It was on November 19, 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his now famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. These remarks were given just four months after the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863).
The Battle of Gettysburg was the result of Lee’s second invasion of the north. The Army of Northern Virginia clashed here for the bloodiest three days of the Civil War against George Meade’s Army of the Potomac. The result was a rare defeat for Lee and what he believed to be his invincible men.
Lee hoped that an invasion would relieve pressure being applied by Ulysses S. Grant on General Pemberton at Vicksburg. He also hoped this could persuade Northern opinion to shift towards reconciliation and peace talks with the South.
The town of Gettysburg held no real importance to either army. As Bruce Catton says in Gettysburg: The Final Fury, the battle at Gettysburg occurred by a series of accidents and happenstance.
However, as Lincoln would state in his Gettysburg address, “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.”
The small Pennsylvanian town may not have held any strategic importance. However, it would go down forever in history as one of the most significant battles of American history.
Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg was only two minutes in length. At the time of the speech, the words he spoke were not universally revered as they are today. However, over the course of time in the 159 years since the remarks were given, the words President Lincoln spoke have become like gospel. Sacred and divine. Mythological and revered.
Those two minutes have transcended the mortality of life and time and continue to echo in the modern day. These are words that every American should take time to ponder and reflect on. Analyzing their meaning, significance and impact. Remembering the sacrifice of those men at Gettysburg and throughout the Civil War. Honoring and memorializing the great struggle to free our fellow countrymen from the shackles of chattel slavery so that the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness may truly be fulfilled.
Gettysburg Address – Delivered at Gettysburg, Pa. – Nov. 19th 1863
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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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.