Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous speeches in American history. Perhaps you memorized parts of it when you were in school. In case you’ve forgotten it, here’s an opportunity for you to refresh your memory and to hear a memorable reading of The Gettysburg Address by Johnny Cash.
Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., on November 19, 1863, some four and a half months after the bitter and decisive Battle of Gettysburg. About 7500 soldiers lost their lives during the three day battle of 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers in July, 1863.
The main speaker at the event was Edward Everett, a noted orator and politician who received his invitation to speak about 40 days before the event. He prepared a lengthy text and spoke for about 2 hours. The text of his speech is seldom read.
President Lincoln was invited to Gettysburg only about 17 days prior to the event and presided over something akin to a ribbon cutting ceremony. His presence and speech were not a big part of the main event.
President Lincoln wrote the bulk of the text for his speech in Washington, D.C., and then finished editing it after he arrived in Gettysburg. There is an amusing and enduring though false story that Lincoln wrote the speech on the back of an envelope while traveling by train to Gettysburg. In fact, there are early drafts of the speech on his Executive Mansion stationery and there are reports that he worked on the speech further while a guest of David Wills, the attorney who purchased the land for the cemetery and helped organize the event.
The ceremony was attended by approximately 15,000 people, and needless to say, President Lincoln’s two minute, 272 word speech was the most memorable event of the day.
Click here to listen to Johnny Cash’s excellent reading of the address, complete with accompanying music.
Read the text of Lincoln’s famous speech below:
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.