HANOVER JUNCTION, Pa. — On a spring Sunday in 1953, an elderly, white-haired woman stepped off a train from Washington and was greeted by hundreds of people who were waiting in this quiet village in a misting rain.
She was Helen Nicolay, 87, and she had come to unveil a plaque marking a famous journey her father, John, had made almost a century before.
On Nov. 18, 1863, another train from Washington had chuffed around the bend and stopped at the rail junction here en route to Gettysburg, 30 miles west.
Along with her father, it carried his boss, President Abraham Lincoln, who had in his pocket a short, unfinished speech.
“Four score and seven years ago,” it began, “our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.’ ”
Lincoln was satisfied with that part and the rest of the first page he had written out on Executive Mansion stationery back in Washington.
It was the second page that he was about to scrap, and rewrite so powerfully, after he arrived in Gettysburg.
In addition to Helen Nicolay’s father, who was Lincoln’s confidant and chief secretary, others on the train included Secretary of State William H. Seward; Lincoln’s free black valet, William H. Johnson, who would soon be dead of smallpox; and the Rev. Thomas A. Stockton, a congressional chaplain who would give a moving, and now forgotten, talk of his own in Gettysburg.
Nicolay’s boyish assistant, John Hay, who called Lincoln “the Tycoon,” was also aboard, as were politicians, foreign dignitaries and 27 members of the Marine Band, including John Philip Sousa’s father, Antonio.
All those on the train that paused here to switch rail lines were bound for roles, large and small, in one of the Civil War’s great dramas — the delivery by Lincoln the next day of the Gettysburg Address.
The small southern Pennsylvania town where they were headed had been ravaged that July in the biggest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
Lincoln had been invited to speak at the dedication of the cemetery set aside for the thousands of dead Union soldiers, but he wasn’t the keynote speaker.
The main Gettysburg address had been assigned to the most celebrated orator of the day, Edward Everett, a 69-year-old former U.S. senator and secretary of state.
The original date of the ceremony, Oct.23, had been pushed back four weeks to give him time to prepare. “The occasion is one of great importance,” Everett wrote in response to his invitation, “not to be dismissed with a few sentimental or patriotic commonplaces.”
He had thus prepared a two-hour speech — which included a 177-word sentence — and had a private tent with a portable commode stationed by the speakers’ platform in case he needed a bathroom break.
He was waiting with the throng of VIPs, reporters and well wishers at the Gettysburg train station for Lincoln to arrive.
Of course it would be Lincoln’s speech that would define the nation the next day and touch all who were associated with it — from Nicolay, who long had custody of the speech; to Everett, who admitted that his oration was utterly eclipsed by Lincoln’s; to a man on the speakers’ platform who said he held Lincoln’s hat.
As spoken, the speech was probably about 240 words — slightly more in versions Lincoln wrote out later.
It was written in three big paragraphs, with varying punctuation, totaling about 10 sentences. It probably took him about five minutes to deliver.
But it would be that short speech, given over freshly dug graves 150 years ago this fall, that gave a revolutionary new meaning to the Civil War and to the nation, historian Garry Wills has written.
“The Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln wanted it to mean,” Wills wrote in his 1992 book, “Lincoln at Gettysburg, the Words that Remade America.” With his speech, Lincoln crafted a new country, and gave its people “a new past . . . that would change their future indefinitely.”
The cemetery solution
In the wake of the titanic battle on July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, it was said that you could smell Gettysburg before you reached it.
Thousands of dead men and horses were scattered across the fields in the summer heat.
Most of the dead men were hastily, and inadequately, buried, and the horses burned.
“The heart sickened at the sights that presented themselves at every step,” recalled Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin, who visited Gettysburg shortly after the battle.
Something had to be done, and Curtin assigned a Gettysburg lawyer, David Wills, 32, who had influence and a big house on the town square, to take charge.
The idea of a national cemetery for the Union dead was proposed, agreed on, and Wills began raising money for the project. He acquired a 17-acre, boomerang-shaped parcel of land next to Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery.
Wills hired a noted Scottish-born landscaper to lay out the new cemetery, and Wills and his advisers began to think about a dedication ceremony.
The role of Lincoln was debated. There was agreement that he could be invited, but whether he should speak was in question.
“It was said that this would not be an occasion suitable to his accustomed manner of speaking,” Clark E. Carr, who was a state agent from Illinois working with Wills, recalled in a newspaper story many years later. “He could scarcely be equal to such a memorial occasion.”
So on Nov. 2, Wills wrote Lincoln, inviting him to attend, and informing him that Everett would deliver the “Oration.” Wills asked if, after Everett’s speech, Lincoln would dedicate the grounds with “a few appropriate remarks.”
Lincoln was busy with the war and politics, and his son, Tad, 10, was sick, probably with a mild version of smallpox. A year earlier, Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd, had lost their 11-year-old son, Willie, probably to typhoid fever.
