Anniversary of The Gettysburg Address

On November 19, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history. He was invited to speak at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg.  Not only is the speech famous, it is also very brief. Generations of schoolchildren have memorized the 272 words.

Gettysburg-AddressThe small town of Gettysburg had witnessed the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The three day battle (July 1-3) with Robert E. Lee commanding the Army of Northern Virginia and George Meade commanding the Army of the Potomac resulted in about 50,000 troops killed or wounded. The battle ended Lee’s attempts to invade the North. The area still had unburied bodies when the day of the ceremony arrived.

The orator of the day was Edward Everett whose speech lasted about two hours. The day after the event Everett wrote to Lincoln commenting, “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.” Lincoln didn’t dwell on the Union victory. He emphasized the principles of the Declaration of Independence as the reason the war was being fought.

Writing the Gettysburg AddressLincoln at Gettysburg.The Syosset Library has two excellent books focusing on Lincoln at the ceremonies at Gettysburg: Martin Johnson’s Writing the Gettysburg Address and Garry Wills’ Lincoln at Gettysburg.


One of my favorite research sources is the Library of Congress which provides a wealth of information. The documents from the Library’s special 1995 exhibit on The Gettysburg Address are digitized. They include the invitation from David Wills to Lincoln to attend the ceremonies (and an invitation to the President to spend the night at the Wills’ family home), drafts of the Address, and the only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg, below.

lincoln at gettysburgLincoln is the hatless figure just to the left of center.

The Chronicling America database of digitized newspapers can be searched to see the press coverage in different states.

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services


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