Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gettysburg Address - Reenactment

One of the things the group did while in Gettysburg during the summer of 2015 was to reenact the reciting of the Gettysburg Address.  Of course, we all had our recorders going at the time to see if we stirred anything up, and what most people don’t know, the Gettysburg Address was actually given within the confines of an established cemetery, not the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Well, in order to complete this task, first we had to try to come close to the actual location.   Most people who visit Gettysburg, and walk into the Soldier’s National Cemetery, see the speaker’s platform and the memorial for the Gettysburg Address and just assume that is where it was delivered.  Wrong.  Not even close.  In fact, that platform was probably not even there back in 1863.

Procession from center of town up to the National Cemetery
(President Lincoln is in that mob someplace).
Maybe we should just back up a little bit more here.  Let’s pretend that you (the reader) have been living in a cave most of your life, and you have no clue what the Gettysburg Address is all about.

In July of 1863, a major battle broke out in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  This was the first major battle on Union soil and there were over 100,000 soldiers battling within the town and fields of a small farming town with a population of about 2400 people.   Most of which were women and children, since the men where off fighting the war.

When the battle was over, there were almost 50,000 men either killed, wounded, or missing.   Their bodies, the bodies of horses and other livestock laid all over the small area.   The people of the town had no choice but to bury these bodies (and body parts) in shallow graves where they lay and pleaded with the Federal Government for assistance with the problem.

A local attorney named David Wills was put in charge of establishing a National Cemetery for the dead Union soldiers.   He was also put in charge of organizing a dedication of the cemetery.   Wills invited many dignitaries to the dedication, including the renowned orator of the time, Edward Everett.

Edward Everett was to be the key speaker during the dedication, and you have to remember, the war was still going on, so Wills thought that he would invite the president to come and speak just out of respect.   He really didn’t even expect to get a response on short notice.   You see, the dedication was really scheduled to be October 23, but Mr. Everett asked for a later date so he could prepare.   The date was moved to November 19th.   President Lincoln received is formal invitation on November 2.  Wills was shocked that the president accepted.

Edward Everett

Now being the key speaker at the event, Everett prepared and delivered a 13,000 word, 2 hour speech to a crowd of over 15,000 people.   And this was before the President of the United States, Commander and Chief of the Union Army spoke.

Arrival of President Lincoln at the event.
When Lincoln stood up, he cleared his throat and began to deliver the 2 minute speech that he just finished at 10:00 a.m. that morning.   This speech became to be known as the Gettysburg Address.   Read the following words of that speech, and imagine standing on a hill in front of 15,000 on-lookers, including major press agents, 6 state Governors, and surrounded by the still noticeable carnage of battle.   Across the crowd, they are still embalming and burying bodies, the cemetery was not even 1/2 way done yet and President Lincoln would be looking directly at that.

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 battle-field 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 can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not 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.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Powerful words, and what is most remembered from the ceremony.   Most people don’t even remember who Edward Everett was.

Alright, back to our experiment.   We wanted to reenact the Gettysburg Address and see if we stirred up any of those 15,000 spirits that were then on hand to witness it when it was delivered in 1863, and in order to do this, we needed to get close to the spot of the platform.

We did have a photograph that showed where the platform was in conjunction with with gate house for Evergreen Cemetery.   We also have read in several places that the location was at the top of the hill over looking the location where the Soldiers’ National Monument would be placed (There was a flagpole marking the location during the time of the dedication).   This helped out greatly and we think we nailed the location pretty close.


Actually is a better photo that describe the location of the “Address” and about where we were standing.

So, with recorders running, Marianne pretended to be President Lincoln and she delivered the Gettysburg Address.   It was a sobering and moving moment, and in fact when she was done, we all looked up and noticed the steeple up on seminary ridge that we have been following as we toured throughout the battlefields and the town.


Unfortunately, we have not captured any EVPs as of yet, but we are still awaiting others who were present to check-in with any findings they may have on their recorders.   This was definitely a very interesting experience.

As a side note, you may have noticed that there were photographers at the event and no known picture of President Lincoln speaking.  Well there is one picture that people think may have Lincoln in it:

Blown up version:

So why did the photographers not take a picture of Lincoln while he was speaking?   Well, here is the thought.   Remember Lincoln spoke after a 2 hour long speech by Edward Everett.  It is believed that the photographers were resting and when Lincoln got up to speak, they thought they had time.  They didn’t realize he was only talking for 2 minutes, which back then was not enough time to even setup the camera and film.

1 comment:

  1. I will try to get my self pictured there at the actual site next to another person claiming to be an bugle boy on his left side. I will have a sign with 2015 and my name. On this date of 19Nov1863 Gettysburg speech addressed. Which me luck it will take a long while and many nights to channel the occurrence via Sleep Theory Traveling.