The Gettysburg Address is often cited as the nation’s greatest speech. For 147 years, the Gettysburg Address has been credited with turning the tide of the Civil War. Of course, the battle that proceeded President Lincoln’s speech had something to do with it, as it was among the bloodiest of the war. For three days, thousands fought and died in a showdown that changed the course of our nation. However, the speech that commemorated it has become even more famous over the decades.
On Nov. 19, 1863, President Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg, Penn.. 4 ½ months earlier, the North and the South battled each other for three straight days in the nearby fields. In essence, this is where the Civil War was decided for the North, although the fighting would last two more years.
Although the Gettysburg Address lasted for just two minutes, it is considered the crowning achievement of President Lincoln’s legendary speaking career. Quotes like “Four score and seven years ago” have become part of the American legend, as the President vowed that the government “shall not perish from the Earth.”
Within two years, the war and President Lincoln’s life would end, but they each became defined by this speech. Although the Civil War was the most costly and divisive in American history, this moment 157 years ago became a brief, non-violent relief from the conflict.
The President wasn’t even the main speaker of the day, as renowned orator Edward Everett spoke for two hours. However, he wasn’t the headliner at the end of the ceremony, which he admitted in a later letter to the President. Although Everett had two hours, the Gettysburg Address came closest to “the central idea of the occasion” in two minutes.
Since then, the speech has set a high bar in American history. Although the likes of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama have had legendary speeches, President Lincoln’s remarks still cast a shadow over all of them. Though future speakers shed light on terrible times, Lincoln gave new hope during the darkest time America ever faced.
Fittingly, the Gettysburg Address has now taken place seven score and seven years ago. In the three scores since the speech, the nation has undergone massive turmoil, but hasn’t had a Civil War II.
Despite how bitterly divided the North and South have been in politics lately, they are still one nation under God. This is due in large part to Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the address that followed.
Encyclopedia Britannica- “The Gettysburg Address: Seven Score and Seven Years Ago”
Military Times- “The Gettysburg Address”