The Gettysburg Address


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Podcast Transcript

From July 1 to 3, 1863, the largest battle in Western Hemisphere history took place in southern Pennsylvania.

After the battle, tens of thousands of dead were buried and an official national cemetery was created to honor the war dead.

The cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1963. During the ceremony, a short speech was delivered by United States President Abraham Lincoln. This short speech became the most famous speech in American history.

Learn more about the Gettysburg address in this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.


Between the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century and World War I in the early 20th century, the American Civil War was the greatest conflict in the Western world.

The largest and most significant battle of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburgh.

In 1863, after the successful Battle of Chancellorsville, the Confederates hoped to attempt a second invasion from the north after their unsuccessful invasion the previous year.

This first foray into Union territory culminated in the Battle of Antietam, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

The purpose of the 1863 incursion was to relieve Virginia, disrupt Union plans for the summer, and perhaps cause enough chaos and misery to drive the political alliances of the North away from the hawks. who wanted to settle the war on the battlefield, to those who wanted a negotiated settlement.

The Confederates, under General Robert E. Lee, moved from Virginia, through Maryland, into southern Pennsylvania. This was the furthest north they would advance during the entire war.

Under the command of General George Meade, Union forces met the Confederates outside the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For three days, from July 1 to 3, more than 165,000 men fought what would be the bloodiest battle of the war, with more than 57,000 dead, wounded or missing.

It was a resounding victory for the Union. It caused the Confederates to withdraw to Virginia, it ended any possibility of European countries recognizing the Confederacy, and while it was not the end of the war, it could be seen as the beginning of the end.

This episode, however, is not about this battle.

With the battle over and both sides gone, the small town of Gettysburg was left with the cleanup. Thousands of bodies litter the battlefield.

Most of the bodies were quickly buried in mass graves. Some were never buried at all and decayed where they fell.

Eventually the decision was made to create a proper cemetery for the war dead, and land was dedicated to the creation of what was known as the National Soldiers Cemetery. The project was led by a local lawyer named David Wills.

Wills invited the president to attend in a letter containing the following, “It is the desire that after the prayer, you, as chief executive of the nation, have formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by some suitable remarks.”

Basically, the President was mainly there to witness and lend his authority to the proceedings and was not the main attraction.

In October, the process of exhuming the bodies of the dead and providing them with a proper burial in a coffin and with a headstone began.

The decision was made to hold a dedication ceremony for the cemetery on November 19, just four and a half months after the battle.

In addition to four state governors, the President of the United States would be in attendance and the featured speaker would be famed orator Edward Everett.

Today, Everett is a historic footnote because of his role in the dedication of Gettysburg Cemetery. However, he was a notable character. He has served as Governor of Massachusetts, Ambassador to Britain, US Secretary of State and President of Harvard University.

On November 18, Lincoln left Washington by train, accompanied by Secretary of State William Seward, Secretary of the Interior John Usher, and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, along with his personal secretaries and several foreign dignitaries.

During the trip, Lincoln confessed to feeling weak and ill, which only got worse once he arrived in the town of Gettysburg.

According to legend, Lincoln wrote his speech on the train en route to Gettysburg. Today, many historians believe he probably wrote half of it in the White House before he left and the other half in David Willis’ house in Gettysburgh. Supposedly, he was putting the finishing touches on it at 9 a.m., just before the precession started.

The program for the event was as follows:

It was to be opened with a short musical performance by a local band.

Then there would be an opening prayer by Reverend TH Stockton, followed by the Marine Band performing the song “Old Hundred”.

Then Edward Everett would give his speech, which would be the highlight of the day.

Following this, the Baltimore Glee Club would perform the “Song of Consecration”. The President of the United States delivered his brief remarks, ending with the chanting of “Oh! It is good that our country should die” sung by a local choir, followed by a blessing from the Reverend HL Baugher.

Edward Everett’s oration lasted about two hours and the text of the speech, which he memorized, was 13,607 words. To put that into perspective, the script for an episode of this podcast is usually around 2000 words.

It was a detailed description of the battle he created after talking to the men who participated in it.

Of course, no one remembers Everett’s speech. In fact, no one remembers a two-hour speech.

It was Lincoln’s short remarks that stole the show. In just 272 words and ten sentences, he summed up the whole reason the war was being fought.

In just 2 minutes, he delivered what is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of oratory in the English language.

The language and imagery he used has been studied for over 150 years and has been used and taken up.

In 1931, a newspaper printed the memory of a then 87-year-old woman named Mrs. Sarah Cooke Myers. She was 19 when she attended the dedication at Gettysburg. She recalled that after the President’s speech, there was no applause. The audience just stood in stunned silence as he sat back down. This is in direct contradiction to what newspapers like the New York Times reported the next day.

One of the reasons the address became so popular was its brevity. Almost immediately after the ceremony, the text of the speech was sent by telegraph. It was published the next day in county newspapers.

When Lincoln returned to Washington, he still felt ill and was found to have a mild case of smallpox.

The day after his speech, Edward Everett sent the president a note that said, “I wish I could flatter myself that I was as close to the central idea of ​​the occasion in two hours as you were in two minutes.

One of the things about the address that has been debated over the years is the exact text used by Lincoln.

Five different surviving manuscripts are in Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting, and they all have slight variations.

Each manuscript bears the name of the person to whom it was given. Two of them were given to Lincoln’s secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. Both were written at or around the time the speech was delivered.

The other three copies were given to Edward Everett, the other speaker that day, historian George Bancroft and Colonel Alexander Bliss, who was Bancroft’s son-in-law.

The Bliss copy is the only dated copy on which Lincoln has affixed his signature, so it is the copy that is most often referenced. Today it hangs in the Lincoln Room of the White House.

The first two copies are in the National Archives, the Everett copy is in the hands of the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois, and the Bancroft copy is in the Cornell University Library.

The Gettysburgh address has had a lasting legacy in the United States. Children were required to memorize all 272 words in civics lessons.

The full text is carved in stone inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Gettysburg Address is mentioned in the opening lines of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The current French constitution contains a translation of the expression “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Today, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery is known as Gettysburg National Cemetery and is managed by the National Park Service as Gettysburg National Military Park.

Nobody could have known seven twenty and 19 years ago that the “some appropriate remarks » given that day by the President of the United States would be remembered long after the President’s departure and the end of the war.


Eighty-seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in freedom, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

We are now engaged in a great civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can last long. We are met on a great battlefield of this war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of this field, as a final resting place for those here who gave their lives that this nation might live.

It is entirely proper and proper that we do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can’t dedicate – we can’t consecrate – we can’t sanctify – this land. The brave, living and dead, who have fought here have consecrated it, far beyond our poor power to add or take away.

The world will little notice, nor long remember what we say here, but they can never forget what they have done here.

Rather, it is for us the living to dedicate ourselves here to the unfinished work which those who have fought here have hitherto so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task that remains to us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here strongly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, will have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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