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Lincoln Delivers the Gettysburg Address: November 19, 1863

Image of Gettysburg Address Manuscript
Delivered on November 19, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, with its famous opening lines of “Four score and seven years ago,” is one of the best-known speeches in American history. But did you know the following facts about the speech?

  • The Gettysburg Address was given as part of the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, four months after the bloody battle. Not all the bodies had been buried yet at the time of the dedication, which was attended by about 15,000 people.
  • Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the main speaker. Edward Everett, a politician and famous orator, had that honor. While Everett gave a 2-hour, 13,500-word oration, Lincoln’s speech lasted 2 or 3 minutes and was about 270 words long. Afterward, 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 was formally notified he would be speaking only 17 days before the event. Although Lincoln started writing the speech in Washington, he was still fine-tuning it up until the day he gave it.
  • Lincoln reported feeling sick the day he gave the Gettysburg Address. As it turned out, he may have had a mild case of smallpox.
  • There are no known photographs of Lincoln delivering the speech, perhaps because his speech was so short, the photographers didn’t have time to prepare. In fact, his speech was over before some of the audience even knew it had started.
  • There are five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by Lincoln. Two of them were written around 19 November, and the other three were written afterward by request. The fifth draft, known as the Bliss copy, is generally accepted as the standard text of the speech since it was signed and dated by Lincoln, even though the copy was written by Lincoln after the speech had been given.
  • Dedication of the Gettysburg military cemetery
    The Gettysburg Address had its admirers and detractors at the time it was given, but it wasn’t necessarily seen as particularly influential during Lincoln’s lifetime. However, the speech was rediscovered and popularized 13 years later during the U.S. 1876 centennial.

Start a search on Fold3 to learn more about the Gettysburg Address. Or explore other Civil War documents in Fold3’s Civil War collection.


  1. Sandra Hewlett says:

    Thank you for posting an image of the original. To honor Abraham Lincoln and his November Gettysburg Address, we ask guests during Thanksgiving gatherings to read it aloud. It is a difficult piece to read, it is very moving, and everyone listens in rapt attention. This year we’ll ask people to read from the original!

  2. Jill fox says:

    I need info about the land of Indiana, Shawnee & Miami land.. Thomas Rolf Pocahontas, Cleopatra Powhatan??? Royal blood line clams the land of Indiana.. I will was lost??????? Let’s dig and make history for LOVE & FREEDOM. Fight for the right… For the PEOPLE…

    • Diane Shea says:

      Hi Jill I saw your comment in Fold/3 and also interested. My Dad was was a Peters and his mother was a Foley/Farley there is a connection between the Rolf -Peters- Foley’s have not found much just there is a portrait hung in a mansion for Rolf wife when she passed in England. Would appreciate to be able to find more.

    • JR says:

      How self-centered are you to think this an appropriate place to ask for help? It’s off-topic and way off-message of Lincoln’s speech.
      “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.”

  3. Jim HOrn says:

    My ancestors lived in Gettysburg at the time of the battle. Prof. Michael Jacobs wrote an account, Notes on the Rebel Invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania, which was published, and a copy sent to the White House in October. It was mentioned by Everett in his speech. Michael Jacobs also gave Everett a tour of the battlefield before the speeches.
    Henry Eyester Jacobs, his son, also witnesssed both the battle and the speech, and wrote an account, Lincoln’s Gettsburg World Message, about 1917.
    Both works can be found online for free.

  4. Susan Marie Rinke says:

    11-08-2016 will soon be added to our USA history records. Thank you for the stories you present for all to read.

  5. Clive Hancocks says:

    All of the great speeches from ancient to modern times have been made by “Patriots”. They are not long, but every word has a meaning, that has enabled their speeches to stand the test of time. They have lifted hearts in dark times, given hope in despair, inspired brave feats, given courage to the weary, honoured the dead, and changed the course of history. The Gettyburg Adress was one of these.

  6. James Steuckert says:

    I can read the Gettysburg address over and over and it each and every time brings to mind how this great country was forged in fire and consolidated into the nation we have today. Let’s hope it lasts as a nation of immigrants

  7. My reading tells me that the reason no photographers were able to take a photograph of Lincoln giving the address is because his speech was so short the cameras of that time were not able to take a photograph in the amount of time available to them to allow the proper exposer during his speech. This also explains why so many photographs of the time did not show anyone smiling. No one could hold a smile long enough for the cameras to allow enough light to work.

    • Steve says:

      That’s interesting, and makes sence as well. I had read and was told in school that the camera was so new to people that they thought if they smiled it would capture their soul. James McPherson spoke of this in one of his civil war publishings also ken Davis mentioned it in what they did not teach in history I believe was the name of his book.

  8. Jerry Lemon Graves says:

    I had read somewhere that Mr. Lincoln hastily wrote his famous speech while on the train traveling to the dedication ceremony of the National Cemetery. Perhaps that was when he last fine-tuned it.

    • Jim Kadel says:

      Yes, again by rumor, it was supposed to be written on the train on the back side of an envelope. In November of 1963, at the 100th Anniversary of this event, Raymond Massey played Lincoln. He arrived at the Gettysburg railroad station in a similar train to that of President Lincoln. Massey then rode to the National Cemetery on horseback to repeat that famous oratory.

  9. Jim Kadel says:

    At the time of this address, an 8 year old boy, named W.C. Storrik who lived in Gettysburg, was lifted up to the podium and shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.
    Later, this man wrote a book about the battle and became the Gettysburg National Park’s first superintendent. This position he held for 20 years. I mention this only because when I was around eight years old, my family visited an older gentlemen in Gettysburg. As we left his house I was told to shake his hand. Later my parents told me that was a man who shook the hand of President Lincoln. It was W.C. Storrik !

