WARREN - When the Confederate and Union forces marched away from Gettysburg, Pa., on July 3, 1863, more than 51,000 soldier were left dead, wounded or missing. The battle, a victory for the Union, was a strong turning point in the American Civil War.
President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet returned to the battlefield on Nov. 19, 1863, to dedicate the Soldiers National Cemetery. Lincoln barely spoke, a postscript to the main program.
"Lincoln was an afterthought," Trumbull County historian Wendell Lauth said. "They already had their speaker. He was just invited as a dignitary, not the main attraction. And even the president didn't think he amounted to much because he speech was very short."
Tribune Chronicle / Alisa Manna
Civil War historians and Tribune Chronicle columnists Wendell Lauth, left, and Larry Hardman, talk about President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the effect it has had on the United States after 150 years. Lauth holds a Western Reserve Chronicle from Nov. 25, 1863, when Lincoln’s speech was printed in the Warren newspaper in its entirety.
Now, 150 years later, that short speech is perhaps the most famous presidential address in the history of the United States.
The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library Sutliff Museum's Civil War 150 committee members Lauth, Larry Hardman and Hugh Mullin said the president's message of unity, equality and convictions is timeless and still inspires today. Lincoln's speech wasn't solely significant for men in the North, but for men and women everywhere, they said.
They said originally the primary speaker for the ceremony was Edward Everett, a famous orator who delivered a nearly two-hour long speech that was well-representative of the Battle of Gettysburg and atmosphere left behind.
Gathered at the library in Warren on Friday, the historians agreed that Lincoln's address was shocking considering he was asked to make "a few appropriate remarks."
"He wasn't required to give an earth-shattering speech," Hardman said.
Following Everett's oration, Lincoln's speech was two minutes long and contained less than 300 words. Though his address was drastically different in style - Hardman described it as more philosophical than detail oriented - it transformed a cemetery for the dead into a symbol for the living.
"He referred back to the founding fathers, that all men were created equal," Hardman said. "He was setting an example to inspire the public, yet the speech was also designed to honor the dead.
On Nov. 25, 1863, six days after Lincoln spoke at the eerie battlefield, the Western Reserve Chronicle published the president's speech in entirety, spreading the word of democracy.
"It's pretty amazing that it was printed in the paper after six days. It usually took a two-week span," Lauth said. "150 years ago, that was published here in Warren. That's the real deal."
The historians said the Gettysburg Address is significant to Trumbull County because fathers, sons, brothers and friends from the both the south and north acted as martyrs for America, and while a few persevered, a majority never left the battleground.
Of the 4,734 men from the state of Ohio in the Battle of Gettysburg, 368 were serving in Ohio regiments from Trumbull County. While 210 of the 368 men were serving in the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry from Warren and weren't directly involved in the battle, the remaining 158 soldiers were of the 2nd Division of the 12th Army Corps.
"Ninety-five of the men were with the 7th Ohio Volunteers; 33 were with the 29th Ohio Volunteers," Hardman said.
While a minor fraction of 158 Ohio men were wounded, the Trumbull countians were heavily involved in the second and third days of the battle, but none of them were killed in action.
Despite the Union's victory at Gettysburg, and though the Confederacy were at a lost, both side's men were determined to persist for another two years.
Lincoln wasn't just speaking to the ceremony attendees, or those on the platform, 150 years ago, he was acknowledging the public citizens whose freedom rested in the hands of the soldiers - dead and alive.
As more than a century has passed, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address has been memorized in schools across the nation, studied by scholars and historians, and honored by admirers who challenge injustice every day.
"President Lincoln is considered the most outstanding leader we've ever had, so his words automatically carry a lot more weight," Hardman said. "His address is what our nation is built on."
Unlike most presidents, Mullin said Lincoln put a lot of pain and effort into composing his address, focusing on every word.
He said it was common for presidents at that time to have speech writers, but President Lincoln was unconventional, which is why the debate continues over the different manuscripts.
"It's just another indication of how intelligent he was. He wasn't asked to come up with something so profound, but he did in a short amount of time and without assistance," Hardman said.
The committee members agreed not a word was wasted, and the message is still timely considering the many wars that have followed and the men who have sacrificed for their beliefs.
The foundation for Lincoln's presidency was based around the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and Hardman said he tried to portray that to Congress every time he spoke.
"The president said those men should not die in vain. He wanted to preserve the Union. Everything refers back to his firm belief in the Constitution, implying the right for all men to be equal. He's been proving that since before his presidency," Hardman said.
"The central meaning for the Gettysburg Address is trying to pass his thoughts along as they continue to fight the war, to reunite the Union and to free the slaves," he said.
The president addressed not only a grieving nation but those who sacrificed their lives for ultimate freedom, and he motivated the enlisted soldiers to continue fighting until the very end for the preservation of human equality and a government for the people.
"In the north, when people read his address in the papers, it reestablished that what they were doing was right. And when it spread in the south, it gave the slaves new hope ... that they weren't going to stop, but continue on with the war until their freedom was won, because that was the right thing to do," Hardman said.