November 19, 1863: Gettysburg National Cemetery is Dedicated

After the Battle of Gettysburg had ended in early July of 1863, the dead had to be buried quickly, without the respect that they had earned in the bloodiest battle of the War. It quickly became clear that a National Cemetery which would forever honor the men who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Union should be dedicated near the battlefield. On October 17, the task of reburying the Union Soldiers began.Gettysburg Cemetery The dedication date was set for November 19th. Edward Everett would be the orator of the day, and President Lincoln was invited to formally dedicate the grounds with a few appropriate remarks. During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay that he was dizzy. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln’s face had ‘a ghastly color’ and that he was ‘sad, mournful, almost haggard.’ The ceremony was simple: Birgfeld’s Band played “Homage d’uns Heros” as an introit, the invocation was given by Reverend T. H. Stockton, the Marine Band played the “Old Hundred”, and then the Hon. Edward Everett began his oration: “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; — grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.” Two hours later he ended: “But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.” The Baltimore Glee Club sang a Hymn (“Consecration Chant”) and then the President of the United States rose to give his brief Dedicatory Remarks: “Four score 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 so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, 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 can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and 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, but it can never forget what they did 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 nobly 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 that cause for which they 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.” A choir selected for the occasion sang a dirge (“Oh! It is Great for Our Country to Die”) and then the Reverend H. L. Baugher gave the Benediction. The crowds scattered after the speech.  Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C.; he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. And the War went on.gettysburg dead

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