This Speech Lasted 2 Minutes, But Changed History

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Gettysburg Address.

The pivotal Civil War battle lasted three days in July and saw the Union army turn back Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virgina, ending the Confederate invasion of the North.

Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties.

In 1863 the course of the Civil War was still hugely in doubt. With his army's morale high, General Lee intended to shift the focus of the Confederate's campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia. There was a political element, too: General Lee hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia.

Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit, but was relieved just three days before the battle and replaced by General George Gordon Meade. Meade ended up gaining a hard-fought victory, forcing the Confederates to retreat and allowing the Union to take the war to the South. 

Read the details of the battle here.

The news of the Union victory electrified the North. A headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer proclaimed "VICTORY! WATERLOO ECLIPSED!"

So when did President Abraham Lincoln give his historic "Four score and seven years ago" speech? 

Four months after the battle. 

President Lincoln delivered the 272 word Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg. He sought make his speech secondary to the other speakers that day. In his speech, Lincoln gave a nod to civil rights and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for the Union, but also for the principle of human equality.

Here it is in his own writing: 

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.

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