The Gettysburg Address
is a speech by Abraham Lincoln and one of the most quoted speeches in United States history.[dead link]
[not in citation given] It was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the
afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, during the American Civil War, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the
Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.
Abraham Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in
American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and
redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its
citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant.
Beginning with the now-iconic phrase "Four score and seven years ago," Lincoln referred to the events of the Civil War and described the
ceremony at Gettysburg as an opportunity not only to consecrate the grounds of a cemetery, but also to dedicate the living to the struggle to
ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Despite the speech's prominent place in the history and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording of the speech is disputed. The
five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address differ in a number of details and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the
Union soldiers dead at Gettysburg, photographed by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, July 5–6, 1863From July 1–3, 1863, more than 160,000 American
soldiers clashed in the Battle of Gettysburg, in what would prove to be a turning point of the Civil War. The battle also had a major impact
on the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which numbered only 2,400 inhabitants. The battlefield contained the bodies of more than 7,500
dead soldiers and several thousand horses of the Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia, and the stench of
rotting bodies in the humid July air was overpowering.
Interring the dead in a dignified and orderly manner became a high priority for the few thousand residents of Gettysburg. Initially, the town
planned to buy land for a cemetery and then ask the families of the dead to pay for their burial. However, David Wills, a wealthy 32-year-old
attorney, objected to this idea and wrote to the Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Gregg Curtin, suggesting instead a National Cemetery to be
funded by the states. Wills was authorized to purchase 17 acres (69,000 m²) for a cemetery to honor those lost in the summer's battle, paying