But Lincoln had been energized by the Union victory at Gettysburg, and furious that the rebel army had escaped destruction. Plus, his “gallant and brave friend,” Union Gen. John Reynolds, had been killed in the first day’s fighting.
At the last minute, he decided he would attend the dedication. But first he had to jot down his “remarks.”
The plain-looking document rests on a metal cart in a small room in the Library of Congress. The two pages are held behind thick Plexiglas that filters out ultraviolet light. They are encased in a steel frame that looks bomb-proof and contains inert argon gas to prevent deterioration of the paper.
This is the cherished “Nicolay Copy” of the Gettysburg Address, the version that was in the custody of John G. Nicolay, Helen’s father, in Washington for many years.
It is believed to be the version that Lincoln took to the speaker’s platform, and from which he read. (It is scheduled to go on display in the library’s Jefferson Building starting Nov. 8.)
There are five known copies of the Gettysburg Address, many with slight differences.
The Library of Congress has two, said Michelle A. Krowl, Civil War and Reconstruction specialist in the library’s manuscript division.
“There may have been more floating around,” Krowl said. “These are just the five that we know about.”
Lincoln appears to have written the other four after using the Nicolay copy to give his speech in Gettysburg.
Lincoln, like many good writers, wrote and rewrote, gathered data, and rewrote some more, according to a forthcoming book, “Writing the Gettysburg Address,” by Miami University historian Martin P. Johnson.
Like other good speakers, he also refined material he had used before.
In this case, Johnson points out, Lincoln had used rough elements in a July 7, 1863, speech in Washington that would reappear, beautifully transformed, at Gettysburg.
“How long ago is it?” Lincoln had said in the earlier speech. “Eighty-odd years since upon the fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal.”
The Nicolay copy has two pages. The first is carefully written, mostly in ink, on Executive Mansion stationery.
The second is done in pencil on a separate sheet of plain, lined paper that has a piece torn off the bottom.
Lincoln was tailoring his speech to keep it short but wanted it to be good, Johnson writes. The night before he left for Gettysburg, the president called the cemetery designer, William Saunders, to the White House.
According to Johnson, the designer brought his plans, spread them out on a table, and Lincoln peppered him with questions. “He was much pleased,” Saunders recalled later, adding that Lincoln asked him if he was going to attend the dedication.
Saunders said he planned to go, and Lincoln said, “Well, I may see you on the train.”
Aboard the B&O
The train left the B&O station in Washington a little before noon on Nov. 18. There was a locomotive, decorated with evergreen wreaths and a U.S. flag, and three or four cars. (Reports vary.)
The trip had been set for Nov. 19, when Lincoln would go up to Gettysburg, give his speech, and come back the same day. But he had rejected that plan, saying it would be too rushed — a “breathless running of the gantlet.”
It’s not clear how many people were on board the train. But there was the Marine Band, with its instruments, plus VIPs, plus disabled Union soldiers from the Invalid Corps, as a military escort.
Lincoln had started working on his speech in Washington, and probably had a two-page version on Executive Mansion stationery with him. The second page would be discarded in Gettysburg.
“Probably he threw it away, probably in Gettysburg,” Johnson said in a telephone interview. “That’s what I surmise.”
The train stopped in Baltimore, headed north across the Mason-Dixon line, then through the Pennsylvania towns of New Freedom and Glen Rock to Hanover Junction. From there, it headed west to Gettysburg.
A visit with Seward
David Wills’s big house on the southeast corner of Gettysburg’s “diamond,” or town square, was packed with 38 people — family and guests — the night of Nov. 18, 1863.
It was so jammed that Edward Everett almost had to share a bed with Pennsylvania’s Gov. Curtin, Johnson recounts in his book. Curtin “kindly went out and found a lodging elsewhere,” Everett wrote.
Everett’s daughter was also in the house, sleeping with two other women, when their bed collapsed.
Lincoln got his own room, on the second floor overlooking the diamond. The big bed he slept in is there today in the restored Wills house.
Having safely arrived in Gettysburg, braving the crowds and settling in, he resumed work on the speech. Johnson believes Lincoln was inspired to revise it during the train journey through the vast stretches of rural countryside.
That night several people saw the president writing. He summoned Wills to ask about the ceremonies the next day, then called for him again, saying he wanted to go see Seward, who was staying next door.
He went to see his secretary of state and took his speech with him.
Lincoln liked Seward’s way with words, Johnson reports.
Indeed, Lincoln and Seward had collaborated superbly on Lincoln’s first inaugural address, with Seward laying out good turns of phrase and Lincoln reworking them into poetry.
Some scholars wonder if Seward had the same impact on the Gettysburg Address.
But perhaps the biggest impact came when Lincoln and Seward visited the battlefield the next morning, right before the dedication, according to Johnson.
From Wills’s house, the road west out of Gettysburg went straight, and steeply up, to Seminary Ridge and the area around the Lutheran Theological Seminary. The battle began, and Gen. Reynolds was killed near there on July 1.
