Gettysburg Address: Facts & Stories You've Never Heard

By | November 11, 2019

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Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, making his famous speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery during the American Civil War. Painting by Fletcher C Ransom. Source: (Library of Congress)

The brief yet powerful speech that President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863, has become one of the most revered speeches in U.S. history. Most people know how the iconic speech starts, the memorable "Four score and seven years ago," but that may be the extent of their knowledge of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's words, presented as an official dedication of the National Cemetery of Gettysburg, are still as relevant today as they were when they were spoken in Pennsylvania 156 years ago today. Let's look at the Gettysburg Address to uncover some facts and stories that you may not have heard before. 

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Edward Everett was the main attraction at Gettysburg; Lincoln was a mere afterthought. Source: (

Lincoln was not the Headliner

For such a momentous occasion as the dedication of the National Cemetery, the event organizers invited the greatest orator in the country to deliver the keynote speech. No, not Abraham Lincoln. It was actually Edward Everett, a former senator, former president of Harvard University, and a dynamic public speaker. In fact, he was possibly the best-known orator at the time, and the event organizers knew he could draw a crowd.

They were less sure about Abraham Lincoln. Although he was a highly intelligent man, Lincoln---so they thought---didn’t have the way with words that Everett did. On the day of the dedication ceremony, Everett delivered a rousing two-hour speech from memory in which he detailed the Battle of Gettysburg and likened the creation of the United States to the rise of the great Greek republic. Lincoln had to follow that up with a brief, 272-word speech that barely lasted two minutes. The carefully written speech was so powerful and memorable, however, that Everett later wrote that Lincoln accomplished in two minutes what it took him two hours to do.