There are few people in America who have not heard the words that began, "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 ….." and ended "… and that governments of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1 and ended on July 3, 1863, and marked a turning point in the Civil War in favor of the North. The Northern army of about 90,000 men was led to victory by General George G. Meade against the Southern army of 75,000 men led by General Robert E. Lee. The battle began when the two armies accidentally met in the little town of Gettysburg.
In the battle, the Confederate army took the town, but the Union army took a better and stronger position on high ground south of town. About 3,000 Union soldiers and 4,000 Confederate soldiers were killed in the battle. The total number of casualties - those killed, wounded, missing, or captured - was about 23,000 for the Northern army and 25,000-28,000 for the Southern army.
The Gettysburg Address was a short speech given by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863. This speech was delivered at the place of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania at ceremonies to dedicate part of the battleground as a cemetery for those who died there. Lincoln wrote the speech because he wanted to define the purposes for the Civil War for those people who lived in the North. His simple and inspired words are among the most remembered in American history.
Lincoln wrote five versions of the speech and signed the fifth version. The version given below is based on shorthand notes of a reporter who heard Lincoln deliver the speech. In a comparison of the two speeches, I found a few minor differences but nothing major. Some examples of the differences are "We are met…" instead of "We have come…" and "carried on" instead of "advanced." Historians are reasonably sure of what he actually said because several reporters attended the ceremonies and wrote his words as he spoke. The nobility of Lincoln's brief remarks were recognized by many people and newspapers of the time.
"Four score and seven year ago our fathers brought forth upon 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 are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of 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 that they have thus far so nobly carried on. 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 here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain - that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom - and that governments of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Facts for this blog post are from articles by Gabor S. Boritt, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, 176-177.