Almost seven score and ten years ago on November 19th, the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA was dedicated to those Union soldiers who fought and died during the three day battle there. It was at this event that President Abraham Lincoln gave perhaps his most well-known speech of his political career: the Gettysburg Address. At less than 280 words long, it is a speech that many Americans have had to memorize at one time or another in the years since.
Like many, I grew up knowing the Gettysburg Address was important, but I never really knew the history behind it, that there was more to the address than I had been taught. Borrit, being a Lincoln scholar, provides substantial resources and accounts to show that Abraham Lincoln put more thought into the Gettysburg Address that the history myths say. But with that he isn’t afraid to say that we just don’t know what Lincoln thought or did. I found it fascinating that this speech, moments after being given, was largely forgotten by the American people until the 1880s when, in an effort to bring together the North and South, it was brought back from obscurity. I thought for sure that there had been a greater impact at the time.
What else interested me regarding this book was that I learned more about the time period than just the Gettysburg Address. I saw how a small town dealt with the horrific aftermath of the battle, becoming a national symbol of endurance and bravery. How people across the union came to Gettysburg to help the wounded and bury the dead. I learned small snippets of history that I had not known before. That, for instance, right after giving the Address, President Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November 1863 (by the way making this coming Thanksgiving the 150th). These things slightly detract from the main narrative at times, but for the most part they also help place context on the impact the Gettysburg Address has had these last 150 years.
A great read for the casual Civil War buff wanting just a little more to his history. Available in both book and cdaudio formats.