Snow:
“I had just had my wound dressed and was leaving through the front door just behind Chaplain Howell, at the same time when the advance skirmishers of the Confederates were coming up the street on a run. Howell, in addition to his shoulder straps & uniform, wore the straight dress sword prescribed in Army Regulations for chaplains… The first skirmisher arrived at the foot of the church steps just as the chaplain and I came out. Placing one foot on the first step the soldier called on the chaplain to surrender; but Howell, instead of throwing up his hands promptly and uttering the usual ‘I surrender,’ attempted some dignified explanation to the effect that he was a noncombatant and as such was exempt from capture, when a shot from the skirmisher’s rifle ended the controversy…”*
Today, at the bottom of the Church steps, stand a monument to Chaplain Howell. The monument is an open Bible on a stand. One side of the Bible tells Chaplain Howells story, and the other side has several quotes of Scripture.
It is rather sad that this monument will go almost unnoticed by visitors to Gettysburg, but it is fitting that it is at the actual site of his death.
*New York Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga, Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, (Albany: J.B. Lyon Company, 1900), I:24.