Nov 18, 2013

History & Mystery Surrounding Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
November 19 marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  Widely viewed as one of the greatest speeches of all time - certainly by any American President - the precise circumstances surrounding the famous speech remain shrouded by misinformation and folklore.

The National Constitution Center's Constitution Daily Blog lists 7 claimed "facts" about the Gettysburg Address.  But are these facts truth or fiction?  Here are just a few.  See how many you can get right, and then consult the Constitution Daily Blog for the rest of the story.  Have fun!

Alleged Fact:

1)  President Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope.

2) President Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address while on the train to Gettysburg.

3) President Lincoln was not the keynote speaker for the Gettysburg event.

4) There are two known photographs of President Lincoln at the Gettysburg event.

Real Story:

1) The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1-3, 1863.  President Lincoln began preparing the speech shortly after the battle concluded.  In addition to the original, there are several drafts of the speech still in existence.  None are written on the back of an envelope.

     According to a Wikipedia article on the topic of the Gettysburg Address, there are 5  
     known copies of the Gettysburg Address; however, 3 of them were copies written by
     Lincoln for charitable purposes after the address had been given.

2) While it is true that Lincoln did not have a final version of the speech completed before he arrived, it is unlikely that the speech was written while Lincoln was aboard the train.  Train travel in 1863 was a bumpy, uncomfortable experience.  The handwriting on the drafts of the Gettysburg Address, according to Lincoln experts, is written smoothly and without any slips of the hand. 

     It is also worth noting that, according to those accompanying him on the train ride to
     Gettysburg, Lincoln remarked that he was feeling weak.  According to Wikipedia, it is 
     believed that Lincoln was suffering from the beginnings of a mild case of smallpox when  
     he gave the Gettysburg Address.

3) Prior to Lincoln's speech, the keynote speaker for the event, famed orator Edward Everett, spoke for nearly 2 hours.  After Lincoln's speech, Everett reportedly remarked that Lincoln had accomplish in two minutes what it took Everett two hours to say.  Lincoln was not the keynote speaker that day.

4) Although a second photograph of a man with a beard and stovepipe hat has surfaced, there is only one confirmed photograph of President Lincoln at the Gettysburg event, pictured above.  This is known as the Bachrach Phot.

     According to Wikipedia, there are "two confirmed photos" of Lincoln at the Gettysburg
     event.


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