Abe stared out the train car window as he worried over his son Tad’s health. A year had passed and he still grieved for Willie. Would he lose another beloved son? Mary had pleaded with him not to leave, but as President he had responsibilities. The dedication of the Soldier’s Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania tomorrow provided an opportunity to rally support for the Union’s war effort.
Tired eyes glanced at the brief, unfinished address. Most of the message was complete except for the last paragraph. The train slowed down, coming to a full stop at the station. Even though it was dusk he could see hundreds of white crosses dotting the Gettysburg landscape.
President Lincoln’s host, David Wills, greeted him outside the station, escorting him to his home.
Later, in his bedroom, Abe finished writing the speech.
“Let’s see, I need a powerful ending, let me re-read what I have already written.” He mused aloud.
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.
“Yes, I think I’ve used the proper metaphor, the rhythm is appropriate, and it has a spiritual tone.”
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
“War is a mean and dirty business. If I use “conceived” and “dedicated” again this will heighten the impact.”
We are met on a great battle-field of that war.
“Should I combine this sentence with the next one? Hmmm.... I think I’ll leave it by itself.”
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.
“A reminder as to why these brave men died, a sacrifice for the cause so our country may have life.”
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
“A common statement but it ties together the previous important affirmation and the one following it.”
But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.
“Dedicate”, “consecrate”, “hallow”, repetitious but the idea is stressed.”
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
“Yes, I’ll use “consecrated” again to emphasize the previous sentence and tie it together with this one.”
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
“Words will fade away but our soldiers’ sacrifices for a united nation will be remembered by present and future generations.”
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.
“Oh yes. The last sentence completes a final unified thought, especially if I use “that”. Now I can retire for the night.”
President Lincoln left the house at 10:00 A.M. the next morning riding a chestnut bay horse towards the Gettysburg cemetery. Lying around him were traces of the fierce battle—broken fences, scarred trees, pieces of artillery wagons and harness, and scraps of blue and gray clothing.
Hundreds of residents followed him and thousands heard his two minute address. No one remembered the previous orator, Edward Everett, or what he said in his two hour speech. But Abraham Lincoln’s words spoken on November 19, 1863 live on in the hearts and minds of free people.
An Illinois clergyman had a remarkable conversation with President Lincoln after he returned to Washington. He asked him a question, “Mr. President, do you love Jesus?” Abe paused for several seconds and replied, “When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus.”
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