The man who saved the Union made a stop at the Ocean County Historical Society to celebrate the opening of the organization's latest exhibit, Answering President Lincoln's Call.
Portrayed by Robert Costello, Lincoln spoke about how county residents signed up to fight in the Civil War to stop the country from dividing, defeat slavery in the process.
"Ocean County should be proud, because it was one of the first to answer the call. I know in your courthouse, within days of my call for 75,000 volunteers, men signed up to go in harm's way to keep our nation whole," Lincoln said. "For that, I owe New Jersey, Ocean County and the great people of this state many thanks."
In 1861 Lincoln entered Washington D.C. secretly to become president as talk of secession brewed. Not all of New Jersey voted the 16th president, though locally he was supported.
"Here in Toms River and Ocean County, we overwhelmingly supported your effort in that election," said township historian Mark Mutter.
To support the Union effort, the Dover Rifles in May formed their first company, with 26 men showing up at that initial meeting. Then, more joined.
"The Dover Rifles became the Ocean County Rifles. It became more than a town organization," Mutter said.
In the end, 500 men from Ocean County served the Union cause, with 59 of them giving their lives in battle.
"We here in Ocean County and Toms River, we were there from the very beginning," Mutter said.
The exhibit, which took the work of about 25 historical society employees to assemble, will continue for an extended showing through Oct. 28.
Among the items on display are copies of enlistment forms of those from Ocean County and memorabilia including the uniforms worn by soldiers, according to Mary Lou Unger, a historical society trustee.
"We should all really commend the Ocean County Historical Society for the tremendous exhibit," Mutter said.
The exhibit can be seen at the society's Toms River headquarters, 26 Hadley Ave., Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. More information about the society is available on the organization's website or by calling 732-341-1880.