On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech at the dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, established to bury the casualties of the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought about four months prior on July 1-3.
Lincoln’s remarks at the dedication ceremony, which came to be known as the Gettysburg Address, were among the most well-remembered remarks of his presidency. In his speech, Lincoln invoked America’s founding, “Fourscore and seven years” prior and addressed the ongoing American Civil War.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the Civil War and saw an estimated 51,000 men on both sides of the fighting, killed, wounded, captured, or missing.
In his remarks, Lincoln said, “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation 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.”
Lincoln’s 273-word address was not meant to be the keynote speech of the dedication ceremony. Boston, Massachusetts native Edward Everett was the featured speaker chosen to give an oration during the ceremony and he spoke to the gathered crowd at the ceremony for about two hours. By comparison, Lincoln’s remarks lasted about two minutes.
Massmoments.org, reported Everett’s speech came to be known as the “other” Gettysburg Address and that Everett was quick to credit Lincoln’s speech, saying, “I should be glad, if I could flatter me that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Lincoln reportedly responded at the time, “In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little that I did say was not entirely a failure.”
Here is Lincoln’s full Gettysburg Address:
Fourscore 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 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.