United States and American History: 1863 & The Gettysburg Address

About the history of the United States in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War.


Nov. 19 Edward Everett dedicated the Gettysburg cemetery. Also speaking: Abraham Lincoln, who was expected to say a few words.

Mr. Lincoln was suffering from a fresh case of smallpox when he delivered the most famous speech in American history. It was not diagnosed until he had made his brief appearance and rode back to Washington from Gettysburg. It was a mild case, as it happened, but the President fell ill on the train journey, and lay with a wet cloth across his brow, seeking relief.

The Address accumulated legends from the start, many of them false, like the tale that Lincoln wrote his speech on an envelope as he jostled along the rails to Gettysburg.

Lincoln wrote at least one page of the 1st draft of the speech in Washington, on White House stationery, on November 17, 1863. He added the final 9 1/2 lines, in pencil, when he went to his bedroom in the Gettysburg home of David Wills the following evening.

On the morning of the Address, November 19, Lincoln wrote a new draft, copying the 1st, and making a few changes. There were 239 words in the 1st and 269 in the 2nd draft.

Lincoln left the Wills house for the ceremonies at 10 A. M., riding horseback in a military parade. He sat on a crowded platform facing an audience of some 15,000, a bit restless, companions noted, as Everett intoned a 2-hour oration. The President wore glasses when he rose, his little speech in hand. He glanced at the paper but once or twice and was on his feet less than 3 minutes, delivering the 10 chiseled sentences in his high, squeaky voice.

The Address began to acquire value in the marketplace early in 1864. At the request of Everett, who was prompted by Mrs. Hamilton Fish of New York, Lincoln made a copy of the speech and sent it to the Metropolitan Fair in New York, to be sold for charity. Lincoln inserted 2 words which every newspaper had quoted him as using, but which were not in the original draft: "under God." It is uncertain whether Lincoln actually spoke those words.

Lincoln later made 2 more such copies for the historian George Bancroft, to be sold at a Baltimore fair. The 1st of these copies was not auctioned because the President failed to sign it. The 2nd received some editing by Lincoln, who changed the punctuation slightly, and at one point omitted the word "here."

Of these 5 known copies, experts report, 3 have been sold commercially several times, for a total of $605,000, an average rate of about $2,225 per word, said to be the highest price ever brought by written words.

You Are Here: Trivia-Library Home » United States History: 1863 » United States and American History: 1863 & The Gettysburg Address
« United States History: Early 1863 The Civil War & The Battle of Gettysburg
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms at the following URL: /disclaimer.htm