Historical Markers
Gettysburg Address Historical Marker
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Gettysburg Address

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
PA 134 at entrance to National Cemetery

Dedication Date:
December 12, 1947

Behind the Marker

President Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at Gettysburg a scant three weeks before the official dedication of the National Cemetery in November 1863. However, he was probably aware as early as August that a dedication ceremony would occur in the autumn. Pennsylvania governor markerAndrew Curtin visited him at the White House during the summer, informing him that plans for a national cemetery were moving forward.

It is a myth that Lincoln wrote his famous address on the back of an envelope while riding on the train to Pennsylvania. A slow, careful writer, he usually worked for days on important speeches, producing numerous drafts. His address at Gettysburg was no different. Figures close to Lincoln recall him working on the speech and discussing it while still in Washington. The president even asked to see the cemetery designer, William Saunders, before he left for Gettysburg in order to study the layout of the place. The speech meant a great deal to him, and whatever revising he did the night before was probably merely minor tinkering.

There are several slightly different versions of the address, some transcribed by reporters at the event itself and others copied by Lincoln afterwards for close friends. The standard text is 272 words and only ten sentences long. The greatness of the speech lies in the combination of its simple, elegant language and powerful, universal message. Nowhere in the text does the president mention any specifics – no reference to the Battle of Gettysburg or to individual heroes. Instead, he invokes timeless values like liberty and equality, explaining how they were the fundamental principles at stake in the conflict. He concluded majestically by vowing that the great sacrifices of the struggle would result in "a new birth of freedom."
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