Today in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered his historic Gettysburg Address at the dedication of a new military cemetery founded in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The succinct speech encapsulated the fighting ethos of the Union.
The Address was delivered four months after the Union won the Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle was the deadliest fought in the War. It was also the most important Union victory, that shifted the balance of military dominance significantly against the Confederacy.
A lawyer named David Willis was tasked with organizing the burying of about seven and a half thousand soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. He bought seventeen acres of land that he converted into the graveyard where Lincoln delivered his speech. He invited a speaker named Edward Everett to deliver remarks at the event, and also invited Lincoln, a mere two weeks before the dedication.
Everett's speech preceded Lincoln's. It ran about two hours long. Lincoln took the stage afterwards and spoke for about three minutes.In the address, he claimed that the Union's fight was a fight for human freedom. Although it is now one of the most famous pieces of oratory in American history, it was harshly divisive at the time. Listen to the full text below.