President Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at the dedication of the Soldiers’ Memorial Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. Notable orator Edward Everett was the first to speak that afternoon and delivered a two-hour address that was very well received. Lincoln followed with what is now one of the most notable speeches in U.S. history, and one that lasted only two minutes.
Everett wrote to Lincoln the following day, “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.”
Despite Lincoln’s words within his Gettysburg Address, that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” his remarks endure. The text for the Gettysburg Address is easily found online and in print. Reading it aloud evokes a better understanding of Lincoln’s legacy, as it transports us back one hundred fifty years to when he humbly stated:
We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground—The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
Today, on the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, we can all be part of creating a living legacy for those who gave “the last full measure” during our country’s most trying time. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War with a simple yet eloquent plan—to plant one tree for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died, as a living memorial for their individual and combined sacrifices.
The trees will create a 180-mile alley along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway which stretches from Gettysburg to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville VA. Each tree represents a life and will be geotagged to allow visitors to learn the name and the story of each soldier.
Ancestry.com and Fold3 are proud to support the JTHG Partnership by providing access to digital records to participating classrooms for their use in researching soldiers’ stories. We invite you to get involved. Honor the service and remember the sacrifice of your ancestors who fought during the American Civil War by planting a tree and sharing their stories. Visit the Living Legacy Project for more details.