On November 19, 1863, the national military cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. President Abraham Lincoln was invited to attend and offer some brief remarks, but he wasn't even the featured speaker. That honor was given to a noted orator of the time, Edward Everett, who spoke for over two hours.
When Everett had finished, it was President Lincoln's turn. His brief remarks took only a few minutes to deliver. They so simply, and so eloquently, recounted the heroism and sacrifices that took place upon those grounds that they are the speech that is today remembered as the Gettysburg Address, and are considered to be perhaps the greatest Presidential speech ever given.
The address follows, as does a story of incredible courage from July 2, 1863 that you probably don't know about - and it's a story of a single action by a commander and the men he ordered that may very well have saved the Union.
There are several written contemporaneous copies of the Gettysburg Address that all differ slightly. The one accepted as the definitive version is called the "Bliss version", written by Lincoln some time after the actual event, and the only copy to which he placed his signature.
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.