For Americans, battlefields are the most hallowed memorials and none more venerated than Gettysburg.
November 19, 1863— A little over 2,000 (some say 15,000 or more) Americans gathered on the battlefield known as Gettysburg. The United States was in the midst of a great Civil War that pitted State against State and brother against brother.
We can little appreciate the anguish experienced by parents, spouses, siblings, sons and daughters during that great war. Nor can we understand the burdens borne by President Abraham Lincoln as the nation was torn asunder.
To this day, Gettysburg represents the bloodiest day of conflict in American history. Union and Confederate armies suffered 51,049 casualties at Gettysburg, including 7,058 who died in battle and buried there.
On the day Gettysburg was dedicated, President Lincoln was tasked with the responsibility of giving a brief speech following a 2 hour speech by Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of his day. With a spirit of humility, the plain-spoken Lincoln opened the two pages upon which he had penned his speech and in 2 short minutes gave a moving tribute to the men who had died at Gettysburg.
In 3 brief paragraphs, a total of 273 words, Lincoln memorialized the principles of Liberty for all people. His speech, known today as the Gettysburg Address, is immortalized on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
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.
Thank you to all who served our nation in war and to those whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice. May we never forget their sacrifice or fail to defend the freedoms purchased at so great a sacrifice.