A Memorial Day remembered: Gettysburg, 1863 | SummitDaily.com

A Memorial Day remembered: Gettysburg, 1863

One hundred and forty years ago this July 1-3, the great Civil War battle of Gettysburg was fought at an obscure crossroads in southern Pennsylvania.

The battle turned the tide of the war. On Nov. 2, 1863, local judge David Wills invited President Abraham Lincoln to make a “few appropriate remarks” at the consecration of a cemetery for the Union war dead.

In early July, Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin had charged Wills with cleaning up the horrible aftermath of the battle: wounded soldiers crammed into every available building, and thousands of swollen dead strewn among hundreds of bloated dead horses.

With the approval of the governor and the 18 states whose sons were among the dead, Wills quickly acquired 17 acres for the national cemetery. Oddly enough, Lincoln was not the main speaker for the consecration. In fact, after his speech, many newspapers panned the comments.

Time changed that perception. On Memorial Day, a day created originally to honor the Union dead, we present President Lincoln’s timeless words, first spoken Nov. 19, 1863. They honor all war dead through the ages.

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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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

Nov. 19, 1863

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