November 19, 1863: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.
At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought in July of 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech regarded as not only one of his greatest speeches, but also one of the most famous speeches in American history. It was five months after the battle and ten months after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln’s speech, though the most memorable, was not the main event at Gettysburg that day; the featured orator was Edward Everett, who spoke for over two hours at the dedication of the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Lincoln, who was diagnosed with a mild case of smallpox following the dedication, delivered a short speech (less than 300 words long) in under three minutes as almost an afterthought. Everett later wrote Lincoln praising the speech, commenting that he would have been glad to have been able to do in two hours what Lincoln did “in two minutes”. Others were not so effusive in their praise. A Democratic-leaning newspaper called it “silly, flat and dishwatery”.
Full text of the speech:
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.
Only one confirmed photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg exists.
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