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Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg

Coordinates: 39°49′11″N 77°13′52″W / 39.819767°N 77.231217°W / 39.819767; -77.231217[2]
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Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg
Abraham Lincoln (center) at the consecration just after arriving c. noon and ~3 hours before the speech.[citation needed] In 2006, two additional Gettysburg procession photographs of Lincoln were identified in the Library of Congress.[1]
DateNovember 19, 1863
Time~3 PM
VenueCemetery Hill, Gettysburg National Cemetery
LocationGettysburg, Adams Co, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°49′11″N 77°13′52″W / 39.819767°N 77.231217°W / 39.819767; -77.231217[2]

The Consecration of the Soldiers' National Cemetery[3][4] was the ceremony at which U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. In addition to the 15,000 spectators, attendees included six state governors: Andrew Gregg Curtin of Pennsylvania, Augustus Bradford of Maryland, Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, Horatio Seymour of New York, Joel Parker of New Jersey, and David Tod of Ohio.[5] Reporters present included Joseph Gilbert (Associated Press), Charles Hale (Boston Advertiser),[6]: 14  John Russell Young (Philadelphia Press); and Cincinnati Commercial,[6]: 13  New York Tribune, & The New York Times reporters.[6]: 15 

Edward Everett's 1864 book on the "…Consecration of the National Cemetery At Gettysburg…"
David Wills invitation to Abraham Lincoln: "It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks."[7]: 25 



Following the Battle of Gettysburg, an Evergreen Cemetery Association plan to create a soldiers annex requiring fee payments for interments (e.g., by families) was replaced by a plan by local attorney David Wills for a cemetery funded by the states. The Pennsylvania governor designated Wills the commonwealth's agent, who was authorized to purchase 17 acres (6.9 ha) for a cemetery, paying $2,475.87 for the land ($61,270 as of 2024).[8] Wills' September 23 invitation[9]: 183  to the renowned statesman Edward Everett requested an oration on Wednesday, October 23;[10] but Everett needed more time to prepare his speech, which would feature fine details of the battle culled from Everett's personal interviews with those involved. Wills rescheduled the ceremony to Thursday, November 19 to accommodate Everett's needs.[11] On November 2, Lincoln received formal notice[clarification needed] of Wills' invitation to participate.[12]

Preceding events


On October 27 from the Presbyterian graveyard on North Washington street (now defunct), the 1st of 3,512 Union Army bodies[9]: 161  was moved to the new cemetery.[13] By November 19, a speaker's platform had been constructed, and "1258 had been reburied in the semicircular cemetery".[14]

On November 18 at 6:00 p.m., Abraham Lincoln and party (including his guest, Canadian politician William McDougall[15]) arrived at the Gettysburg Railroad Station.[16] Lincoln walked around the depot[citation needed] and uphill to the town square to spend the night in the Wills' house,[17][failed verification] where a crowd gathered in the adjacent town square and was addressed by Secretary of State William H. Seward (Everett got to bed about 11 p.m.).[18] After Wills met with Lincoln about the ceremony c. 9:30; Lincoln's door guard, 1st Sgt Hugh Paxton Bigham of Company B (21st PA Cav.), provided a telegram to Lincoln that his son had improved—after which he asked his guard "at about 11 p.m." to take him to Seward.[19]: 3  While meeting with Seward at the adjacent Robert Goodloe Harper house "around the corner", Lincoln was serenaded by the Baltimore Glee Club (National Union Musical Association) with We Are Coming, Father Abra'am (Bigham later "pushed" a return path through the crowd for Lincoln).[19]: 5  Also posted through the night was a second military guard for Lincoln at the street-level door, Paxton's brother Rush Bigham.[19]: 15 

On November 19 c. 9 a.m. when his secretary went to Lincoln's room, "Mr. Nicolay…found him at work upon the address which he was to deliver. He continued to write, so far as the many interruptions gave him opportunity, up to the time it was necessary for him to take his place in the procession".[20]: 52  At 9:30 a.m., Lincoln on a chestnut bay horse[21] joined the procession to the cemetery with other dignitaries, townspeople, and widows.[4] "We passed along Baltimore Street to the Emmittsburg Road, minute guns being fired, then by way of the Taneytown Road to the cemetery, where the military formed in line to salute the President at about eleven o'clock."[22]: 11 



