Gettysburg Address: 150 years later

Gettysburg Address5 Things to Know About the Gettysburg Address

USA TODAY – The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, one of the best-known in American history. It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.

So where was Lincoln, exactly?

Where in Gettysburg, exactly, did Lincoln actually deliver his Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863? A prominent, 1912 monument to the speech by the entrance of the town’s National Cemetery leads casual observers to believe it happened there. But look closely: A nearby, vintage plaque says the speech occurred 300 yards away on the spot of another cemetery monument (to fallen soldiers). Except . . . that’s not right, either, modern research has found. The true spot, according to research backed by the National Park Service, lies along the crest of a hill just outside the gates of the cemetery, on the grounds of an older, private cemetery.

Lincoln wasn’t the keynote speaker

The dignitary who spoke before Lincoln, Edward Everett, delivered what was scheduled as the main speech of the day. The former Massachusetts governor and onetime Secretary of State took two hours navigating its 13,607 words.

The speech was really, really short

Lincoln’s speech, a mere 271 words if you use the version that’s attributed to Lincoln, took only two minutes. The New York Times reported of the Gettysburg Address: “It was delivered (or rather read from a sheet of paper which the speaker held in his hand) in a very deliberate manner, with strong emphasis, and with a most business-like air.”

The Gettysburg Address was ridiculed at first

One of the world’s best-remembered speeches, it includes the line, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Ridiculed at first in some prominent quarters – The Chicago Times, for one, citing “silly, flat and dish-watery utterances” – the address is now regarded as one of the finest speeches ever given. In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr., kicking off his “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of 250,000 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, noted Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect “five score years ago.” The phrase of course invoked the address whose words were etched into the interior of the monument just a few steps behind the civil rights icon.

Different versions of the speech exist

There are five manuscripts of the speech, and the most widely quoted one is the oldest. The earliest versions were given to his two secretaries, John George Nicholay and John Hay. You can find them at the Library of Congress’ website, myloc.gov.

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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