The Gettysburg Address
I often wonder about the people who were at moments of history. for me, history isn’t as much about the event per se, as it is about those who were there, who experienced it and felt it as it happened. That is why it is so important to record for posterity the thoughts and feelings of those who went through any given period or event in history.
When Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the nation was tired, almost exhausted. The Civil War was supposed to have lasted a mere ninety days, and was now reaching into its third year of death and destruction. And while recent Union victories, at Gettysburg and Vicksburg seemed to portend a change of the fortunes of war, but followed by the disaster at Chickamauga, the outcome remained uncertain.
And so it was here, at Gettysburg, where Lincoln came to dedicate the cemetery to those who had fallen in the greatest battle of the war back in the heat of early July. In the cold of November the people stood and waited for his remarks.
In this clip, Daniel Day Lewis portrays the President speaking in an almost easy speech. While his voice does not reflect (in my mind) what I imagine Lincoln sounded like that day, there is a moment in this clip that moved me to tears. As Lincoln says the line, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract,” The film cuts to a solider, a Union Captain, clearly tired and battle worn, who simply nods as he recalls fallen comrades and soldiers.
Many who were there that day said that the speech wasn’t long enough, not somber enough or not whatever else enough. But for the men of the Union Army it was all of that and more. It was a reminder of all that they had done, and would yet do, to preserve that which they loved – the Union.
Lincoln’s simple speech accomplished all that and more and it reminds us today that the fight to preserve what was given to us is not over. The costs have been horrific, and they will be again. But we must dedicate ourselves to the great task that remains before us, and fight on for Liberty.