Lincoln seized moment to unify as he delivered Gettysburg Address

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- If things had gone according to Gen. Robert E. Lee's plan, the battle may have taken place in Harrisburg, the state capital, but instead it happened in Gettysburg, just south. After three days of fighting in the the early days of summer in 1863, the Union found itself on the winning side of things -- for a change.

Winning at Gettysburg allowed the North, especially President Abraham Lincoln, some breathing room. A lack of victories until this point and mounting criticism from within his own party had put the president in a precarious position. These three days did not obviously spell ultimate victory for the Union, but it began a shift in momentum.

At the time, none of that could be foreseen. All that remained were the dead bodies of the combatants from the North and South. The question quickly loomed, "What to do with all the fallen soldiers?" Before the national park that we've all come to know as Gettysburg came into being, there was the agreement that there should be a national cemetery. At the dedication where he wasn't even the keynote speaker, President Lincoln gave a brief but memorable address that urged all to honor the dead by finishing their work and not giving in to thoughts of truce. 

Lincoln seized moment to unify North as he delivered Gettysburg Address

If things had gone according to Gen. Lee's plan, the battle may have taken place in Harrisburg, the state capital, but instead it happened in Gettysburg, just south. After three days of fighting in the the early days of summer in 1863, the Union found itself on the winning side of things -- for a change. Winning at Gettysburg allowed the North, especially Lincoln, some breathing room. A lack of victories until this point and mounting criticism from within his own party had put the president in a precarious position. These three days did not obviously spell ultimate victory for the Union, but it began a shift in momentum.

In this last of this Gettysburg sesquicentennial anniversary video series, Bill Blair, director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Center and professor of history at Penn State, puts these events in perspective and shows how the effects of this battle would resonate for years to come.

Additional written features, and video installments with Penn State faculty and Civil War experts William Blair and Carol Reardon, have been shared leading up to and through the battle's sesquicentennial, July 1-3, 2013, and are archived at http://news.psu.edu/tag/Gettysburg-anniversary/.

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Last Updated August 12, 2013