BG pastor’s passion for Gettysburg matched by fascination for Lincoln

Pastor David Boswell
(Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)

David Boswell is a heavenly-minded man with his feet planted firmly in Gettysburg.
The pastor of Village View Church of Christ, Boswell admits to a deep passion for all things Civil War,
particularly Abraham Lincoln. Today he is beaming; it is the 202nd anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in a
small Kentucky log cabin.
At home Boswell is surrounded by his massive Lincoln and Civil War library, framed pictures of the 16th
president and other memorabilia … plus his hefty supply of Lincoln and Civil War ties.
He shares one item with reverence, a "Gettysburg Address Witness Tree" ink pen with a wooden
barrel. It was crafted from the honey locust tree in the national cemetery at Gettysburg which witnessed
the bloody three-day battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, and Lincoln’s three-minute address there in
November of that year to dedicate the burial site.
The tree was destroyed by lightning, and 500 commemorative pens were fashioned from its trunk. Boswell
asked for pen number 76 in honor of the year he married his soulmate, Bettie Dawn. The expensive pen was
given to him by an anonymous benefactor as a thank-you for his personal tour of the battlefield.
Boswell’s passion for the Civil War stems from two sources, two very elderly neighbors during his early
childhood whose father fought in the Civil War and finding out he himself is a descendant of a Civil War
He grew up in Indiana, next door to Harry Dale and Dale’s widowed sister, Mrs. Davis, both in their 80s,
who were the children of Capt. John Dale of the Indiana 7th Calvary of the Civil War.
"They’d show me the ribbons from their father attend-
(See CIVIL WAR on 5)
ing Civil War reunions and pictures of Abraham Lincoln," Boswell explained. "I quickly became
interested in learning more about the Civil War."
In addition, he learned from his own grandfather, Herbert Boswell, that his grandfather fought for the
"My great-great-grandfather was Lt. Josiah Ralston who was in the 54th Indiana. He was mortally
wounded in the (Battle of) Chickasaw Bluffs in 1862."
Boswell became so enamored with history as a young child that he asked his elementary school principal to
start a History Club. The fourth grader even arranged for the club’s first speakers, Mrs. Davis and her
"She brought ribbons and sat and told us about the Civil War and talked about how Lincoln was our
greatest president – which is my belief, too."
He added that the Battle of Gettysburg was "the high water mark of the Confederacy. If the South had
won the Battle of Gettysburg, I believe we’d be two separate nations."
As to Lincoln’s brief speech at the dedication of the battlefield’s cemetery, "when he gave his
address he gave a reason why we were fighting the Civil War. I believe it was over the issue of slavery
and not states’ rights. It’s a hot issue with Civil War buffs."
Some might consider Boswell among those Civil War fans, but his fascination with that period of America’s
history goes much deeper than simply being a "buff." It is a deeply-felt passion that has
gripped him since childhood and been maintained throughout his adulthood.
"I devour any book I find on Lincoln," he stated. Boswell speaks enraptured about his love of
Gettysburg, the hallowed ground of which he was finally able to visit at age 14. By then he had read and
absorbed so many books on the battle there, he even impressed the tour guide with his detailed
Today he gets back to Gettysburg six to eight times a year, including attending seminars at the Lincoln
Foundation, plus the Civil War Institute every summer and the Lincoln Forum every November, at which he
has been involved in some of its break-out sessions.
At those events he has been able to establish friendships with people across the nation who share his
ardor for Lincoln and the Civil War, including actor Richard Dreyfus, former news anchor Tom Brokaw and
documentarian Ken Burns.
"I think it’s a great passion of mine. I so love to be in Gettysburg. I try to go when there are
opportunities to take classes at Gettysburg. There are times in the past I’ve offered to lead tours. I
love to take people from the church on tours of Gettysburg."
But Boswell has no regrets his career has been in the ministry instead of teaching history, though one
teacher in high school threatened to cry about it.
"I really felt God was calling me to ministry while I was in high school," he said. In his
sermons over the decades, though, Boswell has frequently joined his heavenly-mindedness with his
Gettysburg feet, using a lot of illustrations from history – and wearing one of his Lincoln ties while
The proud grandfather has one firm goal in mind for the future, being able to take his grandson, Cole,
now 2, to Gettysburg "and show him this hallowed ground."
He will also share countless personal stories of the people who fought or died there. The roster includes
73-year-old John Burns, a veteran of the War of 1812, who showed up in coat tails, top hat and musket to
fight at Gettysburg. He was wounded three times, recovered, and visited with Lincoln four months later
when the cemetery was dedicated.