The last stop for us in Gettysburg was the site of Lincoln’s famous Address, The Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Piper has been fascinated by the Gettysburg Address for much of her life; long before she was able to put it into any kind of historical context. She first heard it after we bought the America CD by the Boston Pops. The rich speaking voice of David McCullough and the stirring music of the Pops really planted a seed with her. Traveling to Washington D. C. and seeing the Lincoln memorial helped it to grow. Studying the Civil War brought it to the point of being a passion and ultimately brought us to Southern Pennsylvania.
I almost wish that they would start you out at the Soldiers Cemetery on the auto tour. I understand why it is left for the end, both chronologically and emotionally, but after running around looking at things on the battlefield for hours you arrive to the last stop pretty drained. In the case of Piper, I think that she spent more time touring the battlefield than she really wanted simply because she knew that this spot was waiting at the end.
One of the things that I learned on this trip was that although we now think of the Gettysburg Address as one of the great speeches of American history, it wasn’t universally seen that way at the time. We bemoan the partisan politics of today and the way political ideologues are constantly sniping at each other , but Lincoln’s supporters were wildly enthusiastic of his speech and his opponents mocked its brevity and “inappropriateness”. Human nature never changes, despite the intervening years.
Chicago Tribune: “The dedicatory remarks by President Lincoln will live among the annals of man.”
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 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 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.”
Going to Gettysburg and finally seeing the place that Lincoln spoke about was a pretty big item checked off Piper’s to-do list, and helped to take some of the sting of not getting to go to Italy away for her. Despite the odds, we managed to put together a great recovery vacation. On to Italy next year!