Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, gave one of the country’s most memorable speeches on the afternoon of November 19, 1863. This Thursday would go on to be engraved in history. The date marked four months since the ending of the battle. The Union armies defeated the Confederacy in the ever famous Battle of Gettysburg. This town, located in Pennsylvania, would go to be the birth place of the ever famous Gettysburg Address.

The Purpose

While the famous address would last a mere two minutes, it would inspire a country that faced turmoil. Lincoln’s speech would be very straight to the point and started with the famous words, “Four score and seven years ago.” While the battle was gruesome, it was the president’s duty to instill the nation with a renewed feeling of freedom. At the Gettysburg Address’ very core was a sense of unity and freedom. The president knew that both sides still felt the pain of the war and literally spoke to them with a way of equality in his voice and an overall feeling that democracy would remain supreme.

The fundamental principles of this young country were put to the test during the battle. Both sides faced severe casualties and the president knew he had one chance to finally put the country back on track. The goal of the address was to ensure that the country and its citizens knew that not only would those who lost their lives be memorialized, but that the country was for the people. Without this speech, the country may have been completely different. Lincoln wanted to make it clear that the basic fundamentals of America were still the appropriate way to enter the future.

The Mystery

The history books often lead scholars to believe that the address was not surrounded in controversy and mystery, but this is not the case. In fact, the location of the actual speech has been greatly debated throughout the years. Many scholars state that the location of the actual speech stands 40 yards from its believed location. Even the newspapers at the time had conflicting speeches. Today, there are five main manuscripts that are different versions of the actual speech given. With different newspapers giving different accounts, it is quite difficult to discern which speech was actually given by Lincoln.

The manuscript discrepancies actually originate from the papers that Lincoln himself gave to his private secretaries. While each one has the same basic meaning behind the common speech, they still differ enough to present doubt in the speech we all know and love today. Among the five known copies are the Nicolay, Hay, Everett, Bancroft and Bliss copy. While the Nicolay and Hay copies are believed to be the earliest drafts of the speech, the Bliss copy has become the standard. The standard was given to the Bliss copy because it is the only one of the five that was titled, dated and signed by Lincoln himself.

The War

The war that lead to the ultimate speech was unlike any other the country had seen. Instead of outside forces attacking, the people themselves fought amongst one another. The great battle began in 1861 and would last until 1865. The Confederacy, made up of eleven southern states, seceded from the United States of America and called themselves the Confederate States of America. The states themselves were often called slave states because they believed that slavery was an integral, important part in the country. Not willing to let go of slavery, the Confederacy decided to attack a military base in Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861. This would be the spark that ignited the four-year war.

The Confederacy states were small in comparison to the Union states, which were made up of 25 individual states. These numbers proved to be too large for the Confederacy in the end, but they put up a long fight. Shortly after the vicious battle in 1862, Lincoln would go on to release his Emancipation Proclamation. This would further engrave his name in history because this would set the end of slavery as a war goal. This goal was eventually met when the war ended. However, this would not be before many major battles had taken place.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation the next major battle would be the Battle of Gettysburg. At this time, Robert E. Lee advanced into Pennsylvania and led the short battle. Between July 1, 1863 and July 3, 1863 the battle quickly progressed and ended. While the duration was short, the highest number of casualties occurred. In total, between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers were casualties during this three day span. The Union soldiers suffered 23,055 casualties while the Confederacy suffered 23,231. When the bloody battle was finally over, the president, having seen the enormous casualties sustained, started to draft what is known today as the Gettysburg Address.

The war would end on April 9, 1865 with General Lee surrendering. Having faced tremendous casualties, it was abundantly clear that his army would ultimately succumb to the Union. Instead of sacrificing more men, Lee decided that surrendering would be the best option. The general was still highly respected and was allowed to keep his sword and horse. While this might not seem like a sign of respect in the current era, it was the ultimate sign of respect at the time.

When the battles finally ended, the states rejoined America and it became the great nation that it is today. Had the speech given at Gettysburg Address not been so powerful, the Union troops may have abandoned their war. The result of the address was the ultimate understanding that even though there was great conflict among the two armies, that democracy was to prevail. The basic foundations of the country were fortified by Lincoln’s speech and would help propel the Union to ultimate victory. While there is no winner in a war amongst countrymen, it was a pivotal point in history that finally abolished slavery. Click Here for to the Full Text »

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