The Gettysburg Address is a speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln at the November 19, 1863, dedication of Soldier’s National Cemetery, a cemetery for Union soldiers killed at the Battle Of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.
Invited to give a “few appropriate remarks,” Lincoln was not the featured speaker at the dedication; Edward Everett, a famous orator and former politician and educator, was. Everett spoke for two hours, from memory, before Lincoln took the podium. In about 260 words, beginning with the famous phrase, “Four score and seven years ago,” Lincoln honored the Union dead and reminded the listeners of the purpose of the soldier’s sacrifice: equality, freedom, and national unity. The following day, Everett wrote to 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.”
Lincoln’s speech did not garner much attention during his lifetime; in many ways, it was forgotten and lost to popular memory until the U.S. centennial in 1876, when its significance was reconsidered in light of the war’s outcome and in the larger context of the young country’s history. The Gettysburg Address is now recognized as one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and as one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history.