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Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe
12-14-2017, 03:19 PM
Post: #13
RE: Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe
The following is an accounting of an important two weeks in President Lincoln’s life at the time of the Gettysburg Address.

A week before his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln attended the wedding of Miss Kate Chase, daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, to the very rich United States Senator from Rhode Island, William Sprague. “Soon after dark, the people of Washington had gathered on either side of the roll of matting that ran from the carriage steps to the door of the Chase residence. . . . On E Street, the long line of carriages moved slowly forward. The personages descended: the gentlemen of the Cabinet, the gold-laced diplomats, Generals Halleck, McDowell, Stoneman and Schenck, Senator Wilson and the honorable Simon Cameron. Laces and feathers swirled over the matting to the entrance, and jewels gleamed in the light of the carriage lamps. There were vivid beauties – young Miss McDowell and the daughter of the Brazilian minister. Still, the people in the street were not satisfied. They wanted to see the President. It was eight-thirty, the hour set for the marriage ceremony, when at last he came, solitary, without escort. Once in the streets of the capital, scarcely a head had turned to mark the prairie lawyer who had made his awkward way into the highest office of the country. Now people pressed and scrambled for a sight of his good, ugly face. Between their ranks, he walked to the door of his jealous Cabinet minister; a tired man, racked by a thousand anxieties, sick at the price of the nation’s survival; a man with too much to do, too many people to see, who had to go up to Gettysburg the next week to make a speech.” (“Reveille in Washington,” by Margaret Leech, pages 281-82.)

At a Tuesday cabinet meeting shortly after Kate’s wedding, Lincoln informed his colleagues that he would leave for Gettysburg that Thursday, November 19, 1863. He had been asked to say a few words to consecrate the cemetery grounds set aside so that the Union soldiers who had been interred near the battlefield and hospitals the previous July could be “properly buried.” Edward Everett, the noted orator and former president of Harvard, was scheduled to give the main address, after which the president would speak. Lincoln told his cabinet that he hoped that they would accompany him to the dedication. Seward, Blair, and John Usher readily agreed, but the other members feared they could not spare the time from their duties, particularly since their annual reports to Congress were due in a couple of weeks.

Lincoln was uneasy about the trip. He had been “extremely busy,” he told Ward Lamon, and had not been able to carve out the solitary time he needed to compose his address. He “greatly feared he would not be able to acquit himself with credit, much less to fill the measure of public expectation.” Stanton had arranged a special train for the presidential party to depart on the morning of the dedication and return home around midnight that same day. Lincoln, however, re-scheduled it to leave on Wednesday. “I do not wish to so go that by the slightest accident we fail entirely,” he explained, “and, at the best, the whole to be a mere breathless running of the gauntlet.” Perhaps he also hoped that an early departure from the White House would allow him more time to work on his address. The day before setting out, Lincoln told a friend he had “found time to write about half of his speech.” (“Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, page 583.)

On the day of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

As Everett started back to his seat [following his two hour memorized speech], Lincoln stood to clasp his hand and warmly congratulate him. George Gitt, a fifteen-year-old who had stationed himself beneath the speaker’s stand, later remembered the “flutter and motion of the crowd [roughly nine thousand] ceased the moment the President was on his feet. Such was the quiet that his footfalls, I remember very distinctly, woke echoes, and with the creaking of the boards, it was as if someone were walking through the hallways of an empty house.”

Lincoln put on his steel-rimmed spectacles, glanced down at his pages, and then began.

“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.”

The following day, Edward Everett [] expressed his wonder and respect. “I should be glad,” he wrote Lincoln, “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.” (“Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, pages 585-86.)

The relative importance of the Battle of Gettysburg to the future of this nation is best answered in a conversation that President Lincoln had with General Daniel Sickles subsequent to the battle.

“Mr. Lincoln,” I said, “we heard at Gettysburg that here at the capital you were all so anxious about the result of the battle that the Government officials packed up and got ready to leave at short notice with the official archives.”

“Yes,” he said, “some precautions were prudently taken, but for my part I was sure of our success at Gettysburg.”

“Why were you so confident?” I asked.

There was a brief pause. The President seemed to be in deep meditation. His pale face was lighted up by an expression I had not noted before. Turning to me, he said:

“When Lee crossed the Potomac and entered Pennsylvania, followed by our army, I felt that the great crisis had come. I knew that defeat of a great battle on Northern soil involved the loss of Washington, to be followed perhaps by the intervention of England and France in favor of the Southern Confederacy. I went to my room and got down on my knees in prayer.

“Never before had I prayed with so much earnestness. I wish I could repeat my prayer. I felt I must put all my trust in Almighty God. He gave our people the best country ever given man. He alone could save it from destruction. I had tried my best to do my duty and had found myself unequal to the task. The burden was more than I could bear.

“I asked Him to help us and give us victory now. I was sure my prayer was answered. I had no misgivings about the result at Gettysburg.” ("Lincoln Talks, A Biography in Anecdote," by Emanuel Hertz, pages 558-59.)

President Lincoln’s personal political expectations at the time of his Gettysburg Address were succinctly expressed in the following anecdotal description from a cabinet meeting that took place shortly after his return from Gettysburg.

The evening of Tuesday I dined with Mr. Chase, Secretary of Treasury, of whom I painted a portrait in 1855, upon the close of his term as United States Senator. He said during the dinner, that, shortly after the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, the President told this story at a cabinet meeting. “Thad. Stevens was asked by someone, the morning of the day appointed for the ceremony, where the President and Mr. Seward were going. ‘To Gettysburg,’ was the reply. ‘But where are Stanton and Chase?’ continued the questioner. ‘At home, at work,’ was the surly answer; ‘let the dead bury the dead.’” This was some months previous to the Baltimore Convention, when it was thought by some of the leaders of the party, that Mr. Lincoln’s chances for a re-nomination were somewhat dubious. (“Six Months at the White House,” by Francis Carpenter, page 88.)

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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RE: Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe - David Lockmiller - 12-14-2017 03:19 PM

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