restricted access November 19: The Gettysburg Address

From: November

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[ ∞≥∞ ] n o v e m b e r 1 9 The Gettysburg Address During the night it rained, dampening the dusty roads. Then the clouds moved on, and stars emerged in unshrouded heavens. Toward Baltimore and York the horizon paled, and the sun rose clear in a cloudless sky. Its light shone upon a continuous procession of people approaching Gettysburg on its nine roads. They had started while it was still night, coming in their carriages, Pennsylvania wagons, buggies, farm carts, on horseback, and on foot. Some came out of curiosity, some came to hear Everett’s oration, many came to see the president, or to pay their respects to the fallen. Many wore mourning: they were the families of the Union dead. In their thousands, the incoming people were like the armies of July that had concentrated on this town of twenty-four hundred residents. The houses were already filled with guests; in Gettysburg’s few hotels, hundreds had slept on floors overnight. Trains arrived, discharging more visitors. Ward Hill Lamon, the president’s old Illinois friend, aide, and bodyguard , arose at dawn. He was in charge of the dedication ceremony and it was going to be a busy day. He ate a hurried breakfast and then walked to the Wills house to see whether the president needed anything. In the town n o v e m b e r 1 9 [ ∞≥≤ ] square, a giant American flag had been lowered to half-sta√ on the sixtyfoot flagpole. Lamon was admitted to Judge Wills’s house and was told that the president was already up, talking to John Nicolay upstairs. The presidential secretary had beaten Lamon, stopping by to see whether the president required anything. In fact, the president had made some changes to the last sentence of his speech. All of it except that tenth sentence was written in ink on a sheet of White House stationery, but the conclusion had been penciled on a blue-gray sheet of paper which Wills had given Mr. Lincoln last night. In a few minutes, the two came downstairs. Shortly afterward, Secretary of State William Seward joined the group. Someone, perhaps Lamon, arranged for the president and secretary of state to be shown a portion of the battlefield, so the two went outside and stepped up into a carriage and were driven away through the town square. Lamon evidently had satisfied himself that the president’s escort was su≈cient, because he stayed behind to make certain the ceremony’s marshals were all present, properly attired, and understood their instructions . Lamon was careful of the president’s safety; the big, burly man carried two pistols, two revolvers, and two knives. Lincoln, a fatalist, gave little thought to danger, but he liked Lamon’s company. The man was a hard drinker, a brawler, and loved the earthy stories that might provide a former prairie lawyer some escape from the cares of state. The president might have retained Lamon, as some biographers apologetically speculate, on Lincoln’s maxim that those who have no vices have no virtues. In any case, Lamon would run a good program today. The president’s carriage turned up crowded Chambersburg Street. Someone probably pointed out to him that the first impressive building, Christ Lutheran Church, whose broad steps ascended on the party’s left, had been a hospital during the battle and a chaplain had been shot to death on those steps. They continued up the street, against the flow of people coming the same direction that Lee’s Third Corps had poured into town on July first. The presidential party headed for the Lutheran Theological Seminary, near which and on the grounds of which much of the first day of battle had been fought. At the Seminary, Mr. Lincoln would have stepped down from the carriage and walked a little. From the gentle elevation of Seminary Ridge he would have seen a thousand Rebel graves. Some had been dug into the Seminary lawns; most lay in the fields directly in front of the buildings and o√ to the north. Many mounds; some boards jutting up from the ground bearing faded penciled inscriptions; some large burial pits. The Southerners had come that July afternoon in lines a half-mile wide and three t h e g e t t y s b u r g a d d r e s s [ ∞≥≥ ] ranks deep. Until flanked and overwhelmed, the outnumbered Union infantry and artillery here had mown...


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