It was to Seminary Ridge, and a landscape still scarred by the conflict, that Lincoln and Seward went early on the morning of the dedication. Little is known about what they did, where, exactly, they went, or what Lincoln thought.
But “something happened,” Johnson writes in book. “The memory of Reynolds’ death, perhaps, or the sight of the battle damage . . . inspired him to revisit the speech.”
John Nicolay remembered reporting to the president’s room after breakfast and staying with him until he finished writing just before the procession to the cemetery.
The speech Lincoln had with him when he donned white gloves and mounted his horse outside Wills’s house now had the second “pencil page,” which included 9 1/2 lines of one of the greatest speeches in history.
. . . (F)rom these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion . . . we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the 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.
The next train
At Hanover Junction today, the east-west train tracks that took Lincoln to Gettysburg are long gone, and the old track bed has been reclaimed by the woods.
There’s still a line that runs north and south and carries a colorful excursion train, pulled by a replica Civil War-era locomotive. And the old station where Lincoln got off in 1863 and chatted while the cars switched lines has been restored.
The village still is tiny and quiet, and much of the countryside remains a rural landscape of farm fields, barns and aged brick homesteads.
Helen Nicolay, who had written a biography of her father and was the guest of honor that afternoon in 1953, died the following year in Washington and was buried near her second home in New Hampshire.
But the blue and gold state historical marker that she unveiled still is there, although now slightly crooked on its stand.
Seventeen months after the Gettysburg Address, a train bearing Abraham Lincoln came through Hanover Junction again.
This time it was his funeral train taking him back to Illinois to be buried.
The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. PresidentAbraham Lincoln, and one of the best-known speeches in American history. It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863 – four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to others' presentations that day, came to be seen as one of the greatest and most influential statements of American national purpose. In just over two minutes Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis, with "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens. Lincoln also redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for the Union, but also for the principle of human equality.
Beginning with the now-iconic phrase "Four score and seven years ago"—referring to the signing of the Declaration of Independence eighty-seven years earlier—Lincoln invoked the United States' founding principles as set forth in that document, then reminded his listeners of the peril to those principles posed by the Civil War then in progress. He extolled the sacrifices of those who died at Gettysburg in defense of those principles, and exhorted his listeners to continue the struggle for survival of the nation's representative democracy as a beacon to the world—urging 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."
Despite the speech's prominent place in the history and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording and location of the speech are disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's hand differ in a number of details, and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech. Modern scholarship locates the speakers' platform 40 yards (or more) away from the Traditional Site within Soldiers' National Cemetery at the Soldiers' National Monument and entirely within private, adjacent Evergreen Cemetery.
Following the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1–3, 1863, reburial of Union soldiers from the Gettysburg Battlefield graves began on October 17. David Wills, of the committee for the November 19 Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, invited President Lincoln: "It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks." Lincoln's address followed the oration by Edward Everett, who subsequently included a copy of the Gettysburg Address in his 1864 book about the event (Address of the Hon. Edward Everett At the Consecration of the National Cemetery At Gettysburg, 19th November 1863, with the Dedicatory Speech of President Lincoln, and the Other Exercises of the Occasion; Accompanied by An Account of the Origin of the Undertaking and of the Arrangement of the Cemetery Grounds, and by a Map of the Battle-field and a Plan of the Cemetery).
During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg on November 18, Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay that he was dizzy. In the railroad car the President rode with his secretary, John G. Nicolay, his assistant secretary, John Hay, the three members of his Cabinet who accompanied him, William Seward, John Usher and Montgomery Blair, several foreign officials and others. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln's face had 'a ghastly color' and that he was 'sad, mournful, almost haggard.' After the speech, when Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C., he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which included a vesicular rash and was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. It thus seems highly likely that Lincoln was in the prodromal period of smallpox when he delivered the Gettysburg address.
Program and Everett's "Gettysburg Oration"
The program organized for that day by Wills and his committee included:
Music, by Birgfeld's Band ("Homage d'uns Heros" by Adolph Birgfeld)
Prayer, by Reverend T. H. Stockton, D.D.Benediction, by Reverend H. L. Baugher, D.D.
Music, by the Marine Band ("Old Hundred"), directed by Francis Scala
Oration, by Hon. Edward Everett ("The Battles of Gettysburg")
Music, Hymn ("Consecration Chant") by B. B. French, Esq., music by Wilson G Horner, sung by Baltimore Glee Club
Dedicatory Remarks, by the President of the United States
Dirge ("Oh! It is Great for Our Country to Die", words by James G. Percival, music by Alfred Delaney), sung by Choir selected for the occasion
While it is Lincoln's short speech that has gone down in history as one of the finest examples of English public oratory, it was Everett's two-hour oration that was slated to be the "Gettysburg address" that day. His now seldom-read 13,607-word oration began:
Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed;—grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.
