Gettysburg Address Information
What you'll find here: The story of Lincoln's famous address.

 

 

When the armies marched away from Gettysburg they left behind a community in shambles and more than 51,000 killed, wounded, and missing. Wounded and dying were crowded into nearly every building. Most of the dead lay in hasty and inadequate graves; some had not been buried at all.

This situation so distressed Pennsylvania's Gov. Andrew Curtin that he commissioned a local attorney, David Wills, to purchase land for a proper burial ground for Union dead.  Within four months of the battle, reinterment began on 17 acres that became Gettysburg National Cemetery.

When the cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863, less than half the Union battle dead  had been removed from their field graves. The principal speaker was the renowned orator, Edward Everett. As was common for the day, his detailed speech lasted for over two hours.

Also on the program was a guest who had been invited to present "a few appropriate remarks" only as an afterthought. President Abraham Lincoln's delivery of these remarks lasted only two minutes that day. The short length was in such contrast to the Everett allocution that the audience, stunned for a moment, barely reacted. Upon returning to his seat Lincoln remarked to a friend: "That speech won't scour. It is a flat failure." To the contrary, the Gettysburg Address has become known as one of the supreme masterpieces of eloquence in the English language. On November 20, Everett wrote Lincoln "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."

The 272 words of the Gettysburg Address were formulated with great thought by Lincoln. He wrote the first draft in Washington shortly before November 18 and revised it at the home of David Wills in Gettysburg the night before the dedication.

The speech transformed Gettysburg from a scene of carnage into a symbol, giving meaning to the sacrifice of the dead and inspiration to the living.

Within a few years, however, the bodies of more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the battle had been reinterred in the cemetery. Following the war, the remains of 3,320 Confederate soldiers were removed from the battlefield to cemeteries in the South.

Today the cemetery is the final resting place for over 6,000 honorably discharged servicemen and their dependents from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.

Lincoln could also write with down-home humor as demonstrated by this doggerel, which he wrote on July 19, 1863, two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg.

General Lee's Invasion of the North

In eighteen sixty three,
with pomp, and mighty swell,
Me and Jeff's Confederacy,
went forth to sack Phil-del,
The Yankees they got arter us,
and give us particular hell,
And we skedaddled back again,
and didn't sack Phil-del.

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