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Consecration of the Soldiers’ Cemetery.


November and December 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, November 23, 1863.




Consecration of the Soldiers’ Cemetery.


Interesting Account of the Proceedings.




[Special Dispatch to the Missouri Democrat.]

GETTYSBURG, Nov. 19. – This has been a great day for the nation. The burial place of her glorious defenders on the crisis of the national safety was splendidly dedicated to valor, to patriotism and to freedom. The people have been coming all the week, and some days since the town was overflowing so that the hosts who arrived yesterday and last night were compelled to sleep on the floors of private houses. The demonstrations of military, of high officials, secretaries, and citizens, was superior to anything of the kind ever witnessed in this country.

Ward H. Lamon, Marshal of Washington, was chief marshal to-day, assisted by some scores of aids. Their dress was according to the order that has been published.

After the performance of an original piece by the band (furnished by Gov. Curtin) a piece eloquently suited to the occasion, which was performed with pre-eminent skill, Mr. Stockton was introduced, who offered up such a prayer as only he is capable of. The vast assembly stood uncovered in breathless attention during the invocation, and few indeed where the hearts, however obdurate, that did not unite with him in this prayer of the great American nation. Never was man selected for any service so fit in every respect to perform it. There the reverend gentleman stood looking as if himself was one of the brave dead whose graves were spread out before him, just risen from the tomb to invoke the God of nations and liberty to bless the sacred work and inspire the hearts of the living in the grandeur of the work still before them.

Hon. Edward Everett was then introduced.

The procession arrived on the ground just two minutes before eleven o’clock, and at half-past eleven the great assemblage was called to order, and Everett, the orator, proceeded with a discourse occupying two hours and four minutes in the delivery. The capacious plain was filled with officers of the General Government, Governors and their staffs, foreign ministers, admirals and the members of the press. In front sat the President of the United States; on his left sat Secretary Seward and Montgomery Blair; behind the president sat Governor Tod, Hon. John Brough, Governor Seymour, Governor Curtin and others. Perhaps the most attentive and appreciative listener was old Abe himself. He seemed to be absorbed in profound thought till the spell was broken by a mistake of the orator in saying General Lee when he should have said General Meade, which mistake caused the President to turn to Seward, and with a loud voice, say “General Meade;” but the orator seemed not to hear it at this time. But the President corrected it loud enough to secure a correction by the orator.

Another listener, whose countenance seemed most to express the pleasure felt, was John Brough, Governor elect of Ohio.

For some minutes after the oration commenced there was considerable confusion to the right, that seemed not easily to be silenced. The crowd was packed so densely that the marshals who sat on their horses amidst the multitude could not move towards the desired quarter, but at length an impressive passage of the orator, contrasting the importance of the great struggle at Marathon, which was that of the republic on this spot where he stood, the dense crowd gave way and the breathless attention was maintained throughout.

At the conclusion of the oration, a choir from the Music Association of Baltimore treated the people with the following beautiful dirge written at Gettysburg. The following thought seemed so appropriate to the occasion of the soldiers’ cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the 19th of November, 1863, that I should not resist the impulse of putting them in the following form.

By B. B. French, November 17th, 1863:

In holy ground this spot, where in their graves
We place our country’s braves,
Who fell in Freedom’s holy cause;
Fighting for liberty and laws.
Let tears abound; here let them rest!
Summer’s heat and winter’s cold
Shalt glow free above this mold;
A thousand years shall pass away;
A nation still shall mourn this day.
Where now is blest.
Here where they fell shall the widow’s tear be shed;
Oft shall fond parents mourn their dead.
The orphan here shall kneel and weep –
Where their loved ones sleep!
Their work shall tell: Great God in Heaven!
Shall all the sacred blood be shed –
Shall we thus mourn our glorious dead?
Or shall the end be weal or woe –
To the knell of Freedom’s overthrow!
It will not be!
We trust in God; His gracious power
To aid us in our darkest hour.
This be our prayer: Oh! Father, save
A people’s freedom from its grave.
All praise to Thee!

The Marshal introduced President Lincoln, who spoke as follows, after the immense applause:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers established upon this continent a government subscribed in liberty and dedicated to the fundamental principles that all men are created equal by a good God. [Applause.] Now we are engaged in a great contest – the question whether this nation, any nation, so consecrated, so educated, can long remain. We are met on a great battlefield of the war; we are met here to dedicate a portion of that field as the final resting place of those who have given their lives that the nation might live. It is all right, befitting and proper that we should do this, but in a larger sense we cannot dedicate; we cannot consecrate; we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add to or detract. [Great applause.] The dead will little heed. Let us long remember what we have, but not forget what they did here. [Immense applause.] Is for us, rather – the living – to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried forward. [“Good,” and great applause.] It is better for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us; for us to renew our devotion to that cause for which they gave the full measure of their devotion. Here let us resolve that what they have done shall not have been done in vain; that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth; that the government of the people, founded by the people, shall not perish.”

The conclusion of the President‘s remarks was followed by immense applause, and three cheers given him, as also three cheers for the Governors of the States.

The number assembled was estimated at 30,000 to 50,000, and the spot on which they stood, one of the most beautiful. From the northeast stretching westerly, is the South Mountain range to fifteen miles distant, and looking into Maryland; in front is a range, on an elevation from which the rebels ended the memorable struggle; north-westerly is Round Top Hill, where Sickles and Sykes and the Pennsylvania reserves fought the bloody contest of the left-wing on the 2d day; northwesterly is the Seminary hill, so well known in that struggle; and eastward, almost adjoining the cemetery, is Colp [sic] Hill, from which our batteries poured an effective fire. Hills, valleys and mountains all around present a series of charming positions. The national cemetery adjoins Gettysburg and sloping northward towards the long line of hills.

The band that filled the post of honor at the stand to-day was Brigfield’s band, of Philadelphia, and the magnificent dirge with which the ceremonies were commenced was composition of Mr. Brigfield. It is a German band.

After a prayer by Mr. Stockton, the band played “Old Hundred.”

Last evening, at a late hour, the President and others were serenaded. In response to which Mr. Lincoln excused himself, and speeches were made by Judge Shannon, of Pittsburg, McVeigh, of Philadelphia, J. W. Forney and Montgomery Blair. Forney glorified the President, and Blair announced a vigorous prosecution of the war as the determination of the Administration. Gens. Stone, Couch and Schenck were conspicuous, but the finest looking officer of them all was Schenck.

A powerful impression was made this day upon the nation. More than any other single event will this glorious dedication move the patriotism and deepen the resolution of the living to conquer at all hazards. More than anything else will this day’s work contribute to the nationality of this great republic.

At the conclusion of the exercises at the grounds General Schenck made an eloquent reception speech on the presentation of a flag to a New York regiment.

During the morning Governor Seymour was called out in the public square and made a vigorous speech, advocating the necessity of crushing the rebellion at all hazards.