19 Nov. 1863: The Gettysburg Address [Fr. Z]

Four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg, on the afternoon of Thursday 19 November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a “few appropriate remarks” at the dedication of the cemetery for fallen soldiers.

After a 13,607 word speech by Edward Everett, the President’s address consisted of 10 sentences in 272 words.

The Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest pieces of public oratory in history.
I recently visited the Battlefield and the Cemetery. Here are a few images.

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.

Full entry…

The phrase which always jumps out at me from this historic address is, “but we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.” The brave men and women who fought in the American Civil War, and in all our wars since, have indeed already hallowed the ground far beyond our poor ability to add or detract.

In these times of political and economic uncertainty, we cannot forget our veterans, living and dead. They paid the price of freedom so that we can be free in our choice of religion, in our ability to post to the Internet, and in our right to say what we believe. So visit a cemetery this weekend in their honor, and say a prayer for the repose of their souls.

Fr Z, thanks for posting.

I have been to most of the Civil War battlefields across the US. Two stand out in my mind - Gettysburg and Appomattox. Lincoln was absolutely right. Gettysburg IS hallowed ground. One can feel it. It is almost palpable.

Appomattox is like a gentle exclamation point to Gettysburg. Perhaps not hallowed ground like Gettysburg but a place of closure - a place of peace.

I have often wondered what might have happened had John Wilkes Booth not done what he did and that Lincoln had survived to oversee Reconstruction.

Newsweek is comparing President-elect Obama to Mr. Lincoln. Let us hope that Mr. Obama follows Mr. Lincoln and tries to unite this country instead of further dividing it, so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.

Were you at the cemetery for Dedication Day this year? Ken Burns gave an absolutely beautiful keynote address. I would urge everyone to watch it if they get the chance.

video here
gettysburg.edu/civilwar/institute/dedication_day_/

After the battle all the confederate dead we stacked like cord wood in a mass grave only to keep the stink down. The yankee dead were organized by states in neat little rows. Latter the confederates we dug up and sent south. Lincoln didn’t unify them. He conquered them and they remained a conquered people until about WWII.

Comparing Obama to Lincoln is ridiculous. Obama had a plurality of voters. Lincoln did not. Lincoln was hated and despised by over half the country. In fact Lincoln could be more favorably compared to Bush.

After all you can from a southern view point claim, Lincoln’s administration was a war mongering administration that forced the War of Yankee Aggression against peaceful and law abiding Americans; who only wanted to be left alone from the intrusion and dictatorial powers of the federal government. He lied to the American people when he said he didn’t want war but secretively set the conditions for hostilities to break out by re-supplying a fort in a foreign country remember the name- Fort Sumter and the country the Confederate States of America. His administration caused the violent death of over 600,000 Americans. He funded the war illegally and in reality we still haven’t finished paying off the debts incurred at that time and it was 150 years ago, and the war itself was illegal as Congress never authorized war with a formal declaration of war. He trampled on the Constitution held Americans in jail without the benefit of legal counsel, or trial by jury and suspended the Writ of Habeus Corpus. Opened concentration camps and practiced a policy of ethnic cleansing in Missouri. If it doesn’t sound like the Bush administration and the war on terror what does?

Well the Yankees waged a total war and the Bush administration is waging a PC war so it looks better on TV.

Yes, that’s exactly right. The Union barely had enough resources to bury their own dead, barely enough surgeons to take care of their own wounded, barely enough money to care for their own widows.

They were overwhelmed by the vast number of casualties. Union soldiers were left to die of their wounds because no one could get to them. Did you really expect an invading enemy army in rebellion against the legitimately elected government of the United States to receive proper burials when there was so much of a strain on the Union to give proper burials to their own troops?

Not a chance; Abraham Lincoln was either the best or the second-best president this country has ever had. George Bush (and most presidents; don’t think I’m bashing him here) wouldn’t be fit to be in Lincoln’s cabinet.

After all you can from a southern view point claim, Lincoln’s administration was a war mongering administration that forced the War of Yankee Aggression against peaceful and law abiding Americans; who only wanted to be left alone from the intrusion and dictatorial powers of the federal government.

You could claim that, but it isn’t true. Lincoln won the election, and the South, in violation of all principles of democracy, decided they didn’t like the result (because it would endanger the "peculiar institution), and seceded.

As to intrusion and dictatorship, which part of the country pushed through the Fugitive Slave Law, allowing slave-catchers to parade into New England and seize blacks from neighborhoods where they’d been living for years? Which part of the country supported the suppression of “personal liberty laws”, which hampered the slave catchers? Which part of the country tried to shove slavery down Kansas’s throat?

I think it might have been the part of the country that owned slaves.

He lied to the American people when he said he didn’t want war but secretively set the conditions for hostilities to break out by re-supplying a fort in a foreign country remember the name- Fort Sumter and the country the Confederate States of America.

He didn’t recognize the existence of the Confederate States of America. There never was a country called the CSA, but rather a band of rebels in insurrection against the lawful government of the United States of America.

Fort Sumter was federal property, built with Federal money and staffed by Federal troops. The fort did not belong to South Carolina, and Lincoln was right to restaff it.

Lincoln did not war, but as he himself said

Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

His administration caused the violent death of over 600,000 Americans. He funded the war illegally and in reality we still haven’t finished paying off the debts incurred at that time and it was 150 years ago, and the war itself was illegal as Congress never authorized war with a formal declaration of war.

  1. Blame the deaths on Jeff Davis and the secessionists. They were the ones who chose to revolt against the lawful government of the United States of America.

  2. How did he fund he war illegally?

  3. You don’t need a declaration of war to put down a rebellion. The Confederates were not a country, they were in rebellion against the lawful government of the United States of America, and part of the President’s duty is to suppress them.

