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Hartselle Enquirer

Words worth remembering

A look into the past can be a rewarding experience for a history buff who enjoys reading about red letter events in the life of our nation.

I found that to be especially true while recently reading a book by Joe Wheeler based on the heart warming stories involving the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln.

One of those stories dealt with Lincoln’s drafting of his Gettysburg address, which he delivered as part of the consecration ceremony at Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863. The president scrawled his address on a torn piece of brown wrapping paper while riding by train from the nation’s capital to Gettysburg the day before. With a broken lead pencil, he wrote thoughtfully and sincerely and, upon finishing the text, dropped the paper to the floor. After sitting quietly for several minutes he picked up the paper, folded it and placed it in his pocket.

Edward Everett had the honor of being the key speaker. He talked for two hours and received a thunderous applause from the huge crowd of listeners. President Lincoln’s speech followed and was finished in three minutes. No sound came from the audience at its conclusion. Consequently, he felt the silence was a sign of failure.

Only later, after speaking with a dying confederate soldier in a hospital, did he realize that his words were those needed to help heal a war-torn nation.

The Gettysburg address follows:

“Fourscore 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 dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it 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 or 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. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobally 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 the cause for which they here 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.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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