|Lincoln may not have been the star attraction, but he didn’t take the occasion lightly. Contrary to myth, he did not hastily scribble down his speech on the back of an envelope while on his way to Pennsylvania. In fact, he’d been working on his remarks ever since receiving the invitation; like the rest of the nation, he’d had nearly five months to let the enormity of the battle’s costs sink in. It’s likely, however, that the finishing touches were put on the Gettysburg Address the night before the ceremony, while Lincoln was staying at the home of Gettysburg-based lawyer David Wills, who had spearheaded the effort to create the national cemetery. History|
Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Lincoln was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his now immortal Gettysburg Address. On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes. Library of Congress
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 Online
|Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union victory often cited as a turning point in the Civil War. Numerous monuments stand in both the cemetery and battlefield to commemorate the Union and Confederate troops who fought there. At the cemetery’s dedication on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln rose to deliver “a few appropriate remarks,” now known as the Gettysburg Address. His two-minute speech served as a reminder of the sacrifices of war and the necessity of holding the Union together. nps|