Friday, November 19, 2010

The Gettysburg Address

Today is the anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  This simple, rather short, but extremely powerful speech was made by President Lincoln at the dedication of the cemetery at the Gettysburg battlefield.  When I was a child, we were made to memorize and recite it, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.  I hope that children still have to learn it, because it stresses why individual and collective sacrifice is necessary every single day to preserve and defend our Union.

At the time of giving this address, our country was mid-way through the Civil War.  The Confederacy was either at or very near the high water mark in its efforts to sever itself from the Union.  Union forces had won at Memphis, and had turned Lee back at Gettysburg, but at a horrible cost at both places and to both sides.  After the battles of Gettysburg and Fredericksburg, Lincoln must have known just how bloody our soil would become if he was to carry the Union to a victory.  Napoleonic tactics of closing with the enemy, exchanging some musket fire, then charging with fixed bayonet had run head long into new technology of faster loading rifles with Minet balls and repeating rifles.

As he wrote these words, the thought of all the men who had died and the men who would die must have crossed his mind.  In his speech, you can hear the sorrow he must have been feeling at the sight of all of the newly dug graves in Gettysburg.

I will not debate the morality of the Civil War, nor its causes, nor of either side's methods towards victory, nor of Lincoln's culpability in any of it  This speech commemorates all of the men who fought and died for our country and its principles. 
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.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Thanks for posting this! It's good to remember our history...

Creative Commons License
DaddyBear's Den by DaddyBear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at