He trampled on the Constitution held Americans in jail without the benefit of legal counsel, or trial by jury and suspended the Writ of Habeus Corpus.

The Constitution specifically provides for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in times of war or insurrection. There was clearly a state of war. Lincoln stood on firm ground here, Roger B. Taney notwithstanding.

Opened concentration camps and practiced a policy of ethnic cleansing in Missouri. If it doesn’t sound like the Bush administration and the war on terror what does?

What ethnicity did he cleanse?

Those “concentration camps” are typically referred to as prisoner of war camps. Unlike the Confederates at Libby and Andersonville, the North fed their prisoners.

Well the Yankees waged a total war and the Bush administration is waging a PC war so it looks better on TV.

You know, it was retreating Confederates, not Sherman, who burned Columbia to the ground.

The only point I will add, is that even though slavery is taught as the major issue behind the war, less than 10% of southerners owned slaves, and the overiding factor was the South believed in stronger state govt. vs. the northern view of a strong federal govt… They viewed that Lincoln was going to impose more federal govt on them (based on northern ideology). (Not to demean the effect slavery had on the outbreak of the war).

Yes and no. You’re right that only 10% owned slaves, but it was that 10% that ran the government. Alexander Stephens’s “Cornerstone Speech” is what the Confederacy’s political leaders were fighting for. The common soldier, however, was fighting for a different goal, in many ways.

Southern views on the strength of government, though, tended to shift depending on what was on the table. Up to that point in American history, no law had given the Federal government more power than the Fugitive Slave Law, and some Democrats were even pushing for a Federal Slave Code.

The reason the Whigs collapsed was because Southerners saw slavery as the premiere issue, and things had reached the point that Whig containment of slavery was seen as such an all-consuming evil that no internal improvement could measure up. Once the Whigs went, it was only a matter of time.

I often make light of the War of Northern Agression and I do so for a purpose. Rest assured that I AM a Southerner. I do have ancestors who fought for the South and, unfortunately, I do have ancestors who held slaves. In the final analysis, I am a student of history and history cannot be reduced to black and white, there are multiple shades of grey.

My family has lived here in Louisiana since 1768 when my Acadian ancestors were booted out of Canada by the British. I have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and came here in 1803 when Louisiana was purchased by the United States. Those same ancestors fought against the British on the plains of Chalmette in 1815 and those very same ancestors owned and sold slaves.

I was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans during the Centennial years. I may have been a teenager in those years but I went with my uncle all over the South reenacting battles during the Centennial. I have a BA in History and took graduate level history courses at LSU on the antebellum south when I was working on my master’s degree in historic archaeology.

I live in an area east of Baton Rouge where the KKK is still, unfortunately, active. How many people upon seeing a bumper sticker on the back end of a truck which featured a portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest with the logo “Ride with the Best” would understand what that meant?

We can sit here and argue the nuances of what led up to the Civil War and the various attrocities that were committed during the war. (e.g. Illinois troops tried to burn a Catholic church west of Baton Rouge. The Irish troops under their command near mutinied).

My state was the first conquered by the North. April 1862. We were one of the last Confederate states to be readmitted to the Union and then only at the insistance of U. S. Grant after a pitched battle (with artillery) at the foot of Canal St. in New Orleans.

One of the primary reasons why the KKK is still active in the South was that Mr. Lincoln was killed. Lincoln was trying to heal the country . Blame Andrew Johnson for the aftermath of the Civil War.

In the final analysis, Lincoln was not interested in freeing the slaves or doing anything else - his primary purpose was to preserve the United States. Don’t know if y’all know this but prior to the War it was “The United States are”. After the War, it was “The United States is”. Think about it.

I agreed with everything you said, save for this. Lincoln was a pragmatist, first and foremost, who realized that only under certain conditions could the slaves be freed. He was also a man who could grow and change over the years.

In the end, though, in 1864, with re-election on the line, advisers were telling him to retreat on Emancipation. Give it up, they said, and you will surely beat McClellan. Keep it, and you will surely lose.

His answer: “I should be damned in time and eternity for so doing. The world will know that I will keep my faith to friends and enemies, come what will.” It was Lincoln’s defining and greatest moment.

I’ll leave with one last point. In 1852, Frederick Douglass cursed the Fourth of July as a holiday by and for white men. “What to a slave is the Fourth of July?”, he asked. Douglass was not an easy man to please or deceive, and when Lincoln was first elected, he was one of his loudest detractors. And yet, after their first meeting, Douglass was praising Lincoln as the greatest man he had ever met.

The fact that Douglass took Abraham Lincoln as his hero and role model show where Lincoln’s priorities lay.

Secession was about slavery.

Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stevens said before the war:

“Our government is founded upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man. That slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth”

Jefferson Davis in his message to the Confederate Congress in late April 1861 said:

“The labor of African slaves was and is indispensable to the South’s economic development. With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

The Mississippi State Convention said before the war:

“A blow at slavery is a blow at civilization. We have no choice but submission to the mandates of abolition or dissolution of the Union.”

It seems that Stevens, Davis and the Mississippi State Convention were not confused about the cause of secession.

The war itself was about the North wanting to keep the Union together. The North didn’t care that much about slavery.

Amen. This is a concept that often gets lost. History is rarely cut and dried, unless one has a presupposition to defend.

Jefferson Davis in his message to the Confederate Congress in late April 1861 said:

“The labor of African slaves was and is indispensable to the South’s economic development. With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

The irony is that slavery was an economic and social disaster for the South. It depressed industry, lowered income for working whites, and made the South’s secession and subsequent defeat virtually inevitable.

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