Submitted by Dennis C. Peterson, President, Richmond Chapter, VASSAR
Patrick Henry’s immortal “Liberty or Death” speech was celebrated on its 243rd anniversary by VASSAR’s Richmond Chapter in a program where the speech was actually delivered in 1775. Nearly 100 Compatriots and guests from as far away as Cleveland, Ohio and across Virginia were treated to a re-enactment of the speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond on Saturday, March 17.
“We honored the man but more importantly celebrated his words,” said Richmond Chapter President Dennis C. Peterson. “The words I heard over and over were ‘Long overdue. Long overdue,’ so we were proud to host so many visitors to relive this Revolutionary War flash point at this site unique to Richmond history.”
It was a colorful ceremony on a chilly overcast mid-March morning quite possibly just as it was on the very day the 2nd Virginia Convention convened here a year before shots were fired at Lexington-Concord. It was the day “liberty found its voice” declared the program given to each person there.
Participating in the program was VASSAR President Pat Kelly who also led the VASSAR Color Guard in formation to the steps of the Church. VASSAR Chaplain Rev. Dr. Gene Thomas prayed from the very spot where Henry stood. Past President General Joseph W. Dooley represented NSSAR with a speech reminding all why we work so hard to preserve the memories of these important years in American history.
A highlight for all there was entering the church through the very doors used by giants of American history like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Pendleton, Payton Randolph and others attending the convention so long ago.
While Henry’s declaration “Give me liberty or give me death!” was no surprise to anyone sitting in the pews watching the re-enactment, his words were no less a thrill to hear as each there absorbed the moment.
Two veteran actors from the troop which performs re-enactments at St. John’s Church, Joseph Bromfield as Patrick Henry, and Chris Dunn as Edmund Pendleton, also appeared in character at the luncheon in Parish Hall which followed the indoor/outdoor ceremony.
Thirteen organization from VASSAR, SAR Chapters, DAR and the C.A. R’s presented wreaths. Many presenters were in period uniform and costume adding greatly to the character of the event. Plans are underway for the 2nd Annual “Liberty or Death” Commemoration Program in 2019.