Gettysburg - the Turning Point in the Civil War
Gettysburg: The Turning Point
Lee decided to take his troops north, following his original plan to win the war on Union territory. He gathered 75,000 troops at the sleepy town of Gettysburg in eastern Pennsylvania. This location became the major battle and the turning point of the entire war. Union and Confederate troops fought from July 1 through July 3, 1863, in the hills and farmland around the town. The Union troops were able to maintain the high ground and thus to win the battle. The Confederate Army would never again penetrate into Union territory.
The cost was high on both sides; in three days of fighting, more than 50,000 men and boys were killed or wounded. At a dedication ceremony for a cemetery for the war dead, Abraham Lincoln gave the most famous speech in American history—the Gettysburg Address. The entire speech is only ten sentences long and took less than five minutes to deliver:
The Gettysburg Address
Fourscore 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 cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot 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 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.
Lincoln begins by quoting the Declaration of Independence—“all men are created equal.” He speaks movingly of the cause of liberty for which the soldiers gave their lives. He urges listeners to remember why the nation was founded in the first place—to be a society in which all were free, in which the government and the governed were one.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:
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