This month we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg during our Civil War. For three days (July 1–3, 1863) in and around the town of Gettysburg, the Union and Confederate armies clashed, resulting in upwards of 46,000 casualties: killed, more than 7,800 — wounded, about 27,000 — missing or captured, more than 11,000. It was a turning point for the Union, but it would be a long, hard road to conclude a war that ultimately claimed 600,000 casualties.
President Lincoln, weary and grief-stricken for many reasons, both from personal loss and the terrible carnage of the war, wrote and delivered some of the most powerful words ever spoken by any American leader.
The Gettysburg Address
November 19, 1863
Written and delivered by President Abraham Lincoln:
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 cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot 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.
This short speech, considered one of the greatest of all time, challenges us here today.
— Will this nation long endure?
— Do we continue to honor those who gave their lives that this nation might live?
— Do we continue to remember and honor the sacrifices of all Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion that we might live free?
— Are we dedicated to the unfinished work of securing liberty and justice for all?
— Are we nobly advancing the cause of our republic, protected and promoted by the strength of the Constitution?
— Do we highly resolve they have not died in vain, but “that our nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom?”
— And do we promise “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth?”
If so, we have much work to do, for the Union has never been as threatened as it is today, from without, and within.
Image: Courtesy of: http://learner-centeredhistory.wikispaces.com/Chapter+16