Of Lincoln’s short address at Gettysburg in late 1863, the president’s secretary John G. Nicolay said “it was revised [for later publication].” Ward Lamon, intimate friend of Lincoln and his US Marshal for the District of Columbia; Historian Shepherd of Baltimore; W.H. Cunningham of the Montgomery (Missouri) Star, who all sat immediately behind Lincoln at Gettysburg, agreed and publicly stated that the speech published was not the one delivered by Lincoln. In addition, both Edward Everett and Seward expressed disappointment and there was no applause for Lincoln. (See: Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: Two Presidents, C.E. Gilbert & Tom Hudson, Naylor Company, 1973)
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Silly Remarks and Stoney Silence at Gettysburg
“On November 19, 1863, the State of Pennsylvania decided to dedicate the cemetery at Gettysburg. They sent the President of the United States an invitation which went out to many other dignitaries as a matter of courtesy. Pennsylvania had already made arrangements for that dedication.
The address was to be delivered by the foremost orator of the day, Edward Everett, President of Harvard, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and former Ambassador to the Court of St. James. In his 70th year Mr. Everett was a handsome man and a brilliant figure on the platform. The authorities of Pennsylvania gave him two months in which to prepare his address.
Meanwhile the President . . . was looking at this printed circular and thought that maybe he should go, even if only to sit and bow his head for the men and boys from both sides who were buried there.
When the President notified the committee that he would like to come, they were upset. They knew that protocol demanded that the President speak at such a function, and they were worried lest he spoil the effect of Everett’s address. As politely as they knew how they notified the President that Mr. Everett was to make the major address and that he (the President) would be called upon to “say a few words.”
When Everett was introduced, he bowed low to the President, then stood in silence before a crowd of 15,000 people that stretched far out to the limits of the cemetery field. Mr. Everett began low: “Overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet . . .” He then gave an outline of the causes of the Civil War, and described the terrible three-day battle at Gettysburg. He spoke for one hour and 57 minutes, closing with a peroration from Pericles: “The whole earth is a sepulcher of illustrious men.”
Then came the President’s turn to speak. He fumbled for his steel-rimmed glasses, put his high stove-pipe hat on the floor beside his chair, and took out a wrinkled piece of paper . . .
On the way back to Washington he said that his speech was a flat failure. He had not expected to get the cheers that Everett had received, but he certainly expected a little more than the stony silence that had greeted his remarks.
The next few days came the newspaper stories of the event. The Patriot, a local paper at nearby Harrisburg said: “The President acted without sense . . . so let us pass over his silly remarks.” “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat utterances of the President.”
The correspondent for the London Times wrote: “Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to reproduce.”
(The Press Panned Lincoln, But . . ., Harry Golden, Democratic Digest, Clayton Fritchey, editor, Democratic National Committee, December 1953, (reprinted from the Carolina Israelite, Charlotte, NC) excerpts pp. 28-29)