About Gettysburg and its famous speech
Interesting points flew like sharpshooter bullets during an afternoon of activities surrounding the 143rd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, Sunday, Nov. 19.
1. The Battle of Gettysburg was the greatest man-made disaster in American history.
2. Immediately after the battle, 31 surgeons faced a caseload of wounded soldiers numbering 21,000.
3. Abraham Lincoln wrote half of the Gettysburg Address before leaving Washington, D.C., and half at the Wills House, where he stayed in Gettysburg. He likely didn’t write it on the train to Gettysburg. (His train passed through southern York County and, after a train change at Hanover Junction, through western York.) He probably wrote a second draft — the copy he used for his address — the morning of the speech at the Wills House.
4. Lincoln had a mild case of smallpox during his Gettysburg stay and probably spread it around via scores of handshakes.
5. Only a handful of newspapers immediately recognized the greatness of the speech, and that was still the case two years later as he was eulogized.
6. Edward Everett did his normal captivating job in delivering his two-plus hour speech. In those days, long, eloquent speeches drew large crowds.
7. The aged Everett’s bladder problems prompted the pitching of a tent near where he delivered his long speech. It provided him privacy to take care of his needs… .
Gabor Boritt, director of Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute, made these points during a Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania luncheon during festivities marking the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. They come from his research on his new book “The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows,” certain to become the bible on the great address.
Later, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw spoke at the official observances. The speech was good, but one member of the audience was even more interesting.
During the cemetery ceremony, a living historian portraying Robert E. Lee laid low. He wandered around near the perimeter, using good judgment not to draw undue attention during the commemoration marking the U.S. president’s speech.
At one point, he sat under a tree on the crowd’s perimeter. Perhaps he was portraying a sick and weary Lee at Gettysburg, who reportedly suffered from diarrhea.
He had moved from this position before a nearby trumpeter played taps. A U.S. Grant reenactor moved in the vicinity of the trumpet player.
But as a nearby student of the Civil War observed, Lee would probably have felt appreciation for Lincoln after the war. The president was traveling on a path of compassion in reconstructing the South. John Wilkes Booth’s bullet barricaded that path.