The Battle of Gettysburg Resource Center
last revised 10/02/04
The Gettysburg Address
Probably Abraham Lincoln's most famous and most eloquent words were this brief address delivered at the dedication of the cemetery which held the remains of more than 3,500* of the soldiers who fell at the Battle of Gettysburg. The remarks, delivered just four months after the Battle, are both a powerful summation of Lincoln's war aims as well as a moving tribute to those who died for a just cause.
The Cemetery was originally owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but in 1872 it was transferred to the United States Government. After purchasing the land on Cemetery Hill, Pennsylvania officials wanted to consecrate the grounds with appropriate ceremonies. The Honorable Edward Everett of Massachusetts was selected to present the oration for the occasion, since he was considered the most outstanding speaker of the day.
Since the land was not owned by the Federal Government, it never occurred to those in charge that the President might want to attend the ceremony. Lincoln's appearance came as a surprise then but he was quickly asked to participate in the program and he accepted.
At noon on November 19, 1863 the ceremonies began before a crowd of thousands. Mr Everett, stood for a moment in silence, then spoke for nearly two hours, covering all three days of the battle as well as the purpose of the war and other related subjects. President Lincoln's speech lasted only two minutes, but it has been imortalized in history as the Gettysburg Address. Everett is said to have remarked that the President said more in two minutes than he had been able to say in his two hours.
* Note : The total number of dead buried at Gettysburg is listed as 3,512 in the "Roll of Honor" ; 3,575 in the "Stastical Record" by Captain Frederick Phisterer dated 1883 and 3,734 in other sources.
|Four score and seven years ago our fathers
brought forth on this continent, a new nation, concieved 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 cannot dedicate - we can not consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who have 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.
See another handwritten version - looks like the same handwriting as the one above
Click Here for The Library of Congress Gettysburg Address webpage, includes several drafts of the speech.
Click Here for a page with several versions of the Gettysburg Address.
Click Here for a page on the Gettysburg Address at Cornell University's Making of America website.
The text of the Address on this page was contributed by Stuart Johnson, additional text and links by Bill Norton-Taylor.