Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address
“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
In July of 1863, the armies of Robert E. Lee and George Meade were engaged in a fight outside of the town of Gettysburg, Pa. The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. This conflict was the bloodiest battle on American soil in which 51,000 soldiers were killed, missing or wounded. It was the turning point of the war.
After the battle, Gettysburg residents tended to the wounded and dying. They welcomed soldiers' relatives, shipped out the dead and rebuilt shattered barns and bullet-pierced homes. Still thousands of dead soldiers and horses lay across the once busy battlefields.
On July 7th, President Abraham Lincoln received General Grant's dispatch announcing the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Later he appeared dejected during a cabinet meeting. General Meade had failed to pursue General Lee after the battle on July 4th. That evening he was visited by a crowd of people who unknowingly had the opportunity to hear parts of a speech that would later be known as the Gettysburg Address. In this speech he spoke about how all men are created equal and about how it’s been 80 or so years since the birth of our nation.
Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin gave the responsibility for cleaning up after the battle to Judge David Willis of Gettysburg. Funds which came from the 18 states whose sons were among the dead purchased seventeen acres for a cemetery. With the help of architect William Saunders plans for a national cemetery were taking place. On September 23, Willis invited Edward Everett, the nation’s foremost orator, to give the dedication speech planned for October 23rd. Everett requested for more time to prepare, so the ceremony was set for November 19th On November 2nd , Willis invited Mr. Lincoln to come and make a few appropriate remarks. Willis carefully explained to Lincoln that this was a state initiative. Willis, who had conceived the idea of a national cemetery and had organized the dedication made it equally clear to the president that he would have only a small part in the ceremonies. Lincoln accepted the invitation even though seventeen days was an extraordinarily short notice for presidential participation.
Before November 18th, Lincoln completed the first draft. This speech was then revised at the home of David Willis the night before the dedication. By morning barely half of the 3500 total Union troops were entombed. At 10:00am, Thursday, Abraham Lincoln rode in a large procession from the Willis house about one mile to the cemetery dedication site. A resident on the parade route said Lincoln bowed "with a modest smile and uncovered head” to the throng of men, women and children that greeted him.
Once they were at the cemetery Edward Everett gave the main speech that lasted two hours which was normal at that time. Lincoln gave speeches that had lasted three hours.
According to the New York Times, while Mr. Lincoln was before the nearly 15,000 people that came to the dedication he was interrupted five times during his 2 – 3 minute speech. Several of the platform guests were greatly impressed at Lincoln’s remarks. Later Everett wrote Lincoln requesting a copy of the speech and showering it with praise:
"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 ideal of the occasion, in two hours as you did in 2 minutes”.
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 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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.” A. Lincoln
November 19, 1863
Lincoln had been struggling with one of the most important decisions of his life: his eternal destiny. He was brought up with the Bible, was considered honest and even purposed to live by the Ten Commandments, but his life was not yet complete.
After the dedication, Lincoln visited the graves of the men that gave their lives to preserve liberty. Suddenly, he met the most important person in all creation, Jesus Christ. A few months before his death he was asked by a minister from Illinois, "Do you love Jesus?" He solemnly replied, "When I left Springfield, I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But, when I went to Gettysburg, and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated my life to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus”.
Days later after Lee surrendered to Grant, Lincoln and his wife, Mary attended the Broadway play “Our American Cousin”. During the play, it was said that Abe was telling Mary that after this next term he would “love to go to the Holy Land and walk on the same ground as the Savior, to be able to see the holy city of Jeru---. At that moment a crazed actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth ended the life of Abraham Lincoln. He thought Lincoln’s death would bring confusion and cause the south to rise up again, but his death brought bonding to our now United States of America.
By the next morning Lincoln had died. Someone at his bedside said, “Now he belongs to the ages”. Honest Abe, a good man who was lost, but was shown the savior through the sacrifices made by the men at the Battle of Gettysburg. Their deaths lead him to a new life of freedom. Abraham Lincoln was now in the arms of his Savior.
Lincoln serves as an example of a good man by those who knew him, but realized that his works were not enough.
God’s word tells us:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God not of works lest any man should boast.”Ephesians 2:8&9
“He that hath the son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” I John 5:12 & 13
“For whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”Romans10:13
1809 - 1865