And ended two hours later with:
But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.
Lengthy dedication addresses like Everett's were common at cemeteries in this era. The tradition began in 1831 when Justice Joseph Story delivered the dedication address at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Those addresses often linked cemeteries to the mission of Union.
Text of the Gettysburg Address
Shortly after Everett's well-received remarks, Lincoln spoke for only a few minutes. With a "few appropriate remarks", he was able to summarize his view of the war in just ten sentences.
Despite the historical significance of Lincoln's speech, modern scholars disagree as to its exact wording, and contemporary transcriptions published in newspaper accounts of the event and even handwritten copies by Lincoln himself differ in their wording, punctuation, and structure. Of these versions, the Bliss version, written well after the speech as a favor for a friend, is viewed by many as the standard text. Its text differs, however, from the written versions prepared by Lincoln before and after his speech. It is the only version to which Lincoln affixed his signature, and the last he is known to have written.
Read by Britton Rea 2006
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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.
In Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills notes the parallels between Lincoln's speech and Pericles's Funeral Oration during the Peloponnesian War as described by Thucydides. (James McPherson notes this connection in his review of Wills's book.Gore Vidal also draws attention to this link in a BBC documentary about oration.) Pericles' speech, like Lincoln's:
- Begins with an acknowledgment of revered predecessors: "I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honor of the first mention on an occasion like the present"
- Praises the uniqueness of the State's commitment to democracy: "If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences"
- Honors the sacrifice of the slain, "Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonor, but met danger face to face"
- Exhorts the living to continue the struggle: "You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue."
In contrast, writer Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, notes that while Everett's Oration was explicitly neoclassical, referring directly to Marathon and Pericles, "Lincoln's rhetoric is, instead, deliberately Biblical. (It is difficult to find a single obviously classical reference in any of his speeches.) Lincoln had mastered the sound of the King James Bible so completely that he could recast abstract issues of constitutional law in Biblical terms, making the proposition that Texas and New Hampshire should be forever bound by a single post office sound like something right out of Genesis."
Several theories have been advanced by Lincoln scholars to explain the provenance of Lincoln's famous phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people". Despite many claims, there is no evidence a similar phrase appears in the Prologue to John Wycliffe's 1384 English translation of the Bible.
In a discussion "A more probable origin of a famous Lincoln phrase", in The American Monthly Review of Reviews, Albert Shaw credits a correspondent with pointing out the writings of William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, who wrote in the 1888 work Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of A Great Life that he had brought to Lincoln some of the sermons of abolitionistministerTheodore Parker, of Massachusetts, and that Lincoln was moved by Parker's use of this idea:
I brought with me additional sermons and lectures of Theodore Parker, who was warm in his commendation of Lincoln. One of these was a lecture on 'The Effect of Slavery on the American People' ... which I gave to Lincoln, who read and returned it. He liked especially the following expression, which he marked with a pencil, and which he in substance afterwards used in his Gettysburg Address: 'Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.'
Craig R. Smith, in "Criticism of Political Rhetoric and Disciplinary Integrity", suggested Lincoln's view of the government as expressed in the Gettysburg Address was influenced by the noted speech of Massachusetts SenatorDaniel Webster, the "Second Reply to Hayne", in which Webster famously thundered "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" Specifically, in this speech on January 26, 1830, before the United States Senate, Webster described the federal government as: "made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people", foreshadowing Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people". Webster also noted, "This government, Sir, is the independent offspring of the popular will. It is not the creature of State legislatures; nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established it, and have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose, amongst others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sovereignties."
A source predating these others with which Lincoln was certainly familiar was Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), a case asserting federal authority to create a national bank and to be free from the State's powers to tax. In asserting the superiority of federal power over the states, Chief Justice Marshall stated: "The government of the Union, then (whatever may be the influence of this fact on the case), is, emphatically and truly, a government of the people. In form, and in substance, it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit." Lincoln, a lawyer and President engaged in the greatest struggle of federalism, was (more eloquently) echoing the preeminent case that had solidified federal power over the States.
Wills observed Lincoln's usage of the imagery of birth, life, and death in reference to a nation "brought forth", "conceived", and that shall not "perish". Others, including Allen C. Guelzo, the director of Civil War Era studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, suggested that Lincoln's formulation "four score and seven" was an allusion to the King James Version of the Bible's Psalms 90:10, in which man's lifespan is given as "threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years".
Each of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address is named for the person who received it from Lincoln. Lincoln gave copies to his private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. Both of these drafts were written around the time of his November 19 address, while the other three copies of the address, the Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss copies, were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. In part because Lincoln provided a title and signed and dated the Bliss copy, it has become the standard text of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Nicolay and Hay were appointed custodians of Lincoln's papers by Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln in 1874. After appearing in facsimile in an article written by John Nicolay in 1894, the Nicolay copy was presumably among the papers passed to Hay by Nicolay's daughter Helen upon Nicolay's death in 1901. Robert Lincoln began a search for the original copy in 1908, which resulted in the discovery of a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address among the bound papers of John Hay—a copy now known as the "Hay copy" or "Hay draft".
