5 Things You Didn't Know About The Gettysburg Address

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Here are 5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the Gettysburg Address...


Lincoln Was Invited at the Last Minute The Gettysburg ceremony was to dedicate the cemetery in honor of the Union soldiers who died there during the Civil War. Lincoln wasn’t the keynote speaker that day. (More on that later.)  Instead, a local attorney in the town had written to Lincoln asking that he come and make a few remarks. Lincoln’s statement only lasted about two minutes but lives on in history as one of the most important speeches made in the United States.

Lincoln Did Not Make the Keynote Speech As previously noted, Lincoln’s speech was intended as an epilogue for the ceremony. The keynote speaker was Edward Everett—a renowned orator who served as the president of Harvard, ambassador to Britain, a U.S. senator, and the governor of Massachusetts during his life. He spoke for nearly two hours. Everett realized that he had been upstaged. He later wrote Lincoln, saying, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”


No Photo Was Taken of Lincoln Addressing The Crowd Although a photo of Lincoln moving through the crowd exists, photographers did not capture his photo while he was speaking. This is because what became known as the Gettysburg Address was only about two minutes long. The amount of time photographers of the day needed to set up their cameras took longer than the speech itself.  It is estimated that the only photo that captured Lincoln at the event was taken about three hours before Lincoln delivered his famous address. 

Lincoln Had No Idea How Historic His Speech Would Be Historically speaking, Lincoln got a lot of things right. However, he misjudged how his speech at Gettysburg would be remembered. During his 270-word address, he said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” He was only half right.

Lincoln Wrote Every Word of The Gettysburg Address While subsequent presidents have all enjoyed significant assistance from speechwriters in crafting their messages, President Lincoln took a more hands-on approach and is one of the few presidents in U.S. history to have written the entirety of his speeches and remarks.