Gettysburg Address: 6 cool things to know on the 150th anniversary

President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as inscribed on the stone at the Lincoln Memorial.

Pat Benic/UPI/Landov

President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as inscribed on the stone at the Lincoln Memorial.

Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's most famous speech: The Gettysburg Address, delivered during the height of the Civil War to commemorate a Pennsylvania cemetery for soldiers who died in a key battle.

Some things to know as we recall the speech that encapsulated Lincoln's message to the nation in a terse, poetic 272 words:

1. Thousands convened in Gettysburg, Pa., Tuesday to commemorate the address, CBS News reported.

Echoing Lincoln, keynote speaker and Civil War historian James McPherson said the president took the dais in November 1863 at a time when it looked like the nation "might indeed perish from the earth."

"The Battle of Gettysburg became the hinge of fate on which turned the destiny of that nation and its new birth of freedom," McPherson said.

2. The Pennsylvania-based Patriot-News printed a retraction on Nov. 14 of its 1863 review of the speech, which called Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,” deserving “a veil of oblivion”:

In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.  

3. National Public Radio on Tuesday's Morning Edition aired the speech as read by historian Eric Foner and members of the NPR staff. You can listen by clicking the audio buttons above.

4. The Atlantic reminds us that in 2000, Peter Norvig, the current director of research at Google,  created a PowerPoint presentation of the address as a way to lampoon the reductiveness of the Microsoft presentation software, creating an Internet meme.

5. USA Today reports that there are actually five manuscripts of the speech:

 "The most widely quoted one is the oldest. The earliest versions were given to his two secretaries, John George Nicholay and John Hay. You can find them at the Library of Congress' web site."

6. Google has created an interactive project that allows you to compare the five different versions of the speech, the most famous version of which is posted below.

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.

With contributions by NPR

More in U.S. / World

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus