Casualties from the three-day battle of Gettysburg, PA
(July 1 - 3, 1863) totaled nearly 50,000. Following the battle the ground was
littered with bodies. On November 18, 1863, seventeen acres of the battlefield were
designated a national cemetery. The dedication ceremony featured Edward Everett, a
famous orator of the period. As an afterthought, the cemetery committee invited
Lincoln scribbled his speech on the train ride to
Gettysburg, a simple set of remarks, knowing that the keynote address would be Mr.
Everett's. After Mr. Everett had spoken for nearly two hours, the President stepped
forward to share the words he had written. It took him just 2 minutes, and received
only sporadic and scattered applause. Afterwards he whispered to an aide, "That
speech went sour."
The following day Edward Everett wrote to the President.
"I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central
idea of the occasion in two hours," he wrote, "as you did in two minutes."
President Lincoln replied, "In our respective parts
yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one.
I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely