A Belvidere 4th of July, 1865

Photo courtesy of the Boone County Historical Museum.

Photo courtesy of the Boone County Historical Museum.

July 4, 1865 was the scene of a triumphant celebration in Belvidere. The Civil War had just ended in April, with victory for the North; Belvidere, like many other cities, was full of jubilant patriotism and pride for its soldiers. The festivities that day were ones to remember. According to the newspaper, between 5,000 and 6,000 people were present for the day’s activities, so many that most had to sit on the ground (and even up in trees!) during the main program. The celebration started with a parade, which featured a wagon of young ladies dressed in white and representing all the states of the Union. This was followed by many patriotic speeches from notable residents, including General Stephen Hurlbut; the reading of the Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation; and rousing music, including the hymns of “God Bless Our Native Land” and “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” The main oration by McHenry County’s Judge T.D. Murphy discussed the recent war and the need to extend voting rights to former slaves. It also focused on the future of reconstruction in the South, implying “little confidence yet in the traitors.” Following the program, families enjoyed picnics and mingled in town until nightfall, waiting for the final event. At dusk, a rousing fireworks show started on the Courthouse Square, which lasted well past 10 p.m. The display was “the best exhibited here, there being an almost endless variety of wheels, rockets, etc.” Over 2,000 spectators watched the fireworks display, no doubt grateful and excited to celebrate their country’s independence and the end of a brutal war.

~ Jill Fuller, Ida Public Library, Belvidere