Handwritten copies of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address given at the Gettysburg National Cemetery and letter to Mrs. Bixby, 1864.
President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln used the speech to honor fallen Union soldiers at Gettysburg and reshape the purpose of the war, speaking four and a half months after the Union armies defeated Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln’s letter to Lydia Parker Bixby of Boston, Massachusetts, expressed condolences because she was thought to have lost five sons in the Union Army during the Civil War. These documents are most likely copies of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and letter to Mrs. Bixby preserved together. Copies such as these were frequently produced and sold, making both documents famous and widely-read.
Address delivered at the dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg.
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 battlefield 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 to 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 as 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.
November 19, 1863.
Washington, Nov 21, 1864.
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass,
Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,