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Among all the speeches delivered in the history of the United States, few could be said to have anywhere near the impact of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. Comprising just 270 words, the President’s two minutes of oratory helped to define the importance of maintaining the Union during some of the most uncertain days of the American Civil War.
On that particular Thursday afternoon, thousands gathered to declare the field outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania a national cemetery. For three days the previous July, the Union Army of the Potomac under General George Meade had fought the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia commanded by the venerated General Robert E. Lee. During a fierce battle in sweltering heat, at least 1 in 4 of the 160,000 soldiers on the field were killed or wounded.
The day would feature a variety of speakers and musical performances to commemorate the occasion. Despite what some believe, Lincoln’s words were not scheduled as the featured oratory. Edward Everett, a former Massachusetts Senator, would have the honor of delivering a two-hour monologue honoring the sacrifice made by so many. The committee which had petitioned for Gettysburg to receive its special status invited the President for “a few appropriate remarks” to add an official air to the proceedings. …(Read more)