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Photograph of Edward Everett
Library of Congress

Letter to Edward Everett

The day before he wrote this letter, President Abraham Lincoln shared the speakers' platform with Edward Everett, who gave the principal oration at the dedication of the soldiers' cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln was responding to Everett's note which praised him for the "eloquent simplicity & appropriateness" of his remarks. Everett said, "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

It's ironic that the length of these two speeches has been so much discussed, because the Gettysburg Address is one of Lincoln's shortest efforts. Prior to his presidency, his political speeches often lasted two to three hours, yet he managed to retain the attention of his listeners. For example, the reporter covering his speech in Dover, New Hampshire, on March 2, 1860, wrote, "Mr. Lincoln spoke nearly two hours and we believe he would have held his audience had he spoken all night."

Executive Mansion
November 20, 1863

Hon. Edward Everett.
My dear Sir:

Your kind note of to-day is received. 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 a failure. Of course I knew Mr. Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages in it which transcended my expectation. The point made against the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers, surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone before.

Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the worst. Your Obt. Servt.

A. Lincoln

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.

A Teacher's Tour of the Battle of Gettysburg (Matthew Pinsker/Gilder Lehrman Institute)
Battlefield Maps (Library of Congress)
Civil War Institute (Gettysburg College)
Edward Everett's Gettysburg Speech (University of Maryland)
Gettysburg Address Exhibit (Library of Congress)
Gettysburg Address Eyewitness (National Public Radio)
Gettysburg Address News Article (New York Times)
Gettysburg Address Teacher Resource (C-SPAN)
Gettysburg Address Text
Gettysburg Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress)
Gettysburg Discussion Group (Bob & Dennis Lawrence)
Gettysburg Foundation
Gettysburg National Military Park (NPS)
How Some Few "Remarks" Became the Gettysburg Address (LAP/ALI)
David Wills's Letter of Invitation to Lincoln (Library of Congress)
Lincoln and the Gettysburg Awakening (JALA)
Lincoln and Gettysburg Timeline
Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania
Lincoln's Invitation to Stay Overnight (Library of Congress)
Edward Everett's Letter to Lincoln (Library of Congress)
Photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg (Library of Congress)
Reading of the Gettysburg Address (NPR)
Recollections of Lincoln at Gettysburg (Bob Cooke)
Response to a Serenade
Robert Todd Lincoln's "Gettysburg Story" (JALA)
Seminary Ridge Museum
Solving the Mysteries of the Gettysburg Address (LAP/ALI)
The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation (Peter Norvig)
Who Stole the Gettysburg Address? (JALA)
Wills House

Related Books

  • Boritt, Gabor. The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows. Simon & Schuster, 2006.
  • Graham, Kent. November: Lincoln's Elegy at Gettysburg. Indiana University Press, 2001.
  • Hoch, Bradley R. and Boritt, Gabor S. The Lincoln Trail in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.
  • Johnson, Martin P. Writing the Gettysburg Address. University Press of Kansas, 2013.
  • Kunhardt, Philip B., Jr. A New Birth of Freedom - Lincoln at Gettysburg. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.
  • Mearns, David C., Dunlap, Lloyd A., Wilson, Douglas L., and Sellers, John R., contributors. Long Remembered: Lincoln and His Five Versions of the Gettysburg Address. Levenger Press, 2011.
  • Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. Touchstone Books, 1993.
  • Wilson, Douglas L. Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006

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