On November 19, 1863 Edward Everett of Massachusetts delivered a thought-provoking speech laden with historical references at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg where 51,000 soldiers were killed and wounded during July 1-3. Mr. Everett was a professor, university president, politician, secretary of state, minister, diplomat and Vice-Presidential candidate on the Constitution Union Party ticket with John Bell in 1860.
Mr. Everett’s speech lasted two hours. The text of the speech is in the links below.
“as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates The Battles of Gettysburg.”
After the honorable Mr. Everett ended his oratory, President Abraham Lincoln stood and gave his very short speech under 300 words. It is Lincoln’s speech which is remembered and recited by school children across the land, even though, in 1863 it was dismissed and criticized by the media.
In elementary school we memorized the speech and had to give it in front of the class. The words are simple yet profound from a war-weary President who was disliked and hated by a large segment of the people throughout the states and territories.
There is some debate about the actual words of the Gettysburg Address since different versions exist. Regardless of this debate, the words said on November 19 overlooking the battlefield where so young and old men died in early July are a fitting tribute to the hallowed ground of The Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
As I wrote in my short story Jayne’s Letter:
“War has a life of its own. The more it takes, the more it wants. Your Jayne could not bake enough blueberry pies to keep it fed. There isn’t enough blood to cover its ugly face.”
“I am getting so tired of digging holes, Sir. To bury these men so far from home and loved ones. I hope if I die in battle that someone will make sure to tell my Jayne where I am in case she wants to come to visit me someday.” https://lochgarry.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/jayne%E2%80%99s-letter-a-civil-war-short-story/
War, no matter the causes and reasons, robs this planet traversing the cosmos of a generation of men and women. So it is fitting to honor those brave men and women who served valiantly and died on the battlefields of this planet for their country.
Lincoln’s words are haunting, sad and yet hopeful for the future:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon 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 the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that she 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 and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
In a letter dated November 20 Edward Everett said to Lincoln,
“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Mr. Everett became a strong ally of Lincoln and campaigned for his reelection in 1864 and the Union Party (Republican). Unfortunately, Mr. Everett died before the war ended, but he had hope that the Union would be preserved and that the United States of America would once again fly the stars and stripes over every corner of the land.
Mr. Everett is interned at the Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery. In this peaceful garden place Mr. Everett believed he would sleep until that glorious morning of resurrection based on his Unitarian faith.
G. D. Williams © 2012
Edward Everett (April 11, 1794 – January 15, 1865)
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address read by Jeff Daniels
Soldiers’ National Cemetery
Abraham Lincoln presented by John Mansfield
Mount Auburn Cemetery