Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (Emerging Civil War Series)
by Bradley Gottfried
Almost 8,000 dead dotted the fields of Gettysburg after the guns grew silent. The Confederate dead were hastily buried, but what of the Union dead? Several men hatched the idea of a new cemetery to bury and honor the Union soldiers just south of town. Their task was difficult to say the least.
First, appropriate land needed to be identified and purchased. After the State of Pennsylvania purchased the 17 acres, a renowned landscape architect designed the layout of the cemetery. All was now ready for the bodies to be interred from their uneasy resting places around the battlefield, placed in coffins, marked with their names and units, and transported to the new cemetery to be permanently reinterred. More than 3,500 men were moved to the Soldiers National Cemetery.
As these tasks gained momentum, so too did planning for the cemetery’s consecration or dedication. A committee of agents from each state who had lost men in battle worked out the logistics. Most of the program was easily decided. It would be composed of odes, singing, prayers, and remarks by the most renowned orator in the nation, Edward Everett. The committee argued over whether President Abraham Lincoln should be invited to the ceremony and, if so, his role in the program. The committee, divided by politics, decided on a middle ground, inviting the President to provide “a few appropriate remarks.”
To the surprise of many, Lincoln accepted the invitation, for the most part crafted his remarks in the Executive Mansion, and headed to Gettysburg, arriving on the evening of November 18, 1863. The town was filled with thousands expecting to witness the “event of the century.” Lincoln completed his remarks and, the following day, mounted a horse to join the procession heading for the cemetery. The program was unremarkable, except for Lincoln’s remarks, whose reception was split along party lines.
Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Bradley M. Gottfried and Linda I. Gottfried recounts the events surrounding the creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, its dedication, and concentrates on Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg on November 18- 19, 1863.
- July 2021