October 19, 2017

The Gettysburg Address

Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett's Charge, Rothermel

Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge, Rothermel

One hundred and fifty years ago, more than 30,000 soldiers had died or were wounded after three days of battle at Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. Four and a half months later, in one of the greatest speeches of American history, President Abraham Lincoln took part in a ceremony to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the battle’s site. With a remarkably concise address, he reiterated the principles of human equality in the Declaration of Independence, memorialized those who had given their lives at Gettysburg, and resolved that their deaths would not be in vain.

This is worth meditating upon again, this U.S. Independence Day, 2013.

gettysburgFour 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.

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Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler. The text above is from the so-called “Bliss Copy,” one of several versions which Lincoln wrote, and believed to be the final version.

Comments

  1. Radagast says:

    Sigh…

    I have visited this battlefield with groups of high school kids at least a few times over the last 10 years. I have run the road that took me from Cemetery Hill through Pickets charge, down to Little Round Top and Devils Den. It was a horrific battle.

    Lincoln was invited to speak as an after-thought – he wasn’t the main attraction. and yet his few words following a long speech by a well known orator of the time, grew in the hearts of all of us, to mean so much.

    May we never find ourselves so pulled in different directions that we would have to endure what these brave men, endured. May we always find a way to work out our differences and celebrate those things we have in common.