At the Battle of Gettysburg centennial, President John F. Kennedy stated: "Five score years ago the ground on which we here stand shuddered under the clash of arms and was consecrated for all time by the blood of American manhood. Abraham Lincoln, in dedicating this great battlefield, has expressed, in words too eloquent for paraphrase or summary, why this sacrifice was necessary.” Ironically, three days after the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln’s speech, Kennedy himself was assassinated, bookmarking the first and last (at this time) presidents assassinated. (see and )
Five known copies of Lincoln’s speech exist that are in his own handwriting yet they vary ever so slightly. To keep them separated, they are named after their first recipients: Nicolay, Hay, Everett, Bancroft and Bliss. Lincoln’s private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hays, were with Lincoln in Gettysburg. Their copies were written before the speech and likely one of them served as Lincoln’s reading copy. The final three copies were made after the speech for charitable purposes. Everett, who spoke at the ceremony, received a copy. Prominent historian, George Bancroft, known as the “Father of American History”, and his stepson, Colonel Alexander Bliss each obtained copies as well. Bliss’ copy was the only one titled and signed by Lincoln. Therefore, this copy became the common text of Lincoln’s address.
While the original versions do not contain the phrase “under God” within their text, the latter three copies do. Many argue Lincoln added these words later and were not part of his actual speech. However, three different reporters included the words in their transcripts the day of the speech. It is likely he added the words while speaking and inserted them in the later reproductions knowing he said it.
Liberty, many fear we are on the verge of another civil war. The lines are not so defined as with the first one though. It was North vs South in the 1860’s, with state’s rights over slavery as the underlying cause. (see ) Today, we have been horrifically divided by race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, and identity. Disciples of Saul Alinsky, including former Democrat President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, executed his Rules for Radicals perfectly. (see ) Neighbors are against neighbors, friends won’t speak to each other, and even family members have become estranged. Radicals are licking their chops as chaos rips and tears at the nation’s fabric, while they anticipate their opportunity to sweep in and demand elections be eliminated and complete socialism rule the country.
Regardless, we have not gone over the cliff just yet. As Lincoln realized earlier in the year, there is a solution, and it’s quite simple. Lincoln stated, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” As a result, he humbled himself declaring, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” (see ) The country followed Lincoln’s lead during a National Day of Prayer on April 30, 1863. Shortly after, the Union won the major battle at Gettysburg.
Time will tell very soon where the heart of America lies. For your sake, Liberty, I pray with all earnestness that it remains with Lincoln, our Founders, and God.
That’s my 2 cents.
Glenn Beck’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address during his Restoring Honor Rally in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2010.
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.”
“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.”
In the two minutes Republican President Abraham Lincoln spoke, Hay noticed he had a "ghastly color" on his face. Hay assumed the event contributed to Lincoln’s "sad, mournful, almost haggard" demeanor, but they were actually signs of a serious issue. By the time Lincoln boarded the train back to Washington D.C. at 6:30pm, he was still very weak, with a fever and severe headache. Once back at the White House, doctors diagnosed Lincoln with a mild case of smallpox. Even in that condition, Lincoln honored and respected the brave men who fought valiantly, giving their lives defending Gettysburg while reminding the Union what we were actually fighting for.
Six months earlier, Confederate General Robert E. Lee obtained a stunning victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia, over the Army of the Potomac. However, sometimes with great success also comes great loss. Lee won the Battle of Chancellorsville, but lost a valuable general. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a great military mind in and of himself, was killed at Chancellorsville. Official records note that Jackson fell victim to friendly fire, yet legend suggests he was purposely shot by his own men. It was a loss greater than Lee understood.
