Saturday, November 20, 2021

No One Cheered at Lincoln's Dedication Speech -- Gettysburg Address

    So how bad of a failure was Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1863? 
    The Democrat “Copperhead” Chicago Times newspaper (1854-1895) posted this editorial on Nov.24th, 1863 about the speech: "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."
    C.R. Graham includes in his book, Under Both Flags. A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure, and the Romance of Reality (1896) p.73-74, an account of the crowd’s acceptance of Lincoln’s speech at the Gettysburg event by W. H. Cunnington, who was a newspaper correspondent up on the stage. Accounts differ as to how well accepted Lincoln’s speech was, and what the exact wording of the speech was etc. Don’t know how long after the war this account was written down by Cunnington. It is interesting that he views the audience being taken by surprise at how short it was and by the non-melodramatic way Lincoln spoke as explanations as to why the crowd did not cheer when Lincoln spoke. Since the previous speech had been two hours long, it is possible that the shortness of Lincoln’s address may indeed have been a reason the crowd was unresponsive. Again, this is one person’s memory of that historic event.
Cunnington writes:
    “It was my privilege to be present at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg, on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, and to hear the now world-famous address of Abraham Lincoln on that occasion. I can bear witness to the fact that this address, pronounced by Edward Everett to be unequaled in the annals of oratory, fell upon unappreciative ears, was entirely unnoticed, and wholly disappointing to a majority of the hearers. This may have been owing in part to the careless and undemonstrative delivery of the orator, but the fact is that he had concluded his address and resumed his seat before most of the audience realized that he had begun to speak.
    It was my good fortune as a newspaper correspondent to occupy a place directly beside Mr. Lincoln when he delivered this brief oration, and on the other side of the speaker was Hon. W. H. Seward. Other members of the Cabinet had seats on the stand, and I also noticed Governors Curtin, Seymour, Tod, Morton, and Bradford, Hon. Edward Everett, and Colonel John W. Forney.
    At the conclusion of Mr. Everett’s scholarly oration, Mr. Lincoln faced the vast audience. He looked haggard and pale, and wore rather a shabby overcoat, from an inside pocket of which he drew a small roll of manuscript. He read his address in a sort of drawling monotone, the audience remaining perfectly silent. The few pages were soon finished; Mr. Lincoln doubled up the manuscript, thrust it back into his overcoat pocket, and sat down. Not a word, not a cheer, not a shout. The people looked at one another, seeming to say, “Is that all?”  
    The full text of Mr. Lincoln’s address was as follows:
    ‘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 longer 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 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, shalt have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ 
    I am well aware that accounts have differed as to the manner of this address and its reception by the audience. I was an eye-witness and hearer, and my position was immediately beside the speaker, therefore that foregoing account may be relied upon.”

    In the days following the event, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address got both positive and negative reviews by various newspapers. Democrat papers like the Chicago Times paned Lincoln’s speech, after all the people there didn’t cheer, or they laughed at it. Many Republican leaning newspapers were more complementary of his wording and presentation, or at least neutral in their evaluation of it. It should be no surprise that “politics” played into how Lincoln’s words were evaluated back then, just like happens today.  Growing up in the 1950s/60s, my family would go and watch the Memorial Day parade in our small town in upstate New York, and then go to the cemetery for the Memorial Service. Each year from our local high school Senior class a young lady was selected to read the poem “In Flanders’s Fields”, and a young man to read the Gettysburg address. I got to do it my Senior year. That was back when Lincoln was honored and his words were viewed as a positive challenge. Now his statues are being defaced and torn down by ‘woke progressives’. Guess the democrats haven’t changed much in their assessment of Lincoln and his speech.
    Various studies have been done tracing how his Gettysburg address has been interpreted over the years. And there have been changes of interpretation of what he was saying, and differing views of what it should inspire in people who hear it today. Differences of interpretation are legitimate discussions.
    But to interpret his speech as hateful and representing a foul nation that is all just show, with no real equality is a Marxist lie being pushed by those who hate the freedom our nation was founded on: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
    Yes, indeed our nation has had many serious problems over the years. Some have been addressed and other still remain. Equality of opportunity (NOT a guarantee of success or acceptance, but opportunity to work for it) and equality before the law (riches, connections, political power do not give an advantage or give a disadvantage) is the solid foundation that is needed to constantly address differences and conflicts. 
    “Equity” is a “woke progressive” ploy to give the elites power over the masses who submit for “compensation” given to preferred “categories” of people. I posted a satirical blog back in 2013 about what then President Obama’s version of the Gettysburg address might have sounded like had he given it in 1863 instead of Lincoln (What would President Obama’s version of the Gettysburg Address be?). I suggested that Obama would have praised “federalization”. I didn’t know how correct I was in describing the agenda of the “woke progressives”. I choose to stand with Lincoln, imperfect as he was. And I stand with America, imperfect as we are. Judge others individually by the character of their heart, not by their group ethnicity. Reject the Marxist equity path which divides us into group categories to allow the elites to control us. Do not let the men who died at Gettysburg die in vain.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Civil War Veteran's Memorial Day Poem

Like stars that sink into the west,
So one by one we seek our rest;
The column’s brave and steady tread
With banners streaming overhead,
Will still keep step, as in the past,
Until the rear guard comes at last.
Ah, yes, like stars we take our flight,
And whisper, one by one, “Good night.”
Yet in the light of God’s bright day,
Triumphant, each again will say,
"Hail, comrade, here has life begun,
The battle’s fought, the victory’s won!”

by George M. Vickers

p.127 Under Both Flags  A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure and the Romance of Reality  Edited by C.R. Graham. 1896

    Graham cites three other poems by George M. Vickers in his book. On page 456 Graham gives a brief biography of George Vickers. “The author was a private soldier in the Second Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, when commanded by Colonel, afterwards General, McCandless, and in more than one desperate battle witnessed [McCandless’s] heroism.” From the sentiment of this poem, it is definitely written post-war, as the veterans are dying off one by one. 
    Memorial Day observed on the last Monday of May, remembers and honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War with the great loss of life and the establishment of national cemeteries. By the late 1860s many towns across the US began to hold springtime tributes to their lost soldiers like this. There is much dispute as to the “origin” of this holiday. What seems most probable is that it arose as “tradition” in many towns across the US in both the north and the south in the years following the end of the war and gradually became part of the spring time tradition that finally became officially nationalized as an official federal holiday in 1971. It arose out of the grief over the loss of husbands/sons/fathers/brothers in the war as a means to find some relief in remembering and honoring them.
    On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance he called Decoration Day. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.
    On the first Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery, General James Garfield made a speech to 5,000 who attended and who decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events, with the tradition being repeated in subsequent years. By 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on other days during the spring until after World War I.

Children’s Project:
Have your child draw a picture showing what Memorial Day means to them.
Ask your child to compose their own poem about Memorial Day