Curated Groupings

The Gettysburg Address: Reprints from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Gettysburg 1863

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first three days of July 1863. More than 172,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought in the farm yards, fields, and countryside around the market town of Gettysburg. The three days of fighting resulted in over 51,000 casualties. When the armies retreated, the 2,400 residents of the town of Gettysburg faced the overwhelming task of caring for the wounded and burying the dead.

Planning for a Soldiers' National Cemetery began almost immediately. Local attorney, David Wills, spearheaded the effort with the support of Pennsylvania Governor, Andrew Curtin. Land for the cemetery was purchased, and removal of Union soldiers from inadequate graves across the battlefield to the cemetery began in the fall of 1863. By March of 1864, 3,512 Union soldiers had been reburied there. Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863, with a ceremony that featured a two-hour speech by orator Edward Everett and included brief remarks by President Abraham Lincoln, as well as prayers, and solemn songs to honor the Union dead.

The Gettysburg Address

President Abraham Lincoln spoke for only two minutes at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. After his speech, he remarked to Marshall Ward Lamon, "Lamon, that a flat failure and the people are disappointed."

"The people," however, have disagreed. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address has become perhaps the most famous and revered speech in American history. It has been reprinted in every imaginable form, from patriotic posters to advertising handbills to eye charts. By clicking on the images above, you can examine and learn more about some of these items in the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection.