Friday, August 27, 2021

Booknotes: Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Bradley M. Gottfried & Linda I. Gottfried (Savas Beatie, 2021).

Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg "recounts the events surrounding the creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, its dedication, and concentrates on Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg on November 18- 19, 1863."

As one might imagine, burying the dead from the Gettysburg battle in a suitable manner was a pressing matter as well as a huge organizational and logistical challenge. From the description: "First, appropriate land needed to be identified and purchased. After the State of Pennsylvania purchased the 17 acres, a renowned landscape architect designed the layout of the cemetery. All was now ready for the bodies to be interred from their uneasy resting places around the battlefield, placed in coffins, marked with their names and units, and transported to the new cemetery to be permanently reinterred. More than 3,500 men were moved to the Soldiers National Cemetery."

The cemetery dedication planning involved some touchy considerations. More: "Most of the program was easily decided. It would be composed of odes, singing, prayers, and remarks by the most renowned orator in the nation, Edward Everett. The committee argued over whether President Abraham Lincoln should be invited to the ceremony and, if so, his role in the program. The committee, divided by politics, decided on a middle ground, inviting the President to provide “a few appropriate remarks.”" Lincoln accepted the invitation, of course, and his journey to Gettysburg, activities in town, his famous address, its reception, and its legacy are all discussed by co-authors Bradley and Linda Gottfried in the volume.

The appendix section includes a pair of tours (one focusing on Lincoln's activities and another on National Cemetery sites) along with an essay discussing the centennial commemorative event that featured a speech by former president Dwight Eisenhower (then president JFK was invited to be the keynote speaker but had to pass on it due to his fateful commitment to a Texas political visit of which we are all familiar).

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