Tuesday marks 150th anniversary of Gettysburg Address

Tuesday marks 150th anniversary of Gettysburg Address

A November 16, 2013 photo shows the Lincoln Memorial, with its reflection on the top of a sign post, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The nation will mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address delivered during the American Civil War on November 19. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN

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WHAS11.com

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 10:21 AM

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — On the Civil War battlefield where President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that symbolized his presidency and the sacrifices made by Union and Confederate forces, historians and everyday Americans are gathering to ponder what the Gettysburg Address has meant to the nation.

Civil War historian James McPherson and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell are scheduled to speak Tuesday to mark the 150th anniversary of speech. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett also will deliver remarks.

It comes near the end of a momentous year for the park, city and college that share the name Gettysburg, as hundreds of thousands of visitors took part in historical re-enactments and ceremonies.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address — first delivered here nearly five months after the major battle that left tens of thousands of men wounded, dead or missing — will be read by a re-enactor to mark the anniversary. The ceremony will begin in the morning with a wreath laying event at the Soldiers' National Cemetery. There also will be a graveside salute to U.S. Colored Troops at noon, and a tree planting ceremony in the afternoon.

Some visitors are honoring the speech as well as the men who fought in the battle. Tom Stack, 54, of Wilmington, Del., has an ancestor who fought and died at Gettysburg while serving with the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Regiment.

"It was an incredible time, with incredible individuals, on both sides, really," Stack said Monday.

The short oration, which begins, "Four score and seven years ago," was not immediately recognized as a towering literary achievement. Just last week, The Patriot-News in nearby Harrisburg retracted a dismissive editorial about the speech published by its Civil War-era predecessor, The Harrisburg Patriot & Union. The newspaper now says it regrets the error of not seeing its "momentous importance, timeless eloquence and lasting significance."

The ideals expressed in the speech also weren't necessarily a reflection of reality. Only a few years after the war, a separate cemetery for black Civil War veterans was created in Gettysburg because they were "denied burial in the National Cemetery because of segregation policies," according to a historical marker placed in 2003.

The free Dedication Day event is held annually at Soldiers' National Cemetery. Last year's commemoration drew some 9,000 people.

President Barack Obama declined an invitation, and parks officials say Rutherford B. Hayes is the last sitting president to attend a Nov. 19 event in Gettysburg.

There are several related events at the park this week, including the "Gettysburg Address Gallery" at the park museum and visitor center. The exhibit includes pages with signatures of individuals who attended the 1863 Dedication Ceremony in Gettysburg and a letter and signed pardon from Lincoln.

The annual Remembrance Day Parade in Gettysburg will be held Saturday, featuring Union and Confederate re-enactors who will lay wreaths at the portions of the battlefield their units defended.

An estimated 235,000 people came to Gettysburg this year on or around the battle's anniversary in early July.

The National Park Service is streaming Tuesday's ceremony live to 90,000 colleges, schools, libraries and museums nationwide.

"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."

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

 

 

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