The Gettysburg Address

Read the “Lincoln Invited to Gettysburg” reading. Answer the question about Lincoln’s invitation to Gettysburg.

Lincoln Invited to Gettysburg

On November 2, 1863, several months after the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3), David Wills invited President Lincoln to make a “few appropriate remarks” at the dedication of a cemetery for the Union war dead. In early July, Pennsylvania governor Andrew Curtin had charged Wills, a successful local citizen and judge, 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 eighteen states whose sons were among the dead, Wills quickly acquired seventeen acres for the national cemetery and had the Germantown landscape architect, William Saunders, draw up a plan. Burial began not long after. On September 23, Wills invited the venerable Edward Everett, the nation’s foremost rhetorician, to give an oration at the dedication ceremony planned for October 23. Everett accepted, but, needing more time to prepare, persuaded Wills to postpone the ceremony to November 19.

Although Wills wrote his invitation to Lincoln only three weeks prior to the dedication—prompting speculation among historians about his and Governor Curtin’s motivations—there is evidence that Lincoln was fully apprised of the affair in early October. Further, Wills’s invitation included a warm welcome to the president to stay at his house, along with Everett and Curtin.

Lincoln accepted the invitation, probably viewing it as an appropriate time to honor all those who had given their lives in the Civil War. He may also have seen the dedication as an opportunity to reveal his evolving thinking about the War, as a fight not only to save the Union, but also to establish freedom and equality for all under the law. These ideas are central to the speech Lincoln gave at Gettysburg, which, despite its brevity, as opposed to Edward Everett’s long-forgotten two- hour oration, has become one of the most memorable of all time.


Read the Gettysburg Address and fill in the chart on the Gettysburg Address handout.
Match the Main Idea with the actual text from the document.

The Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania November 19, 1863

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.