November 18, 1863
Mr. Quinn and his wife invited us to go into town tomorrow to hear President Lincoln speak in Gettysburg. The president was going to dedicate the cemetery to all the Union men who died there during the awful battle in July. We were both happy to go and see President Lincoln.
November 19, 1863
I got the horse and buggy ready. I helped Marcia on board and then drove the buggy to pick up Mr. and Mrs. Quinn at the front porch of the hotel.
We headed to Gettysburg. It was a pleasant day to travel except that the roads were packed with people going our same direction.
Mr. Quinn directed me to Judge David Wills’ house which was right in the middle of the town. I was quite surprised to hear that President Lincoln was there.
Mr. Quinn said Judge Wills had set up the cemetery dedication and had invited the president to speak. I stopped and the Quinns got out of the buggy. Mr. Quinn told me to keep the buggy close as they would only be a few minutes.
There were a couple dozen other buggies tied to the hitching posts around two sides of the house. I pulled in beside one and got down to brush Mr. Quinn’s horse while I waited. The center of town was quite crowded with people. There were fancy buggies and groups of soldiers and others waiting for the parade. Bands were playing. It was a grand affair.
The Quinns returned shortly and gave me directions to the cemetery. Mr. Quinn told me they had talked to President Lincoln. I wished I could have talked to the president too. I would have thanked him for freeing me and my enslaved brothers and sisters.
The Quinns boarded the buggy. I drove through town following a long line of other buggies going to listen to the president speak.
I hitched the buggy outside the cemetery. Mr. Quinn told us they had reserved seats near the platform. He said we should stay close to the buggy, but to also enjoy ourselves as he felt certain we could watch from here. But he encouraged us to move forward if our view was blocked or we couldn’t see or hear what was going on.
A long procession of soldiers and officials marched down the street from town.
It wasn’t too long after the marchers entered the gate that I heard a commotion behind me. It was President Lincoln who I recognized from Sharpsburg.
I am not trying to be disrespectful, but he certainly did look uncomfortable on that horse. His long legs hung down to the ground. It looked like they should have found him a taller horse.
The president got off his horse right next to Mr. Quinn’s buggy. A colored man took his horse to tie it to the post. The president looked our way and smiled. He tipped his hat, and then took long strides into the cemetery. I wondered if he really did tip his hat toward us or I just wished he had. I asked Marcia what she thought. She thought he had done that for us.
Marcia and I found a spot on the grass where we could see all the people on the stage. We thought we were close enough to hear.
There was some fine music playing while everyone gathered. A minister said a long prayer. The band played some more. And then an old white haired man talked on and on and on.
I slept through part of it. Marcia woke me before the man was finished. I was thankful I had not missed the president’s talk.
Everyone was mighty happy when the speaker finally stopped and sat down. The crowd cheered loudly, perhaps because he was finally finished. I did not think the people came to listen to him.
President Lincoln was introduced next. There was loud clapping as the president stood to speak. As quickly as he started speaking, he was finished.
I was surprised President Lincoln spoke such a short time. All I remember was that he said, “All men are created equal.” I was certain he meant colored men too.
The Quinns came out from the ceremony. I helped Marcia and them up into the buggy. When we got back home, I told Mr. Quinn I had a crazy thought. “I think the president tipped his hat to us.”
“That’s likely, Catesby,” Mr. Quinn said with a grin. “I described you to him at the judge’s house. I ask him to look for you at the cemetery next to my buggy. I told him that you and Marcia were very grateful for what he had done for your people.”
Oh, to be able to tell my brothers back in Sharpsburg that not only did I see President Lincoln again, but that he tipped his hat to me. They would have never believed me.
That night I promised God if I got the chance, I would try to repay the president for freeing the slaves. I didn’t rightly know what I was promising, but I was sure I would do something.
Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War is the saga of a real slave who was captured by John Brown during the famous raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. The book follows Catesby’s life after the raid and his determined quest to become a free black man.
During his journey, Catesby encounters abuse, terrible conflicts, trusted friendships and love, as the war seems to follow him from place to place. A skilled blacksmith and an educated man, Catesby becomes the “inside source” to describe events you could not even imagine. You will find his story unforgettable, but also very believable.
About the author:
Bob O’Connor is a nationally recognized Civil War author who has been named Finalist four times in National Book Awards competition. This is his 8th published book.
O’Connor lives in Charles Town, West Virginia, near his two children and six grandchildren. He writes for various local and regional publications and for the national website Examiner.com. He has given presentations in 17 states in the past two years on subjects including Lincoln’s bodyguard, the U.S. Colored Troops, brothers fighting against brothers, and abolitionist John Brown.
Book Size: 293 pages
Category/Subject: FICTION / Historical