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The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Jared Peatman, Southern Illinois University Press

Debate over the meaning of Gettysburg has been going on for 150 years. For President Abraham Lincoln, speaking at the national cemetery dedication on November 19, 1863, the significance of the soldiers’ sacrifice  on the battlefield lay in the “cause for which they  gave the last full measure of devotion,” preserving the Union and enabling “a new birth of freedom.” His words served as an ode to democracy, though he realized that his message would not earn immediate acceptance.

Among the numerous volumes on that famous speech, Jared Peatman’s The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address stands among the best. He insightfully describes the president’s intentions to place the event within the continuum of the democratic heritage. The major contribution of this volume is its ability to suggest the long-term effects of the address. Lincoln’s 272-word statement about the 3,900 buried there remains both a comfort and an inspiration for us all during times of crisis.


Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.