GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA —
One hundred and fifty years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a short speech honoring the soldiers who died in the Battle of Gettysburg. Today, his words are considered one of the most eloquent articulations of the principles the United States stands for. On Tuesday, the speech was read again at a commemoration at the Gettysburg Civil War cemetery.
“Four score and seven years ago …”
A re-enactor dressed as Abraham Lincoln read the words spoken by the president on this day in 1863.
It was part of a ceremony held at the Soldiers' National Cemetery, where Union soldiers who fell in the Battle of Gettysburg are buried.
President Lincoln came here about 5 months after that "harvest of death," in the words of the man who took this photo.
The president gave voice to the nation's shock over the enormous casualties. They totaled almost 50,000, making it the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
"We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground," spoke President Lincoln.
His speech lasted little more than two minutes, and America's 16th president predicted that:
"The world will little note nor long remember what we say here"
He was wrong.
Princeton University historian James McPherson says Lincoln's legacy is synonymous with the founding principles of the republic.
"It was here at Gettysburg that Lincoln made the most eloquent and effective expression of these ideas," said McPherson.
Michael Crutcher is a veteran of the U.S. Army who makes appearances as abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass.
"The words were almost mystical and enchanting," said Crutcher.
Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian, says Lincoln was moved by what had happened here.
“He meant that he felt small, I think, in comparison to what had been given by so many here, and it was humbling, and he was left somewhat in awe of the courage and sacrifice that had been shown by so many on this field," said Gilpin Faust.
American schoolchildren used to have to memorize the Gettysburg Address. An online project, with the help of living American presidents, urges Americans to remember it a century and a half later.
“That this nation, under God," said former President Jimmy Carter.
"shall have a new birth of freedom," said former President George W. Bush.
"And that government of the people, " said Former President Bill Clinton.
"by the people, for the people," said Former President George H.W. Bush.
“Shall not perish from the earth," said President Barack Obama.