On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln spoke a little over two minutes at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. About fifteen thousand people were gathered for the ceremony, and the words they heard would quickly become part of the national consciousness.
This is the earliest known draft of the Gettysburg Address. John Nicolay, Lincoln’s personal secretary, wrote that the president had the first page written down before coming to Gettysburg and finished his address in pencil on the next sheet after he had arrived.
The cemetery also survives today as a sacred space of rest and reverence for those “honored dead, [who] gave the last full measure of devotion” to the cause of freedom. More than 3,500 Union soldiers are buried at Gettysburg, several hundred of whom are unknown and occupy graves marked only by a number.
Read the Gettysburg Address memorial page on Fold3 for more images and information about the dedication ceremony and the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
The National Park Service has published a National Cemetery brochure with more pictures and information.