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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who was Edward Everett?

Yesterday was the 145th Anniversary of one of most stirring public speeches in world history. Also, one of the most important lessons for Knights:
1863 : Edward Everett delivers his famous two hour speech!

First, a little background:

The Battle around a small Pennsylvania town(U.S. Civil War), was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing. The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee's defeat and retreat marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army's ultimate decline.

Charged by Pennsylvania's governor, Andrew Curtin, to care for the dead, an attorney named David Wills bought 17 acres of pasture to turn into a cemetery for the more than 7,500 who fell in battle. Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery's dedication.

If you think I’m loquacious (yes, I own a Thesaurus)…

At the dedication, the crowd listened for two hours to Everett. Two hours!
Now, I’m sure that each and every one of you can quote all, or at least part, of that famous speech, can’t you?

Well, there was one other person there that day who spoke a few words.

In the planning of the day, and almost as an afterthought, Wills sent a letter to President Abraham Lincoln--just two weeks before the ceremony--requesting "a few appropriate remarks" to consecrate the grounds – a dot on the map called Gettysburg.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln got up out of his chair -- after Edward’s two hour oration -- and he spoke just a couple of minutes. 272 words brilliantly and movingly reminding a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

It’s interesting that he noted “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”

While true, the world doesn’t remember the eloquent two hour speech given by a one Edward Everett (though he did do tremendous work in his lifetime), Lincoln’s two to three minutes Gettysburg Address will never be forgotten; his words helped win the war and remind us to never forget that we “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Thank you Mr. Lincoln for your words, and for the lesson that it doesn’t take volumes to deliver a powerful message. Sometime it takes just 272 words, thoughtfully crafted and humbly presented.

Sir Bowie of Greenbriar.


  1. Two Hours? what the hell was he saying for two Hours??.. I'd like to see a copy of that doozy..
    I mean, think yourself through that situation....stood in the crowd...barely able to hear at the back because of no microphones or large screen close-ups,'d be sat down playing poker by the time 1 hour 20 minutes went by..

    I'm amazed that anyone stayed around to hear Lincoln speak...and i can only imagine a groan went up from the crowd, when he got up to do so...

    Still, is interesting to see that you missed the PS off the handwritten copy of the speech, that history also never seems to include, when he said ;

    "Right, I don't know about you lot, but i'm off to get drunk"

    Sir Dayvd ( a bit less conversation and a little more action) of Oxfordshire

  2. Thanks for reminding us of that important day in history. The Gettysburg address is still ingrained in my mind from earlier school days. I have been to Gettysburg many times, as of late mainly on business. I was just there on November 17.

    I was watching a documentary on TV last night about FDR, another great orator and President. I hope that Barack Obama will step into history with the same foresight, leadership and sacrifice that Lincoln and FDR gave to this nation.

    Sir Hook Who Tends to Be More Like Edward Everett Than Abraham Lincoln of Warrick