Today on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivers one of the most famous speeches in American history -- the Gettysburg Address.
President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address during the apex of the bloody American Civil War. It took place at a national cemetery recently dedicated to fallen soldiers of the infamous battle. The Battle of Gettysburg occurred in Pennsylvania five months earlier, lasting three long days from July 1-3, 1863. The conflict was one of the bloodiest engagements of the entire war, ultimately becoming a watershed moment. Under the command of George Meade, the Union Army achieved a decisive victory against their southern foes. They succeeded in preventing Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, from invading the northern states. However, its estimated there were more than 50,000 combined casualties as a result. Gettysburg has since become one of the most famous and well-known victories for the Union forces.
At the official dedication ceremony, President Lincoln used his address to reframe the mission of the war. The central message of his speech was anchored on Americans returning to the ideals of the Constitution of life, liberty, and freedom. In Lincoln’s own words, “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.” In his short 273-word address, he suggested the country was heading towards “a new birth of freedom” by creating equality for all.
Interestingly, Edward Everett (a leading orator of the day) delivered the main address of the day, which lasted two hours and recalled entirely by memory. Lincoln himself was not a particularly talented political orator; however, his speech is still considered one of the most important in history. The exact wording of his speech is still debated today. There are five known manuscripts of his Gettysburg Address and hotly contested among civil war historians. Several contemporary newspapers also published subtle differences in the speech’s wording.