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GETTYSBURG, 25th November, 1863. HON. EDWARD EVERETT:
DEAR SIR, — On behalf of the Governors of the several States interested in the National Cemetery, I request of you for publication a copy of your Address delivered at the consecration of the grounds on Thursday, the 19th of this month, the proceeds of the sale to be added to the fund for the erection of a monument to the memory of the heroes whose remains are deposited in the cemetery.
In performing this official duty, allow me as a citizen of Gettysburg, and in behalf of my fellow-citizens, to express our peculiar satisfaction at that part of your Address, which is devoted to a narrative of the all-important events, that have at once raised this place into permanent importance and celebrity Knowing as we do that you used great diligence and care to procure as accurate an account as possible of the movements of the two armies in this vicinity, and their posi- . tions in the battle on the different days, we regard that portion of your Address as very important and valuable. Whilst its delivery commanded the closest attention of the vast assembly who listened to it, — thus giving evidence of their intense interest and entire appreciation, — this portion of the Oration, preserved in an authentic form, will descend to posterity as a production of permanent historical value.
Allow me also to express my gratification at the tribute paid by you to Major-General Reynolds, in ascribing “to his forethought and self-sacrifice the triumph of the two succeeding days.” In that well-deserved tribute the historian who shall do justice to the Battle of Gettysburg will undoubtedly concur, pointing to him as the individual to whom our glorious success was in a great degree due. He was in the advance
on the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac, and in command of the First Army Corps. On Wednesday morning, July 1st, when pressing his corps forward to meet and retard the progress of the enemy, whose position and movements were beginning to be developed to him, he told one of his aides, as they approached Gettysburg and examined the face of the country, that Cemetery Hill must be held for our army at all hazards; that he would advance his corps rapidly to Seminary Ridge, west of the town, and temporarily occupy that position ; that he would there engage the enemy, who was advancing, and delay his further progress, so as to give time for the whole of the Army of the Potomac to concentrate on Cemetery Hill and the ridges running out either way from it ; that, if pressed too hard, he would gradually fall back, contesting the ground step by step, and, if necessary to delay the enemy, would fight from house to house, through the town. He fell, the victim of a Rebel sharpshooter, so soon in the action of Wednesday morning, as he was carrying out these designs, that but few persons are cognizant of his real plans. When the facts are fully made known, history and an impartial world will accord to him the highest praise. His great foresight and brave conduct on that occasion will forever endear him to those who love to worship at the shrine of true patriotism. He was truly a soldier, always with his men in the camp and in the field, sharing their hardships, toils, and dangers. He loved his profession, and devoted himself exclusively to it; and in the vigor of manhood he nobly laid down his life, a sacrifice on his country's altar, on the soil of his native State, at the head of his brave corps, that the rest of the Army of the Potomac might the more successfully reach the position of his own selection for its defence. This place of his choice proved to be the true position on which to meet and check the onward march of the rebellious invaders.
Not doubting that you will take an interest in this confirmation of the estimate placed by you on General Reynolds's services,
I remain, dear sir,
[Signed] DAVID WILLS.
Boston, 14th December, 1863. MY DEAR SIR, — I have this day received your letter of the 25th of November, requesting, on behalf of the Governors of the several States interested in the National Cemetery, a copy, for publication in a permanent form, of the Address delivered by me at the consecration. I shall have great pleasure in complying with this request, the rather as it is proposed that the proceeds of the publication shall be added to the fund for the erection of a monument to the memory of the brave men whose remains are deposited in the cemetery.
You will be pleased to accept my thanks for the obliging manner in which you speak of the historical portion of my Address. It was, of course, impossible to compress within so small a compass a narrative of the three eventful days, which should do exact justice to every incident or every individual. On some points, as in most narratives of battles, the printed accounts, and even the official reports, differ. In revising my Address for publication in this form, I shall correct one or two slight errors of the first draught, and take advantage of sources of information not originally accessible.
I am much gratified with your concurrence with me in the estimate I had formed of the character of General Reynolds, and of his very important services in determining the entire fortunes of this ever memorable battle. I remain, dear sir, with great regard,
Very truly yours,
EDWARD EVERETT. DAVID WILLS, Esq., Agent for the National Cemetery.
THE NATIONAL CEMETERY.
A few days after the terrific Battle of Gettysburg, His Excellency A. G. Curtin, Governor of the State of Pennsylvania, hastening to the relief of the sick and wounded soldiers, visited the battle-field, and the numerous hospitals in and around Gettysburg, for the purpose of perfecting the arrangements for alleviating the sufferings and ministering to the wants of the wounded and dying. His official duties soon requiring his return to Harrisburg, he authorized and appointed David Wills, Esq., of Gettysburg, to act as his special agent in this matter.
In traversing the battle-field, the feelings were shocked and the heart sickened at the sights that presented themselves at every step. The remains of our brave soldiers, from the necessary haste with which they were interred, in many instances were but partially covered with earth, and, indeed, in some instances were left wholly unburied. Other sights, too shocking to be described, were occasionally seen. These appearances presented themselves promiscuously over the fields of arable land for miles around, which would, of necessity, be farmed over in a short time. The graves, where marked at all, were only temporarily so, and the marks were liable to be obliterated by the action of the weather. Such was the spectacle witnessed on going over the battle-field, a field made glorious by victory achieved through the sacrifice of the lives of the thousands of brave men, whose bodies and graves were in such exposed condition. And this, too, on Pennsylvania soil! Humanity shuddered at the sight, and called aloud for a remedy. The idea, accordingly, suggested itself of taking measures to gather these remains together, and bury them decently and in order in a cemetery. Mr. Wills submitted the proposition and plan for this purpose, by letter,