On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln delivered arguably the most memorable speech in American history.
During the the single most brutal three days in American history, nearly one-third of the total forces engaged at Gettysburg became casualties, as more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing.
George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac lost 28 percent of their men.
Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia lost over over 37 percent.
Of these casualties, 7,058 were fatalities (3,155 Union, 3,903 Confederate). Another 33,264 had been wounded (14,529 Union, 18,735 Confederate) and 10,790 were missing (5,365 Union, 5,425 Confederate).
Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery’s dedication.
Wills also sent a letter to President Lincoln requesting “a few appropriate remarks” to consecrate the ground.
Nobody remembers a word of Edward Everett's two hour oration.
In just 272 words Abraham Lincoln established the standard against which every speech made since has and will be measured, likely until the end of our species.
Click on the photos for a trip to the life of Abraham Lincoln, or the Bttle of Gettysburg at the Civil War Trust, as the case may be.
The Gettysburg Address
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 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.
November 19, 1863