  10. D Hacker says:

    Seeing Lincoln’s beautiful cursive it saddens me to realize that thanks to our
    “new age” education system today’s young people will need an interpreter to be able to access many of America’s most revered writings.

    • Marte Simpson says:

      I have loved Letters, Penmenahip Exercises, Calligraphy & sentence diagrams since I was a child. I know there’ll be some teachers who’ll take the time to instill both forms of the Alphabet and help Students find their own Signature Style.

      In order to sign their names they’ll need cursive! Be encouraged I’ve many teacher friends & 1 son working & doing College at night to earn his Teachers Credentials and they love teaching!

      How special it is that this wonderful speech, Our Declaration of Independence & The Bill of Rights are handwritten!

    • JR says:

      I agree. What is happening that we all shall become type-generators instead of writers, with the elegance of not just words, but style.

  11. H Chisholm says:

    President Lincoln gave a great reminder on this 2016 Veterans Day–and the future of veterans yesterday and tomorrow.

  12. Richard Sharp says:

    If you are interested in a detailed history othe address I would highly recommend The Gettysburg Gospel by Gabor Boritt the founder of the Civil Was Institute, Gettysburg College

  13. MJPTHOC says:

    The greatest writing of poetic prose non-sense ever penned….

  14. Bob Leet says:

    For an excellent read:

    “Lincoln at Gettysburg “. Gary Wills

  15. If Gettysburg was still opened for the rest of the loss at the battle, why did he write the short speech? It is so famous and well known. I wonder if many people still stand by his words. I do. I honor this great man and he loved all the people. Why is Lincoln facing in a different direction than all the other great coins made? He loved his country; he was so broken up over the national loss of men; and he said so in a few words. Our new direction now in the USA may show how we are long on fighting and short on mending our nation. No one knows the future or they would print the news early. Our Lame Duck president now, has admired the Great Lincoln President; or said something of that nature. I know it was very positive. What do others say? What do you day besides saying to read Gary Willis’s book. We all had to memorize this address. Sure am glad we did not have to put to memory the other guy’s long long speech. I would have failed the course on that.

  16. Jane says:

    My great grandfather fought at Gettysburg, both bull runs and more for the union. How my imagination sees him there to hear Lincoln speak. Other relatives fought as well but am still tracking them down.

    • Reba Mccain says:

      My great Grandfather was killed at Gettyburg in the Battle and is buried there Thomas Malone was his name I am so glad that Mr Lincoln was there It took a tree to kill my grandfather it feel on him during the battle May God Bless them and our Country


  17. wilma says:

    The Gettysburg speech by Lincoln is especially close to my heart as during my school years we used its text for our timed penmanship tests. (Young people do not know what penmanship tests are as they only print today.) We all knew the beginning of it better than the end which meant the writer had to be a very fast writer. I don’t know if writing it improved my penmanship but it certainly left these special words embedded in my heart forever.

    • Joe Medelln says:

      I had to memorize the Gettysburg Address when I was in the 6th grade, elementary school, I’m 72 yo and I still remmber it, my parents helped me and they told me about how great the speech was to them. Our teacher wanted us to think as to what Pres Lincoln meant…how about that, a teacher that makes/encourages you to think!!!

  18. Deb says:

    Thanks for this history lesson

  19. Bob says:

    Great hypocrisy for Lincoln while burning out the south and starving the southern population of Vicksburg and Georgia as well as refusing to come to the negotiating table with the south and only accepting complete devastation of and complete surrender from the south could give a speech including the words “with malice towards none”! Lincoln was a hypocrite and a tyrant!

    • Jim says:

      Bob…. you lost. Get over it. Siege campaigns are how wars are won. You think the Rebel armies left the fertile fields of the north untouched?

      There were no negotiations as there was no government to negotiate with.

      The Union and President Lincoln never recognized the seceding southern States as an independent political entity. Nor did any foreign nation. The government of the United States rejected the claims of secession and considered the Confederacy illegitimate.

  20. Ron Stephens says:

    Lincoln honored both Union and Confederate dead by never making the distinction. I very much think he knew the speech would be reprinted in southern newspapers and he was by design speaking to all Americans. Real statesmen and women speak across the miles and the years into the generations and minds of those yet unborn. He was looking forward to reconciliation and, as he wrote himself, to ‘letting them up easy’.

  21. David Apodaca Sr. says:

    And he order to kill 300 of my tribe. Proud to be Yaqui and you will never come to what they did to my family. They hanged 300 Native American Indian at one time . That’s American in the days. You took everything from us and still do to this day 400 yrs.

  22. Christian Herrmann says:

    A copy of the speech was lost in a fire at the Chicago Historical museum on Clark St. I don’t remember the year.

  23. LTC (R) David V. Bunch says:

    An excellent reminder, for me, of forgotten facts. I, as do so many others, hold the address in warm regard. God Bless the USA and Abe Lincoln.

  24. Bob Noble says:

    I was married in 1958 back in Ohio, and my
    Wife was given away by LLoyd Ostendorf of
    Dayton Ohio, a very talented Artist and well
    Known Lincoln Historian. His art collection
    Included original illustration of Abraham Lincoln, along with numerous original artifacts.
    If I remember he had one of the original
    Drafts of the Gettysburg Address, and currently
    Is in the Lincoln Life Museum in Ft. Wayne
    Indiana. Lloyd passed away recently in

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