Arts and History

Gettysburg Address Marks 150th Anniversary

Gettysburg Address Marks 150th Anniversary
Bernadine Racoma

Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address marked its 150th year and thousands of people gathered to witness its reenactment in a small town in Pennsylvania Tuesday. Through the years since it was first delivered, the speech has become a part of America’s national identity. The Gettysburg Address also came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history.


Lincoln wrote and delivered the speech in the wake of the major battle that left tens of thousands of men wounded, dead or missing. On its 150th anniversary on November 19, a re-enactor read the address to honor both the speech and those who fought in the battle. The commemoration took place on the same battlefield during the Civil War where then President Lincoln gave the speech symbolizing his presidency and sacrifices of the Union and Confederate forces. Ordinary Americans and historians alike gathered to once again deliberate on the meaning of the Gettysburg Address to the country.

Speakers and participants

Some of the speakers in the commemoration program were James McPherson, a civil historian, and Sally Jewell, U.S. Interior Secretary. Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania also delivered remarks. The ceremony began with a wreath-laying event in the morning at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Towards noon, a salute by the graveside to U.S. Colored Troops and a tree planting event took place.

Some visitors who came also honored the speech and the men who were part of the war. Tom Stack, 54, a descendant of one soldier that fought and died at Gettysburg during which time he was serving with the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Regiment was likewise present in the anniversary ceremonies. Stack said it was an incredible occasion attended by incredible people on both sides.

Momentous importance

The Gettysburg Address is in oration form and begins with the phrase: “Four score and seven years ago” and its literary quality has not been immediately recognized. The Patriot-News, a local paper published in Harrisburg withdrew the editorial written about the speech by The Harrisburg Patriot & Union, the paper’s Civil War-era predecessor. The Patriot-News has expressed regret over the editorial’s error and its oversight on the momentous “importance, timeless eloquence and lasting significance” of President Lincoln’s address.

Historians also see the speech as not necessarily a representation of reality. A few years into the end of the war, black Civil War veterans who were buried in a separate cemetery. They were not allowed to be buried in the National Cemetery due to policies on segregation. Dedication Day in honor of the veterans in the Civil War is held every year at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. There were around 9,000 people who attended the event in 2012.

Obama declines

An invitation to the Gettysburg Address event was sent to President Barack Obama but he declined. The last sitting president who attended a commemoration in Gettysburg was Rutherford B. Hayes. On the same occasion Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials swore in some 16 new American citizens. Meanwhile the U.S. State Department brought in 36 foreign journalists from New York and Washington to cover the anniversary ceremonies.

Remembrance Day Parade

Incidentally, the Remembrance Day Parade in Gettysburg that is held annually will be held this coming Saturday. The Union and Confederate re-enactors will place wreaths at the portion of the battlefield defended by the units that they represent. A number of events in connection to the Civil War have been held this year at the National Military Park. Records indicate an estimated 235,000 people that came to Gettysburg since early July. The National Park Service put up a nationwide live streaming of the ceremony for schools, colleges, libraries, museums and historical institutions.

Photo credit: Gettysburg Address Reenactment

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