Scheduled events for the ceremony included:[7]: 35 

Music, by Birgfield's Band
Prayer, by Reverend T.H. Stockton, D.D.
The cloudy day became sunny during the reverend's prayer.[5]
Music, by the Marine Band
Oration, by Hon. Edward Everett
Everett's two-hour[23] delivery of 13,607 words described the battle and related its events and the war to previous wars and events.
Music, Hymn composed by Benjamin Brown French, Esq.
"A full view of the battlefield, with the Blue [Ridge] Mountains in the distance, was spread out before us, and all about were traces of the fierce conflict. Rifle pits, cut and scarred trees, broken fences, pieces of artillery wagons and harness, scraps of blue and gray clothing, bent canteens, abandoned knapsacks, belts, cartridge boxes, shoes and caps, were still to be seen on nearly every side—a great showing for relic hunters. … The Baltimore Glee Club then sang an ode written for the occasion by Commissioner B. B. French, of Washington, and Lincoln arose."[22]: 12 
Dedicatory Remarks, by the President of the United States Lincoln took but a few minutes[24] for the "Address delivered at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg"[25] (Boston reporter Charles Hale "took down the slow-spoken words of the President").[26]
Dirge, sung by Choir selected for the occasion
Benediction, by Reverend H.L. Baugher, D.D.

The program ended c. 4 p.m.[5] and, after attending most of a subsequent service at the Presbyterian church with War of 1812 and Battle of Gettysburg veteran John L. Burns,[19] Lincoln departed via the Gettysburg Railroad c. 6 p.m.[27]



Following the ceremony, telegraphy regarding the program included at least three transmissions of Lincoln's address[28] (the New York Times report the next day included both Lincoln's address and the entire Everett Oration.)[5]

Wills requested a copy of Everett's oration via a December 14 letter, and Everett provided a copy with footnotes (e.g., describing the maps he used while composing).[9]: 186  In 1864, Everett published his book regarding the consecration; and an 1867 record of the consecration ceremony was published with the associated correspondence.[9]

Erected by the Gettysburg National Military Park (G.N.M.P.), a permanent historical marker within the Gettysburg National Cemetery states, "The speakers' platform was located in Evergreen Cemetery to your left."[29] The National Park Service's National Cemetery Walking Tour brochure concurs with the permanent marker:

The Soldiers' National Monument, long misidentified as the spot from which Lincoln spoke, honors the fallen soldiers. ... It was actually on the crown of this hill, a short distance on the other side of the iron fence and inside the Evergreen Cemetery, where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to a crowd of some 15,000 people.[30]

As recently as January 23, 2004, a multiple property submission by the GNMP extended the long history of misidentification by stating, the Soldiers' National Monument "Sits on site of speaker's platform where Gettysburg Address was orated." [31] Photographic analyses by Garry Wills[32] and William A. Frassanito,[33] completed in 1992 and 1995 respectively, conclusively place the location on the Evergreen Cemetery side of the dividing fence.


