Crowds gather in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in November 1863, for Abraham Lincoln's cemetery dedication (courtesy of the Library of Congress).
Introduction“Four score and seven years ago….” Those words are familiar to almost every student in America and will immediately evoke the name . Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is the most quoted speech in American history. Only two minutes long, the speech captures the essence of America and its principles as put forth in the Declaration of Independence. Delivered on November 19, 1863, as a part of a dedication ceremony, the speech transformed the U.S. Civil War from a conflict about slavery to a conflict about being true to the principles upon which the United States was founded. Lincoln’s powerful words are carved into the wall of his memorial, where it is still read daily by thousands of visitors.
- The speech was delivered as part of a ceremony dedicating the Gettysburg battlefield as Soldier’s National Cemetery to honor the Americans who died there. The decisive Battle of Gettysburg, which turned the tide of the war against the South, lasted from July 1 to July 3, 1863, and cost over 8,000 American lives on both sides. An additional 26,000 men were wounded.
- Lincoln was not the primary speaker at the dedication. That honor went to Edward Everett, a popular politician from Massachusetts. Everett spoke for two hours, and his speech was well received in the press. However, Everett himself praised President Lincoln’s speech: “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”
- One myth about the Gettysburg Address is that it was roundly panned by the contemporary press. The criticism was actually split along party lines. The Democrats knocked his speech as silly and ridiculous, while Republicans praised and reprinted it.
- There are five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address. Two of the manuscripts date to the time of the speech, and the others were written later. There are several differences among the copies, but the one known as the “Bliss” copy is the standard version of the text. It now hangs in the White House…in the Lincoln Room, of course.
- Although Lincoln could write great speeches, many did not enjoy his presentation of them. According to eyewitnesses, he spoke clearly with few mistakes but his voice could be “high pitched and unpleasant.”
All Resources by Category
- Additional Resources
- Abraham Lincoln - Information, Facts, and Links
- Abraham Lincoln Biography
- Abraham Lincoln Biography / Profile - Salem on Literature
- Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address: American Civil War ...
- Addresses Summary - Abraham Lincoln - Salem on Literature
- American Civil War Primary Sources
- American Civil War Timeline: American Civil War - Classroom
- Lincoln at Gettysburg Review - Garry Wills - Salem on Literature
- Lincoln, Abraham: West's Encyclopedia of American Law
- US Civil War - Information, Facts, and Links
- What Was The Significance Of The Battle Of Gettysburg? - History ...
- Where to Learn More: American Civil War - Classroom
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