Gettysburg Address: Five things you probably didn't know

November 19, 2013|By Dave Rosenthal | The Baltimore Sun

Today's 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is getting a lot of attention. Here are five things you probably didn't know about the speech:

1. The speech was not delivered at the battle of Gettysburg, which was fought in July. It marked the dedication of a Union cemetery, one that still draws many visitors today.

2. President Abraham Lincoln was not the featured speaker at the 1863 dedication. That honor went to Edward Everett, whose lofty career included time as a clergyman, U.S. senator and president of Harvard University. He spoke for more than two hours; Lincoln's address lasted about two minutes.

3. Not many people recognized the greatness of the words. Remember, the outcome of the war was still not assured. The Chicago Times described it as "silly, flat and dishwatery utterances." The Patriot & Union newspaper in Harrisburg hoped "the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over [his words], and that they shall be no more reposted or thought of." (The Pennsylvania paper's modern incarnation, the Patriot-News, recently retracted that harsh assessment.)

4. There are five copies of the speech. Two were written for the event, and the others were written for charitable purposes.

5. Lincoln created his final version of the address for "Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors," a book published in 1864 for the Maryland State Fair for U.S. Soldier Relief, according to an exhibition at the Smithsonian. The book helped raise money for relief organizations that promoted healthy conditions in Union army camps, provided services to soldiers and set up hospitals.

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