The Gettysburg Address: Perspectives on Lincoln's Greatest Speech

Oxford University Press
Free sample

It is the most famous speech Lincoln ever gave, and one of the most important orations in the history of the nation. Delivered on November 19, 1863, among the freshly dug graves of the Union dead, the Gettysburg Address defined the central meaning of the Civil War and gave cause for the nation's incredible suffering. The poetic language and moral sentiment inspired listeners at the time, and have continued to resonate powerfully with groups and individuals up to the present day. What gives this speech its enduring significance? This collection of essays, from some of the best-known scholars in the field, answers that question. Placing the Address in complete historical and cultural context and approaching it from a number of fresh perspectives, the volume first identifies how Lincoln was influenced by great thinkers on his own path toward literary and oratory genius. Among others, Nicholas P. Cole draws parallels between the Address and classical texts of Antiquity, and Craig L. Symonds explores Daniel Webster's influence. The second half of the collection then examines the many ways in which the Gettysburg Address has been interpreted, perceived, and utilized in the past 150 years. Since 1863, African Americans, immigrants, women, gay rights activists, and international figures have invoked the speech's language and righteous sentiments on their respective paths toward freedom and equality. Essays include Louis P. Masur on the role the Address played in eventual emancipation; Jean H. Baker on the speech's importance to the women's rights movement; and Don H. Doyle on the Address's international legacy. Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg in a defining moment for America, but as the essays in this collection attest, his message is universal and timeless. This work brings together the foremost experts in the field to illuminate the many ways in which that message continues to endure.
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About the author

Sean Conant is an American filmmaker and the writer, director, and producer of the 2015 documentary film The Gettysburg Address. He lives on the New Hampshire seacoast.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 24, 2015
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780190227463
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / United States / 19th Century
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
History / United States / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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It was a year packed with unsettling events. The Panic of 1857 closed every bank in New York City, ruined thousands of businesses, and caused widespread unemployment among industrial workers. The Mormons in Utah Territory threatened rebellion when federal troops approached with a non-Mormon governor to replace Brigham Young. The Supreme Court outraged northern Republicans and abolitionists with the Dred Scott decision ("a breathtaking example of judicial activism"). And when a proslavery minority in Kansas Territory tried to foist a proslavery constitution on a large antislavery majority, President Buchanan reneged on a crucial commitment and supported the minority, a disastrous miscalculation which ultimately split the Democratic party in two. In America in 1857, eminent American historian Kenneth Stampp offers a sweeping narrative of this eventful year, covering all the major crises while providing readers with a vivid portrait of America at mid-century. Stampp gives us a fascinating account of the attempt by William Walker and his band of filibusters to conquer Nicaragua and make it a slave state, of crime and corruption, and of street riots by urban gangs such as New York's Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys and Baltimore's Plug Uglies and Blood Tubs. But the focus continually returns to Kansas. He examines the outrageous political frauds perpetrated by proslavery Kansans, Buchanan's calamitous response and Stephen Douglas's break with the President (a rare event in American politics, a major party leader repudiating the president he helped elect), and the whirl of congressional votes and dramatic debates that led to a settlement humiliating to Buchanan--and devastating to the Democrats. 1857 marked a turning point, at which sectional conflict spun out of control and the country moved rapidly toward the final violent resolution in the Civil War. Stampp's intensely focused look at this pivotal year illuminates the forces at work and the mood of the nation as it plummeted toward disaster.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Opinion section of The New York Times published Disunion, a series marking the long string of anniversaries around the Civil War, the most destructive, and most defining, conflict in American history. The works were startling in their range and direction, some taking on major topics, like the Gettysburg Address and the Battle of Fredericksburg, while others tackled subjects whose seemingly incidental quality yielded unexpected riches and new angles. Some come from the country's leading historians; others from those for whom the war figured in private ways, involving an ancestor or a letter found in a trunk. Disunion received wide acclaim for featuring some of the most original thinking about the Civil War in years. For millions of readers, Disunion came to define the Civil War sesquicentennial. Now the historian Ted Widmer, along with Clay Risen and George Kalogerakis of The New York Times, has curated a collection of these pieces, covering the entire history of the Civil War, from Lincoln's election to Appomattox and beyond. Moving chronologically and thematically across all four years of hostilities, this comprehensive and engrossing work examines secession, slavery, battles, and domestic and global politics. Here are previously unheard voices-of women, freed African Americans, and Native Americans-alongside those of Lincoln, Grant, and Lee, portrayed in human as well as historical scale. David Blight sheds light on how Frederick Douglass welcomed South Carolina's secession-an event he knew would catapult the abolitionist movement into the spotlight; Elizabeth R. Varon explores how both North and South clamored to assert that the nation's "ladies," symbolic of moral purity, had sided with them; Harold Holzer deciphers Lincoln's official silence between his election to the presidency and his inauguration-what his supporters named "masterful inactivity"-and the effects it had on the splintering country. More than any single volume ever published, Disunion reveals the full spectrum of America's bloodiest conflict and illuminates its living legacies.
After the Civil War, someone asked General Pickett why the Battle of Gettysburg had been lost: Was it Lee's error in taking the offensive, the tardiness of Ewell and Early, or Longstreet's hesitation in attacking? Pickett scratched his head and replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it." This simple fact, writes James McPherson, has escaped a generation of historians who have looked to faulty morale, population, economics, and dissent as the causes of Confederate failure. These were all factors, he writes, but the Civil War was still a war--won by the Union army through key victories at key moments. With this brilliant review of how historians have explained the Southern defeat, McPherson opens a fascinating account by several leading historians of how the Union broke the Confederate rebellion. In every chapter, the military struggle takes center stage, as the authors reveal how battlefield decisions shaped the very forces that many scholars (putting the cart before the horse) claim determined the outcome of the war. Archer Jones examines the strategy of the two sides, showing how each had to match its military planning to political necessity. Lee raided north of the Potomac with one eye on European recognition and the other on Northern public opinion--but his inevitable retreats looked like failure to the Southern public. The North, however, developed a strategy of deep raids that was extremely effective because it served a valuable political as well as military purpose, shattering Southern morale by tearing up the interior. Gary Gallagher takes a hard look at the role of generals, narrowing his focus to the crucial triumvirate of Lee, Grant, and Sherman, who towered above the others. Lee's aggressiveness may have been costly, but he well knew the political impact of his spectacular victories; Grant and Sherman, meanwhile, were the first Union generals to fully harness Northern resources and carry out coordinated campaigns. Reid Mitchell shows how the Union's advantage in numbers was enhanced by a dedication and perseverance of federal troops that was not matched by the Confederates after their home front began to collapse. And Joseph Glatthaar examines black troops, whose role is entering the realm of national myth. In 1960, there appeared a collection of essays by major historians, entitled Why the North Won the Civil War, edited by David Donald; it is now in its twenty-sixth printing, having sold well over 100,000 copies. Why the Confederacy Lost provides a parallel volume, written by today's leading authorities. Provocatively argued and engagingly written, this work reminds us that the hard-won triumph of the North was far from inevitable.
Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.
In The Devil in the White City, the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

To find out more about this book, go to http://www.DevilInTheWhiteCity.com.
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