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Gettysburg Address: Facts & Stories You've Never Heard


The brief but powerful speech that President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863, has become one of the most respected speeches in American history. Most people know how the iconic speech begins, the memorable "Four Points and Seven Years Ago," but that may be the limit of their knowledge of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's words, presented as an official dedication to the National Cemetery of Gettysburg, are as relevant today as those spoken in Pennsylvania 156 years ago. Let's look at the Gettysburg address to uncover some facts and stories you may not have heard before.


Lincoln was not the headliner

For a momentous occasion such as the dedication of the National Cemetery, the organizers of the event invited the country's greatest speaker to deliver the keynote address. No, not Abraham Lincoln. It was actually Edward Everett, a former senator, former president of Harvard University, and a dynamic public speaker. In fact, he was possibly the most famous speaker of the time, and the organizers of the event knew he could draw a crowd.

They were less certain about Abraham Lincoln. Although he was a highly intelligent man, Lincoln --- so he thought --- was not way with Everett's words. On the day of the dedication ceremony, Everett gave an encouraging two-hour speech from memory in which he detailed the Battle of Gettysburg and compared the creation of the United States to the rise of the Great Greek Republic. Lincoln had to follow it up with a brief speech of 272 words that lasted barely two minutes. The carefully written speech was so powerful and memorable, however, that Everett later wrote that Lincoln accomplished in two minutes what took him two hours.


Lincoln was making a political statement

Protection of the Union was foremost in President Lincoln's mind during the American Civil War. When he was asked to deliver a speech at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, he saw an opportunity for the American public to embrace the idea of ​​a reunited United States, with the South joining the Union.

Legend has it that Lincoln hurriedly wrote his speech on the train on his way to Gettysburg, but the reality is that Lincoln took his time, going through several revisions until he was satisfied. He used the Gettysburg Address to propose that the Civil War was a test to determine whether the young nation could survive, ending with the belief that "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." shall not perish from the earth." Not surprisingly, his comments received mixed reviews. Republicans praised the speech while Democrats called it "inadequate.


Lincoln knew how to work the media

A major reason why Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address was so short, especially when compared to Everett's two-hour speech, was that Lincoln understood the value of an enigmatic message. He knew that many of the thousands present at the dedication ceremony would be journalists, and at the conclusion of the speeches, those journalists would flock to the city's telegraph office to send their news stories to their respective employers. As a result, he deliberately crafted a speech that would be easy for journalists to remember and send to their editors. In fact, many newspapers in the country carried Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in its entirety. Meanwhile, Everett's speech was only excerpts.


Gettysburg sees influx of visitors

In 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a small town of about 2,500 people, but more than 15,000 people came to Gettysburg for the dedication of the National Cemetery. Due to which there is pressure on the city. When Lincoln and his crew arrived in town the night before the dedication ceremony, they found a place to stay at the home of local lawyer David Wills and his extremely pregnant wife. In fact, the Wills family had so many people that night (38 in total) that most of them, including the governor of Pennsylvania, sometimes had to sleep in two or three beds with strangers. Only two people had the privilege of sleeping in his bed: Edward Everett and Abraham Lincoln.

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