November 19th marks the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, a speech President Lincoln gave in hopes of reminding the nation of its roots in freedom and equality in the midst of a divisive civil war.
His address took place four and half months after the Union armies defeated the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg, the most deadly battle in the Civil War. Every year, the Soldier’s National Cemetery holds a free Dedication Day event, and on Saturday the annual Remembrance Day Parade will take place, Fox News reports.
Though highly regarded now, the address was at first mocked. “[It was] ridiculed at first in some prominent quarters,” USA Today notes, “The Chicago Times, for one, citing "silly, flat and dish-watery utterances." Now, however, Lincoln’s address is considered by many to be one of the greatest speeches in American history, often taught in civic and history classes around the country.
USA Today also notes that the famous speech we recite in classrooms was not the only version of the address. “There are five manuscripts of the speech, and the most widely quoted one is the oldest. The earliest versions were given to his two secretaries, John George Nicholay and John Hay.”
Interestingly, the words “Under God” do not appear in these earlier Nicolay and Hay versions, but do appear in the other three. In a recent reading of the speech, President Obama opted to read the Nicolay version without the phrase in it, the Daily Caller reports.
Standing in opposition to the skeptics, historian William E. Barton argues that the only reason all three would include those words would be because they came directly from “Lincoln’s own lips at the time of delivery.”
This year, an estimated 235,000 people came to Gettysburg on the battle’s anniversary in July. The National Park Service is streaming Tuesday’s ceremony live to 90,000 colleges, schools, libraries and museums nationwide.
Publication Date: November 19, 2013.