Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Village Life in America.

Village Life in America.

November 19, 2013

Village Life in America, 1852 - 1872, by Caroline Cowles Richards

November 19.—We wish we were at Gettysburg to-day to hear President Lincoln’s and Edward Everett’s addresses at the dedication of the National Cemetery. We will read them in to-morrow’s papers, but it will not be like hearing them.

Authors Note, 1911. — Forty – eight years have elapsed since Lincoln’s speech was delivered at the dedication of the Soldier’s Cemetery at Gettysburg. So eloquent and remarkable was his utterance that I believe I am correct in stating that every word spoken has now been translated into all known languages and is regarded as one of the World Classics. The same may be said of Lincoln’s letter to the mother of five sons lost in battle. I make no apology for inserting in this place both the speech and the letter. Mr Whitelaw Reid, the American Ambassador to Great Britain, in an address on Lincoln delivered at the University of Birmingham in December, 1910, remarked in reference to this letter, “What classic author in our common English tongue has surpassed that?” and next may I ask, What English or American orator has on a similar occasion surpassed this address on the battlefield of Gettysburg?”

“Four score 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 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 honoured 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 and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It was during the dark days of the war that he wrote this simple letter of sympathy to a bereaved mother:—

“I have been shown, in the files of the War Department, a statement that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from your grief for a loss so overwhelming, but I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation which may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.”

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