Gettysburg Address shouldn’t be forgotten [UPDATED]Published 4:03am Monday, November 25, 2013 Updated 6:04am Monday, November 25, 2013
Sadly, many Americans when asked cannot give the approximate years when the Civil War was fought, much less express knowledge of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.
Fortunately, many schools in Otter Tail County have a renewed emphasis on history.
Nationwide, however, surveys show that less than 20 percent of college students can identify some historic words as part of the Gettysburg Address.
Nov. 19 marked the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg, Penn.
He delivered what many historians consider the greatest speech in our nation’s history. The speech was only 272 words, with Lincoln speaking for only two minutes.
“By making reference to the founding of the country 87 years before (‘four score and seven years ago’), Lincoln placed the Battle of Gettysburg within the arc of American history,” said Timothy Huebner, instructor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.
“Lincoln connected the work of Union soldiers at Gettysburg to the work of the Union’s founders in 1776 at Philadelphia.”
Lincoln came to Gettysburg to dedicate a war cemetery. Earlier in the year, close to 8,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Gettysburg.
“Lincoln’s speech noted that the brave men who fought at Gettysburg had already consecrated the ground,” said Huebner.
Those of us from Otter Tail County who have visited Gettysburg have taken pride in seeing a monument dedicated to the First Minnesota Infantry Regiment that fought in Pennsylvania as part of the Union Army.
Minnesota’s First Infantry was the first state volunteer regiment to answer President Lincoln’s call for union troops at the start of the Civil War, in 1861.
Later, Civil War veterans were among those who settled at Old Clitherall following the war, at what became the first non Native American settlement in Otter Tail County. I think of their sacrifice each time I pass by Old Clitherall along Highway 210.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, also delivered in 1863, liberated slaves in the Confederacy.
Later, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution made slavery illegal anywhere in the United States.
“Lincoln not only inspired the North to continue the fight,” said Huebner. “He forever changed how we think about our country.”
Following is the entire 272-word speech delivered by President Lincoln at Gettysburg, Penn., on Nov. 19, 1963.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
“The brave men, living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”