The Hay draft differed from the version of the Gettysburg Address published by John Nicolay in 1894 in a number of significant ways: it was written on a different type of paper, had a different number of words per line and number of lines, and contained editorial revisions in Lincoln's hand.
Both the Hay and Nicolay copies of the Address are within the Library of Congress, encased in specially designed, temperature-controlled, sealed containers with argon gas in order to protect the documents from oxidation and continued deterioration.
The Nicolay copy[a] is often called the "first draft" because it is believed to be the earliest copy that exists. Scholars disagree over whether the Nicolay copy was actually the reading copy Lincoln held at Gettysburg on November 19. In an 1894 article that included a facsimile of this copy, Nicolay, who had become the custodian of Lincoln's papers, wrote that Lincoln had brought to Gettysburg the first part of the speech written in ink on Executive Mansion stationery, and that he had written the second page in pencil on lined paper before the dedication on November 19. Matching folds are still evident on the two pages, suggesting it could be the copy that eyewitnesses say Lincoln took from his coat pocket and read at the ceremony. Others believe that the delivery text has been lost, because some of the words and phrases of the Nicolay copy do not match contemporary transcriptions of Lincoln's original speech. The words "under God", for example, are missing in this copy from the phrase "that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom ..." In order for the Nicolay draft to have been the reading copy, either the contemporary transcriptions were inaccurate, or Lincoln would have had to depart from his written text in several instances. This copy of the Gettysburg Address apparently remained in John Nicolay's possession until his death in 1901, when it passed to his friend and colleague John Hay. It used to be on display as part of the American Treasures exhibition of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The existence of the Hay copy[b] was first announced to the public in 1906, after the search for the "original manuscript" of the Address among the papers of John Hay brought it to light. Significantly, it differs somewhat from the manuscript of the Address described by John Nicolay in his article, and contains numerous omissions and inserts in Lincoln's own hand, including omissions critical to the basic meaning of the sentence, not simply words that would be added by Lincoln to strengthen or clarify their meaning. In this copy, as in the Nicolay copy, the words "under God" are not present.
This version has been described as "the most inexplicable" of the drafts and is sometimes referred to as the "second draft". The "Hay copy" was made either on the morning of the delivery of the Address, or shortly after Lincoln's return to Washington. Those who believe that it was completed on the morning of his address point to the fact that it contains certain phrases that are not in the first draft but are in the reports of the address as delivered and in subsequent copies made by Lincoln. It is probable, they conclude, that, as stated in the explanatory note accompanying the original copies of the first and second drafts in the Library of Congress, Lincoln held this second draft when he delivered the address. Lincoln eventually gave this copy to his other personal secretary, John Hay, whose descendants donated both it and the Nicolay copy to the Library of Congress in 1916.
The Everett copy,[c] also known as the "Everett-Keyes copy", was sent by President Lincoln to Edward Everett in early 1864, at Everett's request. Everett was collecting the speeches at the Gettysburg dedication into one bound volume to sell for the benefit of stricken soldiers at New York's Sanitary Commission Fair. The draft Lincoln sent became the third autograph copy, and is now in the possession of the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, Illinois, where it is currently on display in the Treasures Gallery of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The Bancroft copy[d] of the Gettysburg Address was written out by President Lincoln in February 1864 at the request of George Bancroft, the famed historian and former Secretary of the Navy, whose comprehensive ten-volume History of the United States later led him to be known as the "father of American History". Bancroft planned to include this copy in Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors, which he planned to sell at a Soldiers' and Sailors' Sanitary Fair in Baltimore. As this fourth copy was written on both sides of the paper, it proved unusable for this purpose, and Bancroft was allowed to keep it. This manuscript is the only one accompanied both by a letter from Lincoln transmitting the manuscript and by the original envelope addressed and franked by Lincoln. This copy remained in the Bancroft family for many years, was sold to various dealers and purchased by Nicholas and Marguerite Lilly Noyes, who donated the manuscript to Cornell in 1949. It is now held by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell University. It is the only one of the five copies to be privately owned.
Discovering that his fourth written copy could not be used, Lincoln then wrote a fifth draft, which was accepted for the purpose requested. The Bliss copy,[e] named for Colonel Alexander Bliss, Bancroft's stepson and publisher of Autograph Leaves, is the only draft to which Lincoln affixed his signature. Lincoln is not known to have made any further copies of the Gettysburg Address. Because of the apparent care in its preparation, and in part because Lincoln provided a title and signed and dated this copy, it has become the standard version of the address and the source for most facsimile reproductions of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It is the version that is inscribed on the South wall of the Lincoln Memorial.
