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I am Perry Peterson, a retired auditor and tax accountant. My wife Valeta and I live along the front range of the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains.
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Mr. David Wills was the principal person behind the establishment of the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
For the dedication of the cemetery Mr. Wills asked Edward Everett to give the principal speech at the ceremony.
Mr. Everett was a politician and former President of Harvard University. He was a noted orator and seemed a perfect candidate to deliver an address dedicating the cemetery.
Mr. Wills also asked President Lincoln to say a few words at the dedication. The letter to the President read: “It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.”
Mr. Wills was President Lincoln's host while in Gettysburg, and the now immortal Gettysburg Address was completed from its rough draft in the Wills home.
At the dedication ceremony Edward Everett gave a 13,607-word speech that went on for nearly two hours.
Abraham Lincoln followed with a speech of only 269 words and lasted barely two minutes.
Lincoln was not a dynamic orator. In those years before loudspeakers, anyone making an outdoor speech had to speak loudly.
Some historians have suggested that Lincoln’s voice became a bit high-pitched when speaking loudly. Also, he had the strange habit of throwing his arms in the air while flexing his knees to make a point during a speech.
Lincoln’s law partner had a harsher indictment of Lincoln’s voice saying it was “shrill, piping, squeaking and unpleasant.”
One eyewitness said Lincoln's speech was followed by a “dignified silence.” A noted historian said the applause was delayed, scattered, and “barely polite.”
It is not surprising then to learn of initial negative reactions to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Edward Everett, however, praised Lincoln saying, “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.”
The Abraham Lincoln speech at Gettysburg is now considered one of the most famous speeches in American history.
The speech emboldened the Union cause during the Civil War with perhaps the most stirring words ever spoken.