Today, November 19, marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. On this day, a Thursday, in 1863 President Lincoln delivered what many today call one of the most moving speeches of all time. This short speech, only 278 words, moved the nation that day and forever. You can listen to the Gettysburg address can be listened to here.
On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner commented on what is now considered the most famous speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In his eulogy on the slain president, he called it a “monumental act.” He said Lincoln was mistaken that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Rather, the Bostonian remarked, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.” – abrahamlincolnonline.org
Lincoln was the second to speak that fateful day at Gettysburg. The first was famed orator Edward Everett who spoke for 2 hours. The next day he wrote to Lincoln:
“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” – Edward Everett
In just over two minutes, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis, with “a new birth of freedom,” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens. You can read Everett ‘s speech here.
There were 5 copies of the speech. Each is named for the person that Lincoln gave it to. Two went to his private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. Both of them were written around the time of the speech. The three other copies were written after. Everett asked for a copy of the speech to include in a book he was creating, the proceeds would go to charity. George Bancroft also requested a copy to sell, but he never sold it, since it was deemed unfit for its intended purpose. Lincoln then wrote one last copy that was sent to Colonel Alexander Bliss. This copy is the only one that Lincoln signed and it is believe to be the last one he wrote.