This draft is now displayed in the Lincoln Room of the White House, a gift of Oscar B. Cintas, former Cuban Ambassador to the United States. Cintas, a wealthy collector of art and manuscripts, purchased the Bliss copy at a public auction in 1949 for $54,000 ($555,000 as of 2018), at that time the highest price ever paid for a document at public auction. Cintas' properties were claimed by the Castro government after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but Cintas, who died in 1957, willed the Gettysburg Address to the American people, provided it would be kept at the White House, where it was transferred in 1959.
Garry Wills concluded the Bliss copy "is stylistically preferable to others in one significant way: Lincoln removed 'here' from 'that cause for which they (here) gave ...' The seventh 'here' is in all other versions of the speech." Wills noted the fact that Lincoln "was still making such improvements", suggesting Lincoln was more concerned with a perfected text than with an 'original' one.
From November 21, 2008, to January 1, 2009, the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the Smithsonian InstitutionNational Museum of American History hosted a limited public viewing of the Bliss copy, with the support of then-First LadyLaura Bush. The Museum also launched an online exhibition and interactive gallery to enable visitors to look more closely at the document.
Another contemporary source of the text is the Associated Press dispatch, transcribed from the shorthand notes taken by reporter Joseph L. Gilbert. It also differs from the drafted text in a number of minor ways.
Contemporary sources and reaction
Eyewitness reports vary as to their view of Lincoln's performance. In 1931, the printed recollections of 87-year-old Mrs. Sarah A. Cooke Myers, who was 19 when she attended the ceremony, suggest a dignified silence followed Lincoln's speech: "I was close to the President and heard all of the Address, but it seemed short. Then there was an impressive silence like our Menallen Friends Meeting. There was no applause when he stopped speaking." According to historian Shelby Foote, after Lincoln's presentation, the applause was delayed, scattered, and "barely polite". In contrast, Pennsylvania Governor Curtin maintained, "He pronounced that speech in a voice that all the multitude heard. The crowd was hushed into silence because the President stood before them ... It was so Impressive! It was the common remark of everybody. Such a speech, as they said it was!" Reinterment of soldiers' remains from field graves into the cemetery, which had begun within months of the battle, was less than half complete on the day of the ceremony.
In an oft-repeated legend, Lincoln is said to have turned to his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon and remarked that his speech, like a bad plow, "won't scour". According to Garry Wills, this statement has no basis in fact and largely originates from the unreliable recollections of Lamon. In Garry Wills's view, "[Lincoln] had done what he wanted to do [at Gettysburg]".
In a letter to Lincoln written the following day, Everett praised the President for his eloquent and concise speech, saying, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes." Lincoln replied that he was glad to know the speech was not a "total failure".
Other public reaction to the speech was divided along partisan lines. The Democratic-leaning Chicago Times observed, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." In contrast, the Republican-leaning New York Times was complimentary and printed the speech. In Massachusetts, the Springfield Republican also printed the entire speech, calling it "a perfect gem" that was "deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma". The Republican predicted that Lincoln's brief remarks would "repay further study as the model speech". On the sesquicentennial of the address, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, formerly the Patriot & Union, retracted its original reaction ("silly remarks" deserving "the veil of oblivion") stating: "Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives. ... the Patriot & Union failed to recognize [the speech's] momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error."
Foreign newspapers also criticized Lincoln's remarks. The Times of London commented: "The ceremony [at Gettysburg] was rendered ludicrous by some of the luckless sallies of that poor President Lincoln."
CongressmanJoseph A. Goulden, then an eighteen-year-old school teacher, was present and heard the speech. He served in the United States Marine Corps during the war, and later had a successful career in insurance in Pennsylvania and New York City before entering Congress as a Democrat. In his later life, Goulden was often asked about the speech, since the passage of time made him one of a dwindling number of individuals who had been present for it. He commented on the event and Lincoln's speech in favorable terms, naming Lincoln's address as one of the inspirations for him to enter military service. Goulden's recollections included remarks to the House of Representatives in 1914.
William R. Rathvon is the only known eyewitness of both Lincoln's arrival at Gettysburg and the address itself to have left an audio recording of his recollections. One year before his death in 1939, Rathvon's reminiscences were recorded on February 12, 1938, at the Boston studios of radio station WRUL, including his reading the address, itself, and a 78 rpm record was pressed. The title of the 78 record was "I Heard Lincoln That Day – William R. Rathvon, TR Productions". A copy wound up at National Public Radio (NPR) during a "Quest for Sound" project in 1999. NPR continues to air it around Lincoln's birthday.