As the well-respected military leader’s confidence skyrocketed, Lee drafted plans to invade Union territory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lee tried once before to conquer land in the North but was stopped at Antietam. This time, he aimed to win and then garner foreign support from Britain and France. A Confederate penetration into the North would also increase approval for northern Democrat “Copperheads”, southern sympathizers who opposed the war and called for its end. (see )
Attacking on July 1, 1863, Confederates immediately gained headway, pushing Union troops back and advancing a possible takeover of the small number of Federal soldiers. When commanded to attack at Cemetery Hill and conquer the enemy, General Richard Ewell, Jackson’s replacement, hesitated. This allowed multiple Union units to arrive and secure the area. Due to more delays by Confederate leadership, Lee’s commands of attacks were not immediately conducted, giving even more time for Union forces to fortify the surrounding hills.
The heavy fighting continued the next day, bringing with it overwhelming casualties. By the end of the day, over 35,000 men from both sides lay dead or wounded, the greatest two-day amount of the war.
On July 3, day three of the battle, Confederate General George Pickett led an aggressive attack known as “Pickett’s Charge.” Well protected behind stone walls, Union soldiers from all sides decimated the southerners storming the center of the Union army. Confederates pressed forward as wave after wave of gray uniforms fell in a sea of red covering the field. They finally retreated, leaving nearly half of their men on the battlefield. Lee fully expected a counterattack the next day, but it never came. As heavy rains poured that night, Lee led his men back to Virginia.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The Union suffered roughly 23,000 casualties, which included 3,100 dead while the Confederate Army suffered 28,000 casualties, of which 3,900 were killed. Considering Northern troops consisted of 94,000 men with only 71,000 Southerners, Gettysburg was a tremendous blow to the southern effort. Among the Union survivors was Washington Roebling, who would go on to build the Brooklyn Bridge following the death of its designer, Washington's dad, John Roebling. (see )
While the soldiers were quickly buried following the battle, efforts began to move the fallen heroes of the North to an annexed portion of a local cemetery. On November 19, 1863, Lincoln dedicated the National Cemetery of Gettysburg in front of 15,000 attendees. The battle was a major turning point in the war, emphasized by Lincoln’s simple, but extremely powerful address. Yet not everyone noticed that right away.
Pennsylvania’s Patriot-Gazette, formerly The Patriot & Union, reported: “We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of”. They later apologized for their remarks, stating the paper “failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error”.
Lincoln himself declared in the speech, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Yet it was his words that day that defined the whole purpose of the war. Referring back to the , Lincoln reminded the listeners, “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Equality. Human equality and freedom for all as was established by our founders, which everyone listening understood included Negro slaves. It was time to bring that dream to a reality.
The day after the dedication ceremony, Edward Everett penned Lincoln a letter, commenting, “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”
Republican Party co-founder and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner declared on June 1, 1865, shortly after Lincoln’s death, "That speech, uttered at the field of Gettysburg ... and now sanctified by the martyrdom of its author, is a monumental act. In the modesty of his nature he said 'the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.' He was mistaken. The world at once noted what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.” (see )
On August 28, 1963, almost exactly 100 years after Lincoln addressed the people of Gettysburg, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of Lincoln Memorial and gave his monumental “I Have a Dream” speech. (see ) As Lincoln gave a nod to the founders and the , King acknowledged Lincoln and his work in advancing liberty and freedom for all through the Emancipation Proclamation. (see )
November 19, 2018
Abraham wiped his brow as he stared out the train window. He glanced over to his friend and private secretary John Hay, mentioning that he felt weak, but the two understood the importance of the event they were traveling to. Abraham read through his carefully worded speech one more time before closing his eyes to get some rest. Little did he know his speech, which consisted of only 10 sentences, would be one to change the war, and the country.
The next morning, as Abraham got ready, he informed his other private secretary, John Nicolay, that he was dizzy. Nevertheless, Abraham gathered his speech, his coat, and his hat, and left for the day’s event.
Despite the cold November weather, Abraham felt hot. As he listened to the two-hour speech delivered by statesman Edward Everett, the most famous speaker of the time, he could feel the color drain from his face. Regardless, when his time arrived, Abraham stood at the podium and focused on the words in front of him.
THE UNFORGETTABLE ADDRESS