On everything from ancient Greece and the Pilgrims to the honored dead, Edward Everett rambled for two hours – all without notes. The program for the ceremonial event claimed this to be The Gettysburg Address. In a diary entry, he later noted the President expressed his gratitude.
Lincoln’s participation in the ceremony was merely to consecrate “…these grounds to their sacred use.” But then he ascended the podium and delivered a concisely crafted, three-minute, Four Score and Seven address.
And with an eloquence few would soon forget, he spoke of their new nation “…conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” But he also reminded everyone that the “great task” before them was an “unfinished work”.
Earlier that year, Lincoln had freed the slaves. Well… some of the slaves.
Using the war powers of Commander in Chief, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed those slaves held by territories in violent rebellion against the nation.
Freeing all of them would require the agreement of two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states, resulting in a Constitutional amendment.
Put another way… had the southern states not gone to war with the United States, they would not have lost their slaves: No war, no Emancipation Proclamation, no Thirteenth Amendment.
An irony they never seemed to appreciate.
Of course, freeing the slaves was the goal but the timing was meant to disrupt the war effort of the rebellion, which just seemed to drag on and on.
Lincoln went through generals like Grant went through gin.
The drunken misfit failed at everything in life except warfare. Routing the rebels at Vicksburg, Lincoln appointed him Lieutenant General (a rank last held by George Washington) and gave him command of all Union Armies.
As the story goes… busybodies whined to Lincoln about Grant’s excessive drinking. To which the President replied, “Find out what whiskey he drinks and send all my generals a case.”
Historians dispute the exchange. But as with all folklore, the heart of the tale is bound to contain a pulse of truth.
Whether he did or not is immaterial. Lincoln was a man who demanded results. And Grant was a man who respected a man who demanded results. If the odd couple would never be buddies, they would always be Oscar and Felix.
Grant devised a plan to hasten the end of the war: Sherman’s legendary March to the Sea. The scorched earth warfare would irreparably scar the South. Lincoln approved.
At Appomattox, Lee finally surrendered to Grant. But there would be no trials, no reprisals, and no public hangings. Grant told Lee: Go home and fight no more.
When victory celebrations broke out, Grant ordered an immediate halt: The rebels were again our countrymen.
…which was Lincoln’s hope back at Gettysburg:
“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.”
Monumental Robert E. Lee
One does not have to like the man to respect the man, or at least respect the men who do.
King George referred to President George as “the greatest character of his age.”