150 years ago, from 1-3 July 1863, men from the North and the South converged in and around a small rural town in Pennsylvania. This battle was considered a crucial turning point in the Civil War, but it was also the bloodiest and most decisive battle to ever happen on American soil.
This was the Battle of Gettysburg.
160,000 men fought. One third of them perished. America was forever changed.
On November 19, 1863, at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. While only two minutes long, Lincoln’s 273-word address would be remembered as one of the most important speeches in American history.
Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality contained in the Declaration of Independence and connected the sacrifices of the Civil War with the desire for “a new birth of freedom,” as well as the all-important preservation of the Union created in 1776, and its ideal of self-government.
Lincoln’s speech, is noted below.
“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 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.”
Photo Credit: Detroit, Catalogue P (1906). Detroit Publishing Co. no. 010720. Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado; 1949.