What Was the Purpose of the Gettysburg Address?

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The Gettysburg Address was a speech that President Lincoln gave at the dedication ceremony of the National Cemetery of Gettysburg as a statement about the impact of the Civil War. The site had been the location of a bloody and critical battle during the Civil War.

Lincoln was not the primary speaker at the dedication ceremony nor did he speak the longest. Prior to Lincoln taking the podium at the closing of the ceremony, a famous speaker of the time named Edward Everett had spoken for two hours. Lincoln had simply been asked to provide a few closing remarks. The Gettysburg Address took about two minutes and was 273 words long. At the time, the speech did not garner much attention, except from Everett, who wrote to Lincoln to compliment him on the speech. It was not until 1876, 11 years after Lincoln had died, that the speech became famous when it was touted during the United States centennial for its emphasis on freedom, equality and unity as well as a general symbol of the significant impact the Civil War had on the United States and the formation of the country. It is believed that Lincoln wrote the speech, in its entirety, less than a day be before he delivered it.