Monday, November 19, 2012

Top 10 Places Lincoln's Left His Indelible Footsteps in Gettysburg

After visiting Gettysburg and seeing all the devastation and carnage,  Governor Andrew Curtin, of Pennsylvania placed Attorney David Wills in charge of the dedication of a cemetery to honor the soldiers that were killed during the three day battle at Gettysburg.  The dedication took place on November 19, 1863.  Wills invited the most popular and influential speaker of the times, Edward Everett and he also asked Lincoln to provide a few appropriate remarks.  Everett spoke for two hours.  President Lincoln spoke just over two minutes. The cemetery gave if not a proper burial a place for families to come and grieve.  It was not unusual during the civil war for a soldier who survived a battle to recount to the family in a letter, that their loved one died heroically in battle and was buried near an oak tree facing the south just west of the fence, giving families clues as to where they could come and claim the body of their loved one. At Gettysburg, there were so many and the towns people not only nursed and cared for the sick and wounded, they also had the daunting task of burying the dead.

David Wills
1. Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg from Washington D. C. at approximately 6 p.m. on the evening of November 18th into the Gettysburg station. The building also served as a field hospital during the battle as did many of the buildings and homes large enough to accommodate people. The railroad station was also the departure point for thousands of wounded soldiers heading home afterwards.

Gettysburg Railroad Station and Museum
2. A bust sculpture of Lincoln by New York artist Joseph Kelly was presented by the Lincoln Fellowship and dedicated on November 19, 1981.  It originally sat at the doorway entrance to the David Wills house. It now is located on the platform behind the station.  You have to enter the museum, which is free of charge to get to it or you can view it through the locked gates in the rear of the building.

Bust of Lincoln sculpted by Joseph Kelly at the Gettysburg Railroad Museum
3. Lincoln would have then traveled one block to the Wills home where he would spend the evening on the second floor putting the finishing touches on his speech aka the Gettysburg Address. The David Wills House is open for tours on certain days.  It was not open on the two days I was there but, inside you can view the room Lincoln stayed in and the saddle he used as he rode up the street to the cemetery. There is always something that I miss that draws me back.  I believe this would be worth seeing.

David Wills house, Lincoln's window was on the 2nd floor, 2nd to the left.
4. J. Seward Johnson Jr. created the statue of Lincoln that stands outside the David Wills house, just below the window where Lincoln made last minute corrections and additions to the Gettysburg Address. The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania dedicated the sculpture "Return Visit", November 19, 1991.  This statue is unique in that Johnson was given a bronze life mask created during Lincoln's life time. Click on the link for additional information about this topic.

"Return Home" sculpted by J. Seward Johnson Jr.
5. The Gettysburg Address Memorial is located just inside the entrance to Soldiers' National Cemetery. This monument commemorates Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863. The Address was delivered about 300 yards from this spot along upper Cemetery drive. The site is now marked by the Soldiers' National Monument. Dedicated Jan. 24, 1912 - Sculptor, Henry Bush-Brown. There is a dispute as to the exact location where Lincoln gave the famous speech and I will have to admit at first I thought it was so important to see the exact spot. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Gettysburg in the first place. I stood in front of this memorial to the speech and as I read it, I realized just what the relevance of this dedicated, consecrated. hallowed ground really was. It is not about politics or speeches.  It is about the soldiers that gave their lives and the lines that are drawn and the indelible marks disagreement, beliefs, strong wills and the fight for what is right can result in. It is a sad and at times necessary evil.
Lincoln Address Memorial

Soldiers' National Monument

6. The Pennsylvania State Monument at Gettysburg is the largest at the battlefield. The bronze base lists all the Pennsylvania soldiers, 34,530 that fought in Gettysburg and also houses 8 statues with prominent Pennsylvania citizens and soldiers along with President Lincoln.

Pennsylvania State Monument

Abraham Lincoln (sculpted by Schweizer)

7. One of the lone photographs of Lincoln on the day of the Gettysburg Address is in possession of the National Archives and in the public domain.  It is thought that it was not for lack of importance Lincoln was not photographed but no one expected such a short speech. Lincoln is pictured in the center of the platform, hat less with his bodyguard, Ward Lamon, and Governor Andrew Curtin of Pennsylvania, Lincoln's private secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, orator Edward Everett, and Gettysburg attorney and organizer David Wills may be among those near the president. Check out the website there is an amazing collection of many moments in history.  If you have a specific interest, do a search.

Library of Congress, Lincoln on the platform, Gettysburg.
8. Even though Lincoln was not selected as the keynote speaker at the dedication of  Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, he came for the people. The speech he made on that day still has made an indelible mark and is one of the most quoted speeches, ever. Listen to it.  You have heard the words. How many of us truly listened and understand the message?

The Gettysburg Address

9. Abraham Lincoln sculpted by Ivan Schwartz sits outside the National Military Park and Visitors Center in Gettysburg. Regardless of which way you enter the center you can't miss seeing it. To me, there is no greater monument to Lincoln than the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., as you look up at that immense statue and read the powerful words etched into stone; however it is not very often you get to sit on a bench and look directly into Lincoln's eye and hope to see exactly what he saw "malice towards no one".  It is a quiet and humbling moment.

10. Lincoln's last stop in Gettysburg, he attended a patriotic meeting at the Presbyterian Church located at Baltimore Avenue and High Street along with John Burns.  The original church building has undergone renovations since 1863 but the pew in which President Lincoln and John Burns sat has been preserved and is marked with a bronze plaque.  The current building was built in 1963, the same year retired President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife became members. The Eisenhower pew is also marked.

Today Monday, November 19th, 2012 is the 149th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  There will be a ceremony wreath laying ceremony at Soldiers National Cemetery at approximately 9:30 a.m.  Steven Spielberg is the planned speaker followed by James Getty as Abraham Lincoln it will be sponsored by the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania. Live coverage at . The broadcast will begin at 10 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) and end at approximately 11 a.m.

Bonus:  There is a local Lincoln statue in Philadelphia on Kelly Drive just across from the beginning of Boat House Row. I stumbled upon it while tracking down another Civil War connection.

This weekend the Lincoln Movie opened in theaters with long lines and many sold out shows.  Maybe I was expecting another great speech or brutal reminder of the causalities of war  but this one was different.  It was a subtle reminder of the division we face in our country today only the colors have changed to red and blue. After seeing the movie, you may want to do a little more research on Thaddeus Stevens, a representative of the state of Pennsylvania and his role and influence on the 13th, 14th and 15 Amendments.  The movie is a good example of the role of politics and politicians and how they see things, not always the same way.

Tonight locally:

Middletown Township Historical Society's Middletown Mondays presents
by Darcy Fair, folklorist
Monday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Lima Estates Auditorium, 411 North Middletown Road, Media, PA .
Free and open to the public, no registration required.

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