On this date in history, Abraham Lincoln gave what would be his most famous speech, by far. It would also wind up being one of the best known speeches in all of US history. Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, shortly after the Union victory in the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln knew full well the importance of this speech and the words that he would say. This is shown by his adamant insistence that he go even though his son, Tad was sick and his wife, Mary Todd, begged him to stay on the day of his departing. Instead, he boarded the train and delivered his famous speech.
President Lincoln wasn’t even the main speaker at the dedication. Prior to Lincoln, the main speaker, Edward Everett, spoke for two hours about the battle of Gettysburg and the described the details of the battle. To the contrary, Stephen Wynalda describes Lincoln’s speech in his book, 366 Days in Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency. ”The speech was only ten sentences, 272 words, and took less than three minutes to deliver.” How such a dramatic and long-lasting message could be adequately relayed in merely three minutes says a lot for Lincolns’ oratory skills and the conviction in which he spoke the words of his speech. While Lincoln was actually completely unhappy with the speech after the fact, a Washington Chronicle reported that “though short, [the speech was] glittered with gems, evincing the gentleness and goodness of heart peculiar to him.”
Were any of your ancestors lucky enough to witness this great event?
The Gettysburg Address
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
– Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863