On a chilled November morning, holding a hand-scrawled copy of a well-crafted oration, President Abraham Lincoln spoke those iconic words, “Four score and seven years ago…”
Before Lincoln even penned one line of his immortalized Gettysburg Address, delivered 152 years ago at the dedication of the cemetery for the fallen, so much had happened earlier that summer. National Park Service’s work Gettysburg National Military Park, authored by Frederick Tilberg, describes the events that spawned both battle and address.
The attack-counterattack stratagem of commanding generals Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army and George Gordon Meade of the Union Forces resulted in three days of struggle, shelling, and shattered bodies. Both sides bore heavy losses. Columns of valorous cavalrymen became matted fields of fallen blue and gray. Pickett’s Charge, Little Round Top, and the High Water Mark of the Confederacy marked the gore and glory of the Gettysburg campaign.
What makes this publication so distinct is that it draws a wider circle around the conflict. Beyond the battlefield maneuvers and artillery fire, those hellish days in the Pennsylvania farmland left a whirl of aftereffects. The work touches upon the burden of care shouldered by the war-weary townspeople and the establishment of the burial ground.
Included within the narrative are quite a few examples from the great gallery of artwork inspired by daring infantry assaults and cannonade. The gallantry is dazzling in the famous cyclorama painting “The Battle of Gettysburg” by French artist Paul Philippoteaux that forms the book’s cover.
In his famed speech, President Lincoln carefully expressed the crisis—and unfinished work—that confronted a divided nation. As the author writes, “Lincoln gave meaning to the sacrifice of the dead—he gave inspiration to the living.” The deeds of battle and the words of an American president resonate today as they did so long ago.
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About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.