The Gettysburg Address is the most famous speech of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and one of the most quoted speeches in United States history. It was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863, during the American Civil War, four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lincoln’s carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In fewer than 300 words delivered over two to three minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as “a new birth of freedom” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens.
Beginning with the now-iconic phrase “Four score and seven years ago,” Lincoln referred to the events of the American Revolution and described the ceremony at Gettysburg as an opportunity not only to dedicate the grounds of a cemetery, but also to consecrate the living in the struggle to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The only known photo of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg (seated, center), taken about noon, just after Lincoln arrived and some three hours before he spoke. To Lincoln’s right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon.Despite the speech’s prominent place in the history and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording of the speech is disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address differ in a number of details and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech.
A Reading of the Gettysburg Address: NPR provides a audio file of the Gerrysburg Address