I'm writing this the evening of 19 November. It marks the 150th Anniversary of the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburgh, Pennsylvania. The battle at the same town was fought in July of 1863. At the time of the dedication an consecration ceremony, the dead who died in that three day blood letting were being transferred from the shallow, battlefield graves, dug where they fell, to the new cemetery near the existing cemetery along what became known as "Cemetery Ridge". That was the site of the climax of the battle - Pickett's Charge.
Along with the dead Federal soldiers being disinterred and reburied, there were thousands of horses and other animals that died on the field that still needed to be dealt with. Many of the Confederate dead were buried in mass graves. Many are still there.
The ceremony included bands playing, a chorus singing and an address. The Gettysburg Address was 13,607 words and took roughly two hours to deliver. It was a stirring work of oratory that was considered a masterpiece by all who heard it. The speaker was Edward Everett, a pastor, educator, diplomat and at one time a member of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. He was a master of his craft.
At the end of this stirring epic, the President gave "a few appropriate remarks." He spoke for around two minutes, speaking 270 words.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
In this, the political process kicked in. Newspapers that leaned toward Republican sentiments sang the praises of Mr. Lincoln. Those that leaned toward Democratic sentiments slammed Mr. Lincoln and his sentiments.
Simplicity wins. Precision overwhelms artifice.