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The Soldiers' National Cemetery and Gettysburg Address
For three days in July, 1863, 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers clashed on the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When the fighting was over the North had won the pivotal battle and in its wake 51,000 soldiers were dead, wounded, or missing.
In the days following the Battle of Gettysburg, the dead lay throughout the fields in shallow graves or not buried all. Distressed Pennsylvania Governor, Andrew Curtin, saw to it that land was set aside for the proper burial of Union soldiers. The bodies of many Confederate dead were sent to other cemeteries in the South.
The Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated on November 19, 1863. At the dedication ceremony there were two speakers. The main speaker was famed orator Edward Everett. President Abraham Lincoln was asked to say "a few appropriate remarks" in closing. After Everett spoke for two hours, President Lincoln gave his 273 word speech that would become famously known as the Gettysburg Address.
In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln said, "...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 hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here."
Edward Everett would later write to President Lincoln, " I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes”.
Today the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg is the final resting place of about 6,000 veterans and thier dependents. About 3,500 soldiers buried in the cemetery fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. Other soldiers intered at cemetery include veterans of wars from the Spanish- American War to Vietnam.
Sources include the free Gettysburg National Military Park pamphlet available at the visitors center as well as the Library of Congress website.