Lincoln at Gettysburg

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” worded Lincoln, ironically enough at the dedication ceremony for the Fallen at the Gettysburg. The line and the entire Gettysburg Address, indeed passed unnoticed on that November day 1863.

The main speaker of the day was not Lincoln but the orator Edward Everett, who droned on for two hours in a 1,500-sentence speech full of what Bill Bryson called, “literary allusions, Ciceronian pomp and obscure historical references that bore only the scantest significance to the occasion”.  Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker and his speech contained only 268 words, two thirds of them of only one syllable, in ten short sentences. He barely took his eyes of his written speech–which didn’t mentioned Gettysburg or slavery or the Union. His talk of a little over 2 minutes was too short for the official photographer to take the president delivering the iconic speech.

Abraham Lincoln photos are rare — from the day of the Gettysburg Address, only one verified photo exist the one above. One is currently being verified here.

The photos were even rarer than the manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address. Of five known copies, the Library of Congress has two (those of Lincoln’s private secretaries), and other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes. (Everett, to whom Lincoln confided that he thought the speech was a failure, got a copy).

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8 thoughts on “Lincoln at Gettysburg

  1. I wonder how long it took the photographer to take that? It probably took Lincoln awhile to write all of the speech copies using a fountain pen, too!

    As I list on my website, there are 5 known copies of the Gettysburg Address:
    * 2 at the Library of Congress in D.C.
    * 1 in the Lincoln Room at the White House in D.C.
    * 1 at the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, IL
    * 1 at Cornell University in NY

  2. Please read Gary Wills “Lincoln at Gettysburg” wherein he makes it abundantly clear that Everett’s two hour oration was pleasing to President Lincoln and to the crowd. Some were moved to tears though they had already been standing for several hours. Yes, Everett’s address contained historical allusions but was a well researched recapitulation of the four days of fighting. EE named names and described the fighting. Gary Wills compares it to our documentaries. EE had an immediate appreciation of Lincoln’s monumental words; the next day he wrote to the president saying: “I wish I could flatter myself that I said as much in two hours as you said in two minutes.” Mr. Bryson is in considerable error. Do you quote him elsewhere?

    1. A most interesting and excellent observation!
      I’m about to enter my 75th year. Sometimes, I see films set in the 40s or 50s and it is so obvious that people in close proximity are not as they would have been “back in day.” I first noticed this in the 70s: People hitch-hiking would have their thumb thrust high in the air almost expecting a ride; in the 50s the thumb would be considerably lower.
      Their are regional difference, too. I live in New England — Nobody around here knows how to saunter. We know where we are going and, dammit! We are going to get there.

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