Forty-four years after fighting at Gettysburg as a Confederate soldier, Stephen Albion Repass was back in Pennsylvania.
This time, the former rebel fighter was helping dedicate a monument to honor Union Civil War veterans.
On June 26, 1899, a crowd had gathered at Allentown's Center Square to mark the laying of the cornerstone for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to Lehigh County's veterans.
As the Allentown Band played the last notes of "Onward Christian Soldiers" the Rev. Repass, now 63 and pastor of the city's St. John's Lutheran Church, came forward on the reviewing stand.
Heads bowed as Repass called for God's blessing and protection for the workers who would build the monument. He asked that the country be kept safe from enemies foreign and domestic, gave thanks for the many blessings Americans enjoyed and appealed to heaven for universal peace.
Repass ended with a fervent "Lord's Prayer" that was joined by the voices of thousands.
If things had gone differently on those hot July days at Gettysburg, Repass might have been known in Allentown, not as the beloved pastor of St. John's, but as Lt. Stephen Albion Repass of Company I, 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia, C.S.A.
Because he was so widely respected, historians say they believe that a Confederate soldier was added to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to honor Repass. Outside of those at Gettysburg, the statue is believed to be the only memorial to rebel soldiers north of the Mason-Dixon line.
On Friday, Lehigh County will kick off three days of events to mark the anniversary of the unveiling of the monument at Seventh and Hamilton streets.
More than 350 Civil War re-enactors will help observe the occasion, which will culminate with a rededication ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Repass was born in Wythe County, Va., on Nov. 25, 1836, the son of Rufus and Sallie Repass. His devout Lutheran mother wanted him trained for the ministry, so in 1858 he entered Roanoke College at Salem, Va.
According to college archivist Linda Miller, the topics of secession and state's rights were hot ones at the school in the years leading up to the Civil War. During the war, Repass was among the students who joined military units.
In later years, newspapermen, who held Repass in high regard, were driven to distraction by his refusal to discuss his military experience. Thus written accounts often contradict each other.
Allentown's Daily City Item newspaper claimed in 1906 that Repass held the rank of captain; other sources call him simply "a soldier."
Roanoke College records show he entered the service as a private. Lehigh County Civil War historian Richard Matthews has found that by 1863 Repass held the rank of lieutenant.
The Item stated that at the first Battle of Bull Run or Manassas he was shot "in the groin, the bullet passing clear through his body coming out at the back."
A paper done by a Roanoke College student in 1988 records that Repass was indeed seriously wounded, but at the battle of Second Bull Run or Manassas on Aug. 29-30, 1862, where Confederate forces defeated the Army of the Potomac.
All the sources agree about Repass' service on the third day at Gettysburg. He was in Brig. Gen. Robert Garnett's brigade, which was part of Gen. George Pickett's Division. The 28th Virginia Infantry's commander was Col. Robert C. Allen. Repass was with I Company.
Repass' 1906 obituary in the Item contains the only public comment Repass is said to have given about Gettysburg. The newspaper said:
"In speaking of this charge, Rev. Repass said that the most vivid impression he retained of that battle was the emotion which thrilled him as he looked down the line of battle one mile long, that was soon to roll onward, carrying with it the hopes, the prayers, the very edifice of the Confederacy itself, only to sink beneath the crimson tide which swept away the last hope of the South ..."
Matthews' research shows Repass and his company were among the rebels who topped the stone wall that marked the Union position at Gettysburg, carrying themselves and the regiment's colors into the waiting arms of the 1st Minnesota.
There were 333 men in the 28th Virginia Regiment. Forty-four of them were killed, 65 were wounded and 73 ended up missing or were captured at Gettysburg.
Repass and seven other men from Company I became prisoners of war.
He was assigned to the prison camp on Johnson's Island on Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio. It was established exclusively for Confederate officers. Here he stayed for the next 21 months.
After his release from prison in 1865, Repass returned to and graduated from Roanoke College. He then went to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
He became pastor of several churches in Virginia and served for 12 years as head of the Theological Seminary of the General Synod of the Lutheran Church, South.
In 1870 he married Frances Emily Hancock of Wythe County, Va. They had four children. Repass was installed at St. John's Lutheran Church in Allentown on July 19, 1885. Why he was called here and accepted a charge outside the South is unknown.
No mention was made of his service with the Confederate Army in the newspaper articles about his arrival.
Repass went on to become a theology professor at Muhlenberg College as well as president of the college's board of trustees.
Those who knew him described Repass as a man of deep spirituality, who thought nothing was more important than his work as a pastor.
Until his death on June 1, 1906, Repass served his adopted community long and well. He was buried in Allentown's Fairview Cemetery.
Perhaps his proudest moment was on Oct. 19, 1899, when Allentown unveiled its monument. On the east side next to the Union soldier was a Confederate, his hand holding an American flag. Underneath were the words "One Flag One Country."