November 19, 2002
NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM:The Heroes of July: A Solemn and Imposing Event: Dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg (NY Times, November 20, 1863)
The ceremonies attending the dedication of the National Cemetery commenced this morning [11/19/1863] by a grand military and civic display, under command of Maj. Gen. Coucs. The line of march was taken up at 10 o'clock, and the procession marched through the principal streets to the Cemetery, where the military formed in line and saluted the President. At 11-1/4 the head of the procession arrived at the main stand. The President and members of the Cabinet, together with the chief military and civic dignitaries, took position on the stand. The President seated himself between Mr. Seward and Mr. Everett after a reception marked with the respect and perfect silence due to the solemnity of the occasion, every man in the immense gathering uncovering on his appearance.
The military were formed in line extending around the stand, the area between the stand and military being occupied by civilians, comprising about 15,000 people and including men, women and children. The attendance of ladies was quite large. The military escort comprised one squadron of cavalry, two batteries of artillery and a regiment of infantry, which constitutes the regular funeral escort of honor for the highest officer in the service.
As Garry Wills has noted, it's remarkable to see in the coverage of the dedication just how little importance was attached to what is surely one of the most famous pieces of political oratory of all time (try reading it aloud--it's true democratic poetry):
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,Posted by Orrin Judd at November 19, 2002 10:23 PM
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 battlefield of that war.
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, for the people shall not perish from the earth.