November 2015: Abraham Lincoln
Funny how we honor our great 16th president Abraham Lincoln in the month of February for something he had very little to do with – being born. My favorite Lincoln month is actually November. Here’s why:
The Gettysburg Address
November 19, 1863
Lincoln delivered what is now recognized by many as the greatest American speech ever given—the Gettysburg Address. In 272 words, President Lincoln helped make sense of a devastating battle between the North and the South that had been fought four and a half months earlier. With his two minute speech, he helped steer America from despair to hope, insisting the tens of thousands of soldiers “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.”
Ironically, many who were among the 9,000 to 30,000 thousand attending didn’t get the importance of Lincoln’s words. In nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a reporter wrote that Lincoln’s “silly remarks …shall no more be repeated or thought of.” A Chicago newspaper referred to the president’s “silly flat and ‘dishwatery’ remarks.” In Maine, a newspaper gave more coverage to the story of a supposedly eight-foot tall woman who was roaming the woods of Maine than it gave to the Gettysburg Address.
Lincoln is reported to have later told his wife, Mary, the speech “fell like a wet blanket over the crowd.” Maybe that’s because he was sick. Evidently, he was coming down with what might have been a serious case of small pox. Whatever illness it was, he was wiped him out for the next three weeks. But, hey, when duty called, he was there.
Would you and I have heard greatness that day? It took more than twenty years before Lincoln’s speech was recognized as legendary.
The same month Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address, he made Thanksgiving a national holiday. It offered a breather for a war-wounded country that needed every possible reason to unite and give thanks.
By the way, it was another hero, Sarah Hale, who convinced Lincoln to reestablish Thanksgiving. The holiday had once been proclaimed by President George Washington as a “Day of thanksgiving and prayer.” Sadly, by the early 1860s, the tradition had all but disappeared in most areas of the United States.
What’s more, it was Sarah Hale who wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The popular nursery rhyme became the first words ever recorded on Thomas Edison’s first phonograph in 1877, 14 years after The Gettysburg Address.
On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States, and on November 8, 1864, he was re-elected President.
Finally, November was the Lincoln’s wedding month. After a three-year courtship, he married Mary Todd. She was 10 years younger and 14 inches shorter. The ring Abraham gave his bride was inscribed: “A.L. to Mary, Nov. 4, 1842. Love is Eternal”
Next month, I’ll discuss the importance of December for our first president, Mr. Washington.
To learn more about Abraham Lincoln: http://www.jonsprout.com/cms/my-hero-links/29-abraham-lincoln