Photo Credit: Timothy H. O'Sullivan
Union soldiers dead at Gettysburg (courtesy United States Library of Congress)
One hundred and fifty-five years ago today, July 4, 1863, in a blinding rainstorm, a wagon train carried the moaning Confederate wounded away from the Battle of Gettysburg, which had raged during the previous three days in Pennsylvania. On the same day, Vicksburg, MS, on the Mississippi River, surrendered to Union troops, and the Civil War was effectively over, though they fought on for two more years.
A national cemetery for those killed at Gettysburg was quickly established, and in November 1863 it was dedicated in a ceremony that included brief remarks by President Abraham Lincoln, still alive and still prosecuting the war to hold the country together against the forces of dissolution.
Thus, the Gettysburg Address is a speech given during wartime at the site of a great Union victory. Lincoln knew what that war had already cost and would continue to cost, and he was determined that it should eventuate in a reunited country, though he may have been the only one there that day who believed that our country could be brought back together. Thus, although it is a political speech which takes note of what happened there at Gettysburg, its emphasis is on looking forward to what can be accomplished to give meaning to what has transpired. Lincoln’s two-minute speech followed the two-hour address of the main speaker, Edward Everett. This is all the President said:
“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 cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot 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.”
Now we have a new president who divides instead of uniting, who lies without shame and calls those who catch him fake news. Our current successor to Lincoln encourages attacks on the press, destroys families, protects oligarchs, hypocritically uses religious hypocrites, promotes misogyny, encourages racism, abets gun violence, attacks our own government, disdains our allies and sucks up to evil tyrants.
The party in power, which gave us Abraham Lincoln, has abdicated its sworn oath to protect our Constitution and accepts any outrage to our nation as long as they can stay in office. Our 10th District Republican congressman, Jody Hice, personifies the pious and callous hypocrisy that looks the other way while the government of our great nation is sold to the highest bidder and sold out to its enemies.
Gettysburg accomplished nothing. The Northern industrial capitalists and the Southern slave capitalists who waged that war for hegemony remain united. Their anti-Lincoln contends that all men are not created equal and assures that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall now perish from the earth.
Happy July 4!