Lincoln and His Five Versions of the Gettysburg Address
Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address: The myths and the mysteries
Near the very beginning of the exquisite Steven Spielberg Lincoln movie, two black soldiers recite for Abraham Lincoln the remarks he had made about 14 months earlier, on November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg. “Four score and seven years ago…” begins the measured, richly cadenced Gettysburg Address.
It is one of America’s most iconic and magisterial speeches, delivered at the height of the Civil War, a time when there was serious doubt that America as Lincoln saw it—a Union, undivided—could ever repair.
The Gettysburg Address is by far the shortest consecrational address ever delivered by an American president. At approximately 273 words, it’s barely a few tweets by today’s standard.
How is it, then, that something so short turns out to be so complex? So laden with contradictions and suppositions?
Nobody really knows…
- when Lincoln wrote the version of the Gettysburg Address that he delivered
- where Lincoln wrote it—although it was almost certainly in more than one place (the question is, how many places, and which ones?)
- what Lincoln actually said when he delivered his remarks at Gettysburg
We will tell you the story that's true
Because of this, all kinds of myths have sprouted around the Gettysburg Address. Mystery is one thing—and Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address will always have an air of mystery to them—but mythology is quite another. We do ourselves and our history a disservice if we allow myths to replace facts.
Long Remembered is a book that strips away the myths of this crucial moment in the Civil War, but leaves intact the mystery. And the facts about the Gettysburg Address—what’s known and what isn’t—continue to beguile.
Just to add to the enigma—Lincoln didn’t write one version of his Gettysburg Address. He wrote five…that we know of. Long Remembered is the only source where you can find all five versions of the Gettysburg Address in facsimiles that are true to size and to color. In fact, two of the versions are not only bound into the book but also pocketed loosely into the inside front cover. They are folded as Lincoln folded them. What you hold in your hand is the essence of what Lincoln held in his.
“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here,” Lincoln famously—and erroneously—wrote in his Gettysburg Address. Americans have long remembered, and continue to hold the words close.
But what did Lincoln actually say?
The Gettysburg Address as it appears on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial (Photo, Library of Congress)
What did Lincoln really say at Gettysburg?
Why is it so hard for history to know the word-for-word delivery of such a short speech? And why did Lincoln make it so short?
Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address: what’s true, what’s false
Test your knowledge of facts and myths about the five versions of the Gettysburg Address.