Dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Eyewitness accounts of the ceremonies in Gettysburg yield contradictory evidence and many unanswerable questions about what happened that day. President Lincoln rode a horse in the parade that marched slowly like a funeral procession from the center of town out to the cemetery, but there is no consensus as to the size and color of that horse. Edward Everett recited his two-hour speech from memory, while Lincoln is said to have read his two-minute remarks from a paper that he pulled out of his coat pocket. It is not known which manuscript of his speech he read from that day or the exact words that he spoke or even when he first wrote down these words. Some accounts state that Lincoln’s speech was met with profound silence, while others reported that his remarks were greeted with “Long continued applause.”

John Hay, one of Lincoln’s personal secretaries, recorded his impressions of the day in a diary entry:

In the morning I got a beast and rode out with the President's suite to the Cemetery in the procession. The procession formed itself in an orphanly sort of way and moved out with very little help from anybody, and after a little delay, Mr. Everett took his place on the stand - and Mr. Stockton made a prayer which thought it was an oration; and Mr. Everett spoke as he always does, perfectly - and the President, in a fine, free way, with more grace than is his wont, said his half dozen words of consecration, and the music wailed and we went home through crowded and cheering streets.

Some in the crowds were there to mourn and bury their dead, while others had come to celebrate a great military victory. Solemnity mixed with patriotic jubilation.

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