Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication

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Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication

Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication
Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication.jpg
Gettysburg National Cemetery

Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication
 
The cemetery was only partially completed when it was dedicated on November 19, 1863. The honorable Edward Everett was invited to deliver the keynote address while President Lincoln was invited to add "a few appropriate remarks." The Gettysburg Address is President Lincoln's most meaningful and well remembered speech.
 
(Left) Photograph of the dedication ceremonies in the Soldiers National Cemetery on November 19, 1863. The massive crowd is packed close to the speaker's platform in the center distance. The cemetery is currently known as the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Many, however, commonly refer to it as the "Gettysburg Cemetery." National Archives.
 
Hotels and lodgings quickly filled to capacity in and around Gettysburg the day before the dedication. The president arrived on a special train from Washington and made his way through a large crowd to the Wills House on the town square. He spoke briefly to the crowd and then retreated into a second story bedroom where he sat to complete the second half of his address, begun while he was still in Washington. Meanwhile, the Wills home was filled to capacity with dignitaries and prominent citizens. Every bedroom was taken by the time Governor Curtin arrived, so he was forced to gather a few hours of sleep on a living room sofa.

The following morning dawned bright and clear, disturbed only by the booming of signal cannon from Cemetery Hill. The processional to the cemetery began at 10 A.M. and made its way up Baltimore Street to the cemetery grounds. A special platform was constructed on the edge of the new cemetery and it was soon filled to overflowing. A crowd of over 10,000 gathered around the speaker's platform to hear patriotic hymns and Mr. Everett's address. After a brief delay, Everett was introduced and looked over the hushed crowd. His voice filled with emotion, he recalled the history of the setting and compared this honor of deceased Union sons to the funerals held for heroes of ancient Greece. The elderly speaker gave a brief history of the great battle, an account of European affairs, and his view on the eventual outcome of the war. Nearly exhausted after two hours of speaking, he closed with a strong sentiment for once again raising the flag of the Union over southern capitols.

After a brief musical interlude, the president rose and faced the crowd, pressed to the front of the platform. Lincoln spoke steadily for two minutes and then returned to his chair, accompanied by polite applause. Many listeners were stunned that the speech was so short. His speech had been brief, yet to the point- unification of the northern people to support the Union cause and see the war through. While Democratic newspapers ridiculed the president's speech, most hailed it for its simplicity. The greatest compliment came from Edward Everett who wrote the president, "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."

Burials in the cemetery grounds were completed six months after the dedication. In 1865, the foundation was set for the Soldiers' Monument, the central memorial in the cemetery, and dedicated in 1869. Administration of the Soldiers National Cemetery was turned over to the Federal Government in 1872.

Credit: National Park Service, Gettysburg National Military Park

Recommended Reading: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library). Description: The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom" in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. Continued below.

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln desired to change the world and…how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

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Recommended Reading: Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage. Description: America's Civil War raged for more than four years, but it is the three days of fighting in the Pennsylvania countryside in July 1863 that continues to fascinate, appall, and inspire new generations with its unparalleled saga of sacrifice and courage. From Chancellorsville, where General Robert E. Lee launched his high-risk campaign into the North, to the Confederates' last daring and ultimately-doomed act, forever known as Pickett's Charge, the battle of Gettysburg gave the Union army a victory that turned back the boldest and perhaps greatest chance for a Southern nation. Continued below.

Now, acclaimed historian Noah Andre Trudeau brings the most up-to-date research available to a brilliant, sweeping, and comprehensive history of the battle of Gettysburg that sheds fresh light on virtually every aspect of it. Deftly balancing his own narrative style with revealing firsthand accounts, Trudeau brings this engrossing human tale to life as never before.

 

Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse (Hardcover). Review: You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Continued below...

Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.

 

Recommended Reading: ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 (Hardcover) (June 2008). Description: The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee's retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade's equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation. The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. Continued below...

President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study. One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat. The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as "One Continuous Fight." Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular. About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio. J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys." A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.

 

Recommended Reading: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. Review from Publishers Weekly: Battle is the dramatic centerpiece of Civil War history; this penetrating study looks instead at the somber aftermath. Historian Faust (Mothers of Invention) notes that the Civil War introduced America to death on an unprecedented scale and of an unnatural kind—grisly, random and often ending in an unmarked grave far from home. Continued below.

She surveys the many ways the Civil War generation coped with the trauma: the concept of the Good Death—conscious, composed and at peace with God; the rise of the embalming industry; the sad attempts of the bereaved to get confirmation of a soldier's death, sometimes years after war's end; the swelling national movement to recover soldiers' remains and give them decent burials; the intellectual quest to find meaning—or its absence—in the war's carnage. In the process, she contends, the nation invented the modern culture of reverence for military death and used the fallen to elaborate its new concern for individual rights. Faust exhumes a wealth of material—condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War–era writers—to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief. Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Recommended Reading: Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care during the American Civil War (University of Illinois Press). Description: Gangrene and Glory covers practically every aspect of the 'medical related issues' in the Civil War and it illuminates the key players in the development and advancement of medicine and medical treatment. Regarding the numerous diseases and surgical procedures, Author Frank Freemon discusses what transpired both on and off the battlefield. The Journal of the American Medical Association states: “In Freemon's vivid account, one almost sees the pus, putrefaction, blood, and maggots and . . . the unbearable pain and suffering.” Continued below...

Interesting historical accounts, statistical data, and pictures enhance this book. This research is not limited to the Civil War buff, it is a must read for the individual interested in medicine, medical procedures and surgery, as well as some of the pioneers--the surgeons that foreshadowed our modern medicine.

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