Site Map
Photos of Winnie

"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 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."

How many of you recognize these words and the significance of today? If you said that it is the Gettysburg Address then you are correct. And if you said the significance is that today is the anniversary of Lincoln's delivery of these words then you are right again.

Dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery, November 19, 1863; photo courtesy of Gettysburg National Battlefield ParkToday is Remembrance Day. It is the day that people dedicated the Gettysburg Cemetery and remembered the Union soldiers who had given their lives in the horrendous battle at Gettysburg, 1-3 July 1863.

Governors from the Northern states, whose soldiers had fought at Gettysburg, planned a cemetery. Now it was a quiet park-like place that a few months before had been the scene of vicious fighting. But now it was to be the final resting place of more than 3,700 Union soldiers. Exhumation of bodies of Union soldiers began in October, 1863 and was completed in March, 1864. Of the original number of soldiers buried there 979 were unidentified. The remains of Confederate soldiers stayed in the hastily dug graves, where they had fallen in combat, until 1870-1873 when 3,320 bodies were transported to southern cemeteries. Although the cemetery is a Union cemetery some Confederate soldiers were accidentally buried there in the belief that they were Union soldiers. And the body of another soldier was discovered within the last ten years and is now buried there.

By the fall of 1863 most of the aftermath of the battle was cleared away and the landscape was showing some green where the graves were. It was time to dedicate the cemetery and remember these men. Edward Everett, a famous orator of the day was to be the primary speaker and President Lincoln was to be there just to receive and dedicate the ground that would become a national shrine while saying a few suitable words. Little did we know what impact these words would have.

More than 12,000 people were there for this celebration, surrounding Lincoln. Some came to pay their last respects to fallen husbands and sons. Some were there in hopes of finding out what had happened to their loved ones. Some would take bodies home with them. But they all came to honor the dead.

It is sad to say but hundreds of Confederate unmarked graves went largely unnoticed while people prepared for the dedication. The morning of 19 November, 2000 dawned clearly and the procession began promptly at 10:00. The parade started and guns fired their salute when the head of the parade reached the cemetery. Edward Everett finally delivered the address of the day with much gesturing. His speech of 13,000 words lasted for over two hours. He must have been a sight to behold. He certainly fulfilled his role of orator and gave the crowd the performance they expected.

And then President Lincoln rose to dedicate the cemetery. He was very brief and he spoke of liberty and equality.

He spoke not of dedicating the ground but of dedicating themselves to the cause that these fallen soldiers had died for. His address didn't last but about two minutes but he touched the people who had come and there was long continued applause. Read the address again and see if you are as touched as these people were because the words can apply to all of us no matter what war we're talking about.

So on this 19thday of November remember those who died not just at Gettysburg but throughout the war. This war is still relevant today and a lot of what we're experiencing is the outcome of it.

The sources for tonight's tidbits are:

Catton, Bruce, "Never Call Retreat", Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1965. 282-285

Storrick, W. C., "Gettysburg Battle and Battlefield", Barnes & Noble, Inc, 1994. 157

See www.loc.gov/exhibits/gadd/gadrft.html for more information and photos of several different drafts of Lincoln's Address.

© 2006 Winifred Ledoux