  1. ^ Toppo, Greg (November 15, 2007). "Honestly, is that really Abe in 3-D?". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
  2. ^ Swain, Craig (March 8, 2009). "Soldiers' National Monument" (HMdb.org webpage, marker 16864). Retrieved 2011-06-23. '… of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.' – Lincoln. November 13th [sic], 1863.     NOTE: The webpage's photo shows the inscribed date is the correct "19th", not the webpage's "13th".
  3. ^ Lincoln, Abraham. "expenses in attending the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg" (Report). Washington, D. C. (White House). (cited by Klement 1993, p. 267)
  4. ^ a b Everett, Edward C (1864). Address of the Hon. Edward Everett At the Consecration of the National Cemetery At Gettysburg, 19th November 1863, with the Dedicatory Speech of President Lincoln, and the Other Exercises of the Occasion; Accompanied by An Account of the Origin of the Undertaking and of the Arrangement of the Cemetery Grounds, and by a Map of the Battle-field and a Plan of the Cemetery. Little, Brown & Company. Archived from the original (TrueScans format) on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  5. ^ a b c d "The Heroes of July; A Solemn and Imposing Event. Dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburgh". The New York Times. November 20, 1863. p. 1. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved 2011-08-18. The assemblage was of great magnitude, and was gathered within a circle of great extent around the stand, which was located on the highest point of ground on which the battle was fought. (pdf version). p. 2: [Everett] Address; Delivered at Gettysburgh on the Nineteenth of November at the Consecration of the Cemetery
  6. ^ a b c Prochnow, Victor Herbert, ed. (1944). Great Stories from Great Lives. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press. ISBN 0-8369-2018-X.
  7. ^ a b Wills, Garry (1992). Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Made America. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 25, 35. ISBN 9780671867423.
  8. ^ Murphy, Jim (1992). The Long Road to Gettysburg. New York: Clarion Books. pp. 98–99. ISBN 0-395-55965-0.
  9. ^ a b c d "Correspondence, Addresses and Ceremonies, at the Consecration of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863". Revised report made to the legislature of Pennsylvania, relative to the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Singerly & Myers. 1867. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  10. ^ "Lincoln Invited to Gettysburg to Consecrate a Civil War Cemetery, November 19, 1863". Library of Congress. 2010-09-15. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved 2010-09-15.
  11. ^ Gramm, Kent (2001). November: Lincoln's Elegy at Gettysburg. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-253-34032-2.
  12. ^ "The Formal Invitation". MyLOC.gov (Library of Congress). December 5, 2002. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  13. ^ "Last Local Survivor of National Cemetery Group Recalls His Experiences" (Google News Archive). The Star and Sentinel. November 28, 1936. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  14. ^ Tilberg, Frederick. summary of study of location of Gettysburg Address platform. (cited by Klement, pp. 186–187, reference 23: )
  15. ^ Eisenhower, Dwight D. [speech to a joint session of the Parliament of Canada] (Speech). (referenced in the Parliament of Canada official transcripts, Hansard)
  16. ^ "Pennsylvania Abraham Lincoln". Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-07-23.
  17. ^ "Wills House Bedroom at Gettysburg". AbrahamLincolnOnline.org. Showcase.netins.net. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  18. ^ Boritt, G. S. (2006). The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows. Simon and Schuster. p. 86. ISBN 9780743288200.
  19. ^ a b c d Horner, John B (1994). Sergeant Hugh Paxton Bigham: Lincoln's Guard at Gettysburg. Gettysburg PA: Horner Enterprises.
  20. ^ Carmichael, Orton H (1917). Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Abingdon Press. p. 52. Retrieved 2010-08-18. found him at work.
  21. ^ "Saddle Used by Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg]", Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Town Square, AbrahamLincolnOnline.org, Showcase.netins.net, 2007
  22. ^ a b Cochrane, Henry Clay (February 13, 1907). With Lincoln to Gettysburg, 1863. Retrieved 2011-08-18. I happened to have bought a New York Herald before leaving and, observing that Mr. Lincoln was without a paper, offered it to him. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help): 9  … "Mr. Seward and Mr. Blair rode upon his right and Judge Usher and General Lamon on his left.": 11 
  23. ^ Everett, Edward (November 20, 1863), letter to Abraham Lincoln (cited by Simon, et al., eds. The Lincoln Forum: Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, and the Civil War. Mason City: Savas Publishing Company, 1999. ISBN 1-882810-37-6, p. 41: "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.")
  24. ^ Murphy, Jim. The Long Road to Gettysburg, New York: Clarion Books, 1992. p. 105, "with a pronounced Kentucky accent."
  25. ^ Lincoln, Abraham (1863), Address delivered at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg (cited by Boritt 2006, p. 290: "This is the only copy that…Lincoln dignified with a title: "Address delivered at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg.", a rare full signature, and the date: "November 19, 1863." … This final draft…remained in the Bliss family until 1949.")
  26. ^ Sandburg, Carl (1939). Lincoln Speaks at Gettysburg. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company. pp. 452–457. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help) (cited by Prochnow, p. 14)
  27. ^ "The Historic Gettysburg Railroad Station" Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ Barton, William E (1950). Lincoln at Gettysburg: What He Intended to Say; What He Said; What he was Reported to have Said; What he Wished he had Said. New York: Peter Smith. pp. 138–139.
  29. ^ Historical Marker Database. "The Gettysburg Address". Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  30. ^ National Park Service. "National Cemetery Walking Tour" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  31. ^ "GETT P. 21 (structure ID MN288, LCS ID 009949)", Soldiers' National Monument, National Park Service, 2004 [1865], archived from the original on 2012-09-17, retrieved 2011-06-22 List of Classified Structures
  32. ^ Wills, Garry (1992). Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-0-671-86742-3.
  33. ^ Frassanito, William A. (1995). Early Photography at Gettysburg. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications. pp. 160–167. ISBN 978-1-57747-032-8.