We’ve all heard the names—Lee, Meade, Lincoln. These iconic figures shaped not only the Battle of Gettysburg, but also the Civil War and the trajectory of our young nation.
But there’s another name you should know—Henry Lewis Baugher. As Gettysburg College’s second president, he kept our great institution afloat during arguably the most tumultuous period in the College’s history, and delivered a powerful benediction after President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—talk about a difficult act to follow!
Take a moment to learn more about this pivotal character in Gettysburg College’s history.
A Bright Future
Henry Lewis Baugher, an Adams County native, graduated from Dickinson College in 1826 before making arrangements to study law at Georgetown under Francis Scott Key, the wordsmith behind our national anthem. He changed plans after the death of his mother, however, deciding to attend Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825. He later transferred to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg.
In 1831, Baugher was named a teacher of classical studies at the Gettysburg Gymnasium, which became Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) the following year. Baugher served as a professor of Greek and the Belles Lettres, and Secretary for the Faculty for 18 years. His brother, Isaac, became a College trustee in 1844 and gave the College its first bequest.
Gettysburg College’s 2nd President
After President Charles P. Krauth resigned his position in 1850, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted Baugher the second president of Pennsylvania College. After initially declining their offer, he accepted the position. In 1860, he and his family moved into a new home the College constructed on their behalf—today’s Norris Wachob Alumni House.
Baugher, an energetic and effective leader, was the oldest member of the College’s faculty during his presidency. His tenure was noted by stern disciplinary practices and high standards. According to E.S. Breidenbaugh, Baugher believed “that reverence for superiors, submission to authority, and obedience to the rules and regulations of the College were indispensable to the formation of a good character.”
Weathering the Storm
As the Civil War approached Gettysburg in the summer of 1863, 61 students and recent graduates joined the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia. For the Gettysburgians who remained, classes proceeded as normal. In fact, classes were still in session the morning of July 1, as the Battle of Gettysburg erupted and Union and Confederate armies swept through campus. Ultimately, Baugher dismissed his students, stating, “We will close and see what is going on, for you know nothing about the lesson anyhow.”
Projectiles pelted Pennsylvania Hall during combat and Confederates seized the building and transformed it into a makeshift field hospital for wounded Northern and Southern soldiers. Baugher recalled the iconic building echoed with “the voice of prayer, the cry of the wounded, and the groans of the dying.”
Baugher, who lost his son a year earlier in the Battle of Shiloh, chose not to flee, but to remain in his campus home throughout the battle. His family attended to 18 wounded soldiers during the three-day occupation of town and successfully hid a Union officer from the Confederates. The soldiers were returned near the end of July, but the school year would not be completed.
Shortly after the battle, Baugher opened his home to a former student, James Crocker—a Confederate officer and Union prisoner of war. Crocker wrote about his experience dining with Baugher, saying, “They were all very courteous, but I fancied I detected a reserved dignity in old Dr. Baugher. It was very natural for him to be so, and I appreciated it. The old Doctor, while kindhearted, was of a very positive and radical character, which he evinced on all subjects. He was thoroughly conscientious, and was of the stuff of which martyrs are made.”
On November 19, 1863, Baugher gave the benediction at the ceremony opening the National Soldiers’ Cemetery at Gettysburg; immediately following President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.
His benediction read:
O Thou King of kings and Lord of lords, God of the nations of the earth, who by Thy kind providence has permitted us to engage in these solemn services, grant us Thy blessing. Bless this consecrated ground, and these holy graves. Bless the President of these United States, and his Cabinet. Bless the Governors and the representatives of the States here assembled with all needed grace to conduct the affairs committed into their hands, to the glory of Thy name, and the greatest good of the people. May this great nation be delivered from the treason and rebellion at home, and from the power of enemies abroad. And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Heavenly Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.