Today is the 157th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln delivering what became known as the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863.
More than 3,500 Union soldiers are buried there.
The 272-word speech became one of the best known in American history.
The cemetery is located at the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War – the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, when Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army fought Gen. George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac.
According to history.com, 23,000 Union soldiers died there while 28,000 Confederate were killed, wounded or missing.
Thousands of soldiers were quickly buried in unmarked graves.
“… however, local attorney David Wills spearheaded efforts to create a national cemetery at Gettysburg. Wills and the Gettysburg Cemetery Commission originally set October 23 as the date for the cemetery’s dedication, but delayed it to mid-November after their choice for speaker, Edward Everett, said he needed more time to prepare.
Everett, the former president of Harvard College, former U.S. senator and former secretary of state, was at the time one of the country’s leading orators. On November 2, just weeks before the event, Wills extended an invitation to President Lincoln, asking him ‘formally (to) set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.’”
According to the National Park Service, Confederate soldiers were moved from the Gettysburg National Cemetery to cemeteries in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and Carolina, however, “a few Confederates do remain interred at Gettysburg National Cemetery.”
Lincoln traveled to Pennsylvania by train. He was joined by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
At the dedication, Everett spoke for two hours. In the Weekly Patriot and Union, the New York World said of Everett, “The most ornate and cultivated of American orators has fallen below the occasion, and below his own reputation, in the greatest opportunity ever presented to him for rearing a monument more enduring than brass.”
The Patriot and Union was the forerunner of The Patriot-News.
Lincoln spoke for less than 2 minutes. And the Patriot and Union said his words were just “silly remarks.”
In 2013, on the 150th anniversary of the speech, The Patriot-News apologized, saying, “In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.”
This is 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.”
- President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by ‘a lawless desperado and most cowardly miscreant’
- The Blue and the Gray reunited in 1938 for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.