Like most people who came to Gettysburg, the Rathvon family was aware that Lincoln was going to make some remarks. The family went to the town square where the procession was to form to go out to the cemetery that had not been completed yet. At the head of the procession rode Lincoln on a gray horse preceded by a military band that was the first the young boy had ever seen. Rathvon describes Lincoln as so tall and with such long legs that they went almost to the ground; he also mentions the long eloquent speech given by Edward Everett of Massachusetts whom Rathvon accurately described as the "most finished orator of the day". Rathvon then goes on to describe how Lincoln stepped forward and "with a manner serious almost to sadness, gave his brief address". During the delivery, along with some other boys, young Rathvon wiggled his way forward through the crowd until he stood within 15 feet of Mr. Lincoln and looked up into what he described as Lincoln's "serious face". Rathvon recalls candidly that, although he listened "intently to every word the president uttered and heard it clearly", he explains, "boylike, I could not recall any of it afterwards". But he explains that if anyone said anything disparaging about "honest Abe", there would have been a "junior battle of Gettysburg". In the recording Rathvon speaks of Lincoln's speech allegorically "echoing through the hills".
The only known and confirmed photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg, taken by photographer David Bachrach was identified in the Mathew Brady collection of photographic plates in the National Archives and Records Administration in 1952. While Lincoln's speech was short and may have precluded multiple pictures of him while speaking, he and the other dignitaries sat for hours during the rest of the program. Given the length of Everett's speech and the length of time it took for 19th-century photographers to get "set up" before taking a picture, it is quite plausible that the photographers were ill-prepared for the brevity of Lincoln's remarks.
Usage of "under God"
The words "under God" do not appear in the Nicolay and Hay drafts but are included in the three later copies (Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss). Accordingly, some skeptics maintain that Lincoln did not utter the words "under God" at Gettysburg. However, at least three reporters telegraphed the text of Lincoln's speech on the day the Address was given with the words "under God" included. Historian William E. Barton argues that:
Every stenographic report, good, bad and indifferent, says 'that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.' There was no common source from which all the reporters could have obtained those words but from Lincoln's own lips at the time of delivery. It will not do to say that [Secretary of War] Stanton suggested those words after Lincoln's return to Washington, for the words were telegraphed by at least three reporters on the afternoon of the delivery.
The reporters present included Joseph Gilbert, from the Associated Press; Charles Hale, from the Boston Advertiser;John R. Young (who later became the Librarian of Congress), from the Philadelphia Press; and reporters from the Cincinnati Commercial,New York Tribune, and The New York Times. Charles Hale "had notebook and pencil in hand, [and] took down the slow-spoken words of the President". "He took down what he declared was the exact language of Lincoln's address, and his declaration was as good as the oath of a court stenographer. His associates confirmed his testimony, which was received, as it deserved to be, at its face value." One explanation is that Lincoln deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he spoke. Ronald C. White, visiting professor of history at the University of California – Los Angeles and professor of American religious history emeritus at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, wrote in this context of Lincoln's insertion and usage of "under God":
It was an uncharacteristically spontaneous revision for a speaker who did not trust extemporaneous speech. Lincoln had added impromptu words in several earlier speeches, but always offered a subsequent apology for the change. In this instance, he did not. And Lincoln included "under God" in all three copies of the address he prepared at later dates. "Under God" pointed backward and forward: back to "this nation", which drew its breath from both political and religious sources, but also forward to a "new birth". Lincoln had come to see the Civil War as a ritual of purification. The old Union had to die. The old man had to die. Death became a transition to a new Union and a new humanity.
The phrase "under God" was used frequently in works published before 1860, usually with the meaning "with God's help".
Pennsylvania Historical Marker
|Official name||Gettysburg Address|
|Designated||December 12, 1947|
|Location||PA 134 (Taneytown Rd.) at entrance to National Cemetery|
Baltimore St. (old US 140) & PA 134 at entrance to National Cemetery
Outside the Cemetery and within sight of the cross-walk, a historical marker proclaims:
Nearby, Nov. 19, 1863, in dedicating the National Cemetery, Abraham Lincoln gave the address which he had written in Washington and revised after his arrival at Gettysburg the evening of November 18.
Directly inside the Taneytown Road entrance are located the Rostrum and the Lincoln Address Memorial. Neither of these is located within 300 yards of any of the five (or more) claimed locations for the dedicatory platform.
Colonel W. Yates Selleck was a marshal in the parade on Consecration Day and was seated on the platform when Lincoln made the address. Selleck marked a map with the position of the platform and described it as "350 feet almost due north of Soldiers' National Monument, 40 feet from a point in the outer circle of lots where [the] Michigan and New York [burial sections] are separated by a path". A location which approximates this description is 39°49.243′N, 77°13.869′W.
As pointed out in 1973 by retired park historian Frederick Tilberg, the Selleck Site is 25 feet lower than the crest of Cemetery Hill, and only the crest presents a panoramic view of the battlefield. A spectacular view from the location of the speech was noted by many eyewitnesses, is consistent with the Traditional Site at the Soldiers' National Monument (and other sites on the crest) but is inconsistent with the Selleck Site.
