Little Bits of History

87 Years Later

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 19, 2011

Drawing of Lincoln giving his speech at Gettysburg

November 19, 1863: The Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is dedicated. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1-3, 1863 as part of the American Civil War. Union forces were led by George G. Meade while the Confederate forces were led by Robert E. Lee. Losses were staggering with over 45,000 casualties suffered. The Union lost 3,155 men with another 14,531 wounded and 5,369 captured or missing. The Confederacy lost 4,708 with another 12,693 wounded and 5,830 captured or missing.

The battle was a much needed Union victory and boost to morale. Lee retreated to Virginia with Meade’s forces half-heartedly following. Lee’s “invincible” army was in retreat. His inexperienced officers had not been used to his loose command style, contributing to the defeat. Meade also made some tactical mistakes, but proved he was a formidable new foe.

Gettysburg was forever changed. With over 7,500 dead soldiers and thousands of dead horses rotting in the summer sun, something drastic had to be done. It was suggested that soldiers be buried and their families billed. David Wills, a wealthy 32-year-old lawyer, recommended instead that the state fund a National Cemetery. Wills was authorized to purchase 17 acres paying $2,475.87 for the land. Wills invited Edward Everett, the nation’s most renown orator at the time, to give the keynote speech during September but Everett needed more time to write his speech. Therefore, the Cemetery would be dedicated on November 19.

President Lincoln, almost as an afterthought, was invited to speak as well. About 15,000 attended the ceremonies. During that time, several photographs were taken, only one of them survive with Lincoln in the photo.Everettgave a speech that lasted for two hours and contained 13,607 words.Lincolnfollowed, with his high-pitched voice and Kentucky accent. His speech lasted two minutes and contained 269 words. It is one of the most repeated speeches in US history. The President’s speech got mixed reviews at the time.

“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 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 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.” – Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address

“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery. 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.” – from a letter to President Lincoln from Edward Everett

Also on this day:
Synonymous with Failure – In 1959, the Ford Edsel line was discontinued.
Seven – In 1997, the McCaughey septuplets were born.

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