The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech containing some of the greatest language in history, helped changed the way America looked at the Civil War.
A handwritten copy of the address is on display through Dec. 2 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, in honor of the Nov. 19 anniversary of the famous speech.
The document – one of just five surviving copies written by Lincoln – stays in a climate-controlled vault most of the time to protect it from light and humidity. The display in the museum’s Treasures Gallery offers visitors a rare chance to see the paper where Lincoln wrote, “Four score and seven years ago …”
“This document is a tangible connection to President Lincoln and the turmoil of the Civil War. We look at his handwriting on this plain, white paper and imagine him searching for just the right words for a nation torn in two,” said Dr. Samuel Wheeler, Illinois state historian. “Everyone should take the opportunity to see this piece of history with their own eyes.”
The Lincoln Presidential Library also offers a way to engage children in learning about the address and its importance: a puzzle version of the address. Teachers or parents can download it, print out its 272 words and then challenge students to put the scrambled words back in the correct order.
Lincoln delivered the speech in 1863 at the dedication of a cemetery for soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. He said the fallen soldiers had already consecrated the site “far above our poor power to add or detract.” It was now the duty of the living, he said, to seek “a new birth of freedom.”
After the speech, Lincoln wrote out a copy for Edward Everett, who had been the main speaker at the cemetery dedication. Everett then sold the speech to raise money for the benefit of wounded soldiers. Four score years later, it was for sale again and Illinois schoolchildren donated pennies and nickels so the state could buy the document. That copy of the address is the one now housed at the presidential library.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.
For information, visit www.presidentlincoln.illinois.gov.