Saturday, November 16, 2013

He Came to Gettysburg

He came to Gettysburg on the train, arriving in the afternoon of November 18th.  Greeted by local attorney David Wills, he walked the one block uphill to Wills’ home on the southeast corner of The Diamond, as the town square was called.  Stuffed in his stove-pipe hat was the working copy of the speech he planned to give at the ceremony the next day. 

After dinner at the Wills House with some of Wills friends, he retired to his bedroom on the second floor.  Later in the evening a crowd gathered on the Diamond, and it began to sing, serenading him with popular patriotic songs.  He threw open the window and waved to the group.  They broke into cheers and calls for a speech.  He thanked them for their warmth and hospitality, said a few words, and bid them good night. 

The next day, the parade formed on the Diamond, and he joined other dignitaries, including, Wills, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, and the main speaker, famed orator Edward Everett. In the march to the new National Cemetery.  At the Cemetery, The Reverend Dr. Stockton delivered the opening prayer, followed by music performed by the United States Marine Corps Band. 

The principle speaker of the day, Edward Everett, then stood and spoke for two hours or so.   He spoke of the Battle, and war, other wars, as well as the one that brought its fight to Gettysburg.  Everett was followed by the Baltimore Glee Club, which sang an ode  written by Benjamin Brown French, the  Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington, DC.   

The tall man in the stove pipe hat then rose and began to speak.  This is what he said…

“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 can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not 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.”

The ceremony continued after his two minute speech.  A dirge was sung, and the final benediction was presented by the Reverend Dr. H. L. Baugher.  


After the ceremony at the National Cemetery, he went to the Presbyterian Church, accompanying local resident John Burns to the ceremony there.  Burns was wounded on the first day of the Battle while fighting with a Pennsylvania Regiment.  He was the only civilian to have joined the Union ranks against the Confederates during the battle.   

He left by railroad shortly after that ceremony. 

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