« PreviousContinue »
President. Mr. Lincoln said: “I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion of this call;" and ever mindful of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which were the basis of his political creed, he said: “How long ago
is it? Eighty odd years since on the 4th of July, for the first time in the history of the world, a Nation by its Representatives, assembled and declared as a self-evident truth, that all men are created equal: That was the birth day of the United States of America.” IIe then alluded to the other extraordinary events in American history which had occurred on the 4th of July—the death of Jefferson and Adams on that day, and said: “ And now at this last 4th of July just passed, we have a gigantic rebellion, at the bottom of which, is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men are created equal. We have the surrender of a most important position; and an army on that very day.” And then he alluded proudly and gratefully to the battles in Pennsylvania, on the 1st, 2d, and 3d of July, as the victory over the cohorts of those who opposed the Declaration of Independence.
On the 15th of July, the President issued his proclamation, breathing throughout a spirit of grateful reverence to God, of supreme love of country, and of liberty, and sympathy with the afflicted and the suffering. He said:
" It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an aficted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and the navy of the United States, victories on the land and on the sea, so signal and so effective, as to furnish reasonable ground for augmented confidence, that the Union of these States will be maintained, their Constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored. But these victories have been accorded not without sacrifice of life, limb, health and liberty, incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens. Domestic affliction, in every part of the country, follows in the train of these fearful bereavements. It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father, and the power of His hand, equally in these triumphs and these sorrows." *
He then invited the people to assemble on the 4th of August, for thanksgiving, praise and prayer, and to render * Military and Naval History, p. 408.
homage to the Divine Majesty, for the wonderful things He has done in the Nation's behalf; and he called upon the people to invoke His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which had produced, and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion; to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the councils of the Government with wisdom, and to visit with tender care and consolation, those who, through the vicissitudes of battles and sieges have been brought to suffer in mind, body or estate, and finally to lead the whole Nation through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will, to unity and fraternal peace.
With these most important victories East and West, a load was lifted from the troubled heart of the President. The form bowed and almost broken with anxiety, once more was erect; his eye grew visibly brighter, and his whole aspect became again hopeful. But it is not proper to suppress the fact that he was greatly chagrined that Meade permitted Lee and his army again to escape across the Potomac*.
In the Autumn of this year of battles, the State of Pennsylvania purchased ground adjoining the Cemetery at Gettysburg a part of the battle-field, and consecrated it as a National burying ground for the gallant soldiers who fell in the great battles there fought. On the 19th, of November, this ground was dedicated to its pious purpose, with solemn and impressive ceremonies. The President, members of the Cabinet, Governors of States, and a brilliant assemblage of officers, soldiers and citizens, gathered to witness the proceedings. Edward Everett, the venerable statesman, and world renowned scholar and orator was selected as the most suitable person to pronounce the oration. It was worthy of the occasion, the theme, and of New England's inost polished and graceful speaker. President Lincoln while on his way from the Capital to the battle-field, was notified that he would be expected to make some remarks. Retiring a short time, he prepared the following address, which for appropriateness, comprehension, grasp of thought, brevity, beauty, the sublime in sentiment and expression, has scarcely its equal in English or American literature.
* Mr. Carpenter States in his “Six Months at the White House page 219," That the President in reply to an enquiry, whether he had ever thought that better management on the part of the commanding General might have terminated the war, replied, “Yes, at Malvern Hill where McClellan failed to command an immediate advance upon Richmond; at Chancellorvilie when Hooker failed to re-enforce Sedgwick, after hearing his cannon upon the extreme right; and at Gettysburg, when Meade failed to attack Lee in his retreat at the bend of the Potomac:" “But” he added, " I do not know that I could have given any different order if I had been there, atc."
When Everett had concluded his oration, the tall, homely form of Lincoln rose; simple, rude, majestic, unconscious of himself, he slowly adjusted his spectacles, and drew from his pocket a manuscript and commenced reading. Before the first sentence, commencing “Four score and seven years ago" was completed, the words arrested attention, and instantly the magnetic influence of a grand idea uttered by a synı pathetic nature pervaded the vast assembly:
“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new Nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
“Now, we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that Nation, or any Nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those, who here gave their lives that that Nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this Nation, under God, shall have a
new birth of freedom; and that Government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.'
These twenty lines contain more than many a volume. There is nothing finer in Fisher Ames' oration on the death of Washington, nor in the masterly address of Daniel Webster, in laying the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument. There, above the remains of those who died that the Nation might live, he renewed the high resolve that the dead should not have died in vain; that this Nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that a Government “ of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Everett's oration was a polished specimen of consummate oratorical skill. It was perfectly committed to memory, and pronounced without a note. Yet it was so cold, artistic, and secured such admiration for the orator, as to make the audience at times, forget even the dead, to admire his well turned periods, but it did not deeply touch the heart.
When Mr. Lincoln uttered the words “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” he seemed so absorbed in the heroic sacrifices of the soldiers, as to utterly forget himself, but his hearers were fully conscious that he was the greatest actor in all the drama, and that he was uttering words which would live as long as the language. The magnetism of those who heard him, extended to the vast crowds beyond the reach of his voice, and tears, and sobs, and cheers, spoke the emotions which deeply moved the assemblage, with grand, patriotic, heroic thoughts, the sublime in action and sentiment.
Closing, he turned to Mr. Everett and congratulating him on his success; the orator gracefully replied: “Ah! Mr. Lincoln, how gladly I would exchange all my hundred pages, to have been the author of your twenty lines.”
*Copied from the original.
MILITARY OPERATIONS AND EVENTS TO CLOSE OF 1863.
RESULTS OF GETTYSBURG VICTORY-LEE's RETREAT—ATTEMPT TO
RECAPTURE FORT DONELSON-CHATTANOOGA-CHICKAMAUGAGRANT ASSUMES COMMAND OF Ohio, TENNESSEE, AND CUMBERLAND-BATTLES OF LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN AND MissionARY RIDGE-SHERMAN RELIEVES NASHVILLE-OPERATIONS AGAINST CHARLESTON-MASSACRE AT LAWRENCE--THE DRAFT RIOTS IN NEW YORK-NEGRO SOLDIERS-RETALIATION-LINCOLN'S LETTER TO ILLINOIS-ELECTIONS OF 1863.
HE battle of Gettysburg was in its results one of the
most decisive of the war. The slaveholder's army elated by their victory at Chancellorville, invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania, with the most lively hopes of transferring the war to the soil of the free States. They were as they boasted, about to water their horses in the Susquehanna and the Delaware. The rich granaries and the prolific pastures of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were now about to afford them abundant supplies. The vast stores, the wealth and the plunder of the great Northern cities, were passing vividly before the gloating imaginations of the soldiers of the invaders.
The savage threats made by Jefferson Davis at Stevenson, Alabama, on his way to Montgomery to assume the Presidency of the confederacy* when he said: “We will carry the war where it is easy to advance --where food for the sword and torch wait our army in the densely populated cities,” were now, they believed, about to be realized. This proud and arrogant host was met on the hills of Gettysburg and hurled back, never again in force to cross the border.
* Greely's American Conflict, vol. 1, page 415.