The Gettysburg Address

The largest Civil War battle ever waged in the Western Hemisphere was fought 149 years ago near the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began on July 1, 1863 and ended two days later with the climactic “Pickett’s Charge”. More than 150,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were drawn into the Battle of Gettysburg. By the time it was over, there were 50,000 casualties and 15,500 deaths – 7,000 for the north and 8,500 for the south – making it the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

Gettysburg National Military Park is a memorial dedicated to the armies that fought the great three day battle. The park incorporates nearly 6,000 acres, with 26 miles of park roads and over 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg contains more than 7,000 interments including the remains of more than 3,500 soldiers who fell at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was here that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address, just four months after the battle.

Abraham Lincoln’s most famous and eloquent words were spoken in this brief speech, delivered at the dedication of the cemetery. After purchasing the land on Cemetery Hill, Pennsylvania officials wanted to consecrate the grounds with an appropriate ceremony. The Honorable Edward Everett of Massachusetts was selected to present the oration for the occasion. President Lincoln’s appearance came as a surprise, but he was quickly added to the program.

Mr. Everett spoke for nearly two hours, covering all three days of the battle as well as the purpose of the war and other related subjects. Lincoln’s remarks, delivered at noon on November 19, 1863, are a powerful summation of Lincoln’s war aims as well as a moving tribute to those who died. While Lincoln’s speech lasted only two minutes, Everett is said to have remarked that the President said more than he had been able to say in his two hours!

The “Gettysburg Address” is one of the great speeches that everyone should read. Download this PDF and practice reciting it:

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