The Kentucky Memorial was erected in 1975, is located directly adjacent to the Soldiers' National Monument, and states, "Kentucky honors her son, Abraham Lincoln, who delivered his immortal address at the site now marked by the soldiers' monument." With its position at the center of the concentric rings of soldiers' graves and the continuing endorsement of Lincoln's native state the Soldiers' National Monument persists as a credible location for the speech.
Writing a physical description of the layout for the Gettysburg National Cemetery under construction in November 1863, the correspondent from the Cincinnati Daily Commercial described the dividing lines between the state grave plots as "the radii of a common center, where a flag pole is now raised, but where it is proposed to erect a national monument". With the inclusion of this quotation Tilberg inadvertently verifies a central principle of future photographic analyses—a flagpole, rather than the speakers' platform, occupied the central point of the soldiers' graves. In fact, the precision of the photo-analyses relies upon the coincidence of position between this temporary flag pole and the future monument.
Confusing to today's tourist, the Kentucky Memorial is contradicted by a newer marker which was erected nearby by the Gettysburg National Military Park and locates the speakers' platform inside Evergreen Cemetery. Similarly, outdated National Park Service documents which pinpoint the location at the Soldiers' National Monument have not been systematically revised since the placement of the newer marker. Miscellaneous web pages perpetuate the Traditional Site.
2-D and optical stereoscopy
Based upon photographic analysis, the Gettysburg National Military Park (G.N.M.P.) placed a marker (near 39°49.199′N77°13.840′W / 39.819983°N 77.230667°W / 39.819983; -77.230667 (Gettysburg address marker)) which states, "The speakers' platform was located in Evergreen Cemetery to your left." The observer of this marker stands facing the fence which separates the two cemeteries (one public and one private).
In 1982, Senior Park Historian Kathleen Georg Harrison first analyzed photographs and proposed a location in Evergreen Cemetery but has not published her analysis. Speaking for Harrison without revealing details, two sources characterize her proposed location as "on or near [the] Brown family vault" in Evergreen Cemetery.
William A. Frassanito, a former military intelligence analyst, documented a comprehensive photographic analysis in 1995, and it associates the location of the platform with the position of specific modern headstones in Evergreen Cemetery. According to Frassanito, the extant graves of Israel Yount (died 1892)(39°49.180′N77°13.845′W / 39.819667°N 77.230750°W / 39.819667; -77.230750 (grave of Israel Yount (d. 1892))), John Koch (died 1913)(39°49.184′N77°13.847′W / 39.819733°N 77.230783°W / 39.819733; -77.230783 (grave of John Koch (d. 1913))), and George E. Kitzmiller (died 1874)(39°49.182′N77°13.841′W / 39.819700°N 77.230683°W / 39.819700; -77.230683 (grave of George E. Kitzmiller (d. 1874))) are among those which occupy the location of the 1863 speaker's stand.
3-D photo-rendering and -animation
Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Christopher Oakley and his students are "working to produce a lifelike virtual 3-D re-creation of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address" as part of the Virtual Lincoln Project. After taking precise measurements, some using lasers, and countless photographs on Cemetery Hill in 2013, Oakley's team used 3-D animation software Maya to estimate locations for the platform and the photographers who recorded its occupants. This work remains under development.
The GNMP marker, Wills' interpretation of Harrison's analysis, and the Frassanito analysis concur that the platform was located in private Evergreen Cemetery, rather than public Soldiers' National Cemetery. The National Park Service's National Cemetery Walking Tour brochure is one NPS document which agrees:
The Soldiers' National Monument, long misidentified as the spot from which Lincoln spoke, honors the fallen soldiers. [The location of the speech] was actually on the crown of this hill, a short distance on the other side of the iron fence and inside the Evergreen Cemetery, where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to a crowd of some 15,000 people.
While the GNMP marker is unspecific, providing only "to your left", the locations determined by the Harrison/Wills analysis and the Frassanito analysis differ by 40 yards. Frassanito has documented 1) his own conclusion, 2) his own methods and 3) a refutation of the Harrison site, but neither the GNMP nor Harrison has provided any documentation. Each of the three points to a location in Evergreen Cemetery, as do modern NPS publications.
Although Lincoln dedicated the Gettysburg National Cemetery, the monument at the Cemetery's center actually has nothing to do with Lincoln or his famous speech. Intended to symbolize Columbia paying tribute to her fallen sons, its appreciation has been commandeered by the thirst for a tidy home for the speech. Freeing the Cemetery and Monument to serve their original purpose, honoring of Union departed, is as unlikely as a resolution to the location controversy and the erection of a public monument to the speech in the exclusively private Evergreen Cemetery.
The importance of the Gettysburg Address in the history of the United States is underscored by its enduring presence in American culture. In addition to its prominent place carved into a stone cella on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Gettysburg Address is frequently referred to in works of popular culture, with the implicit expectation that contemporary audiences will be familiar with Lincoln's words.
In the many generations that have passed since the Address, it has remained among the most famous speeches in American history, and is often taught in classes about history or civics. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is itself referenced in another of those famed orations, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.