Analysis of the Gettysburg Address

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In the early days of the United States, loyalty to one’s state often took precedence over loyalty to one’s country. The Union was considered a “voluntary compact entered into by independent, sovereign states” for as long as it served their purpose to be so joined (Encarta). Neither the North nor South had any strong sense permanence of the Union. As patterns of living diverged between North and South, their political ideas also developed marked differences. The North needed a central government to build an infrastructure of roads and railways, protect its complex trading and financial interests and control the national currency. The South depended much less on industrialization and federal government than other regions did and therefore felt no need to strengthen it. In addition, Southern patriots feared that a strong central government might interfere with slavery. One of the largest disputes between North and South was over tariffs, or taxes placed on imported goods and increased the price of manufactured articles. Due to its resistance of industrialization, the South had to import almost all manufactured goods, making them strictly opposed to high tariffs. The North on the other hand, demanded them to protect its own products from cheap foreign competition. Contrasting social, economic and political points of view such as these gradually drove the two sections farther and farther apart. Each tried to impose its own interests on the country as a whole. Although compromises had kept the Union together for many years, in 1860 the situation was explosive. Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president, which was viewed by the South as a grave threat to slavery and therefore a threat to the entire way of life. The only feasible course of action then was secession and war. So in 1861 seven states including South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, initially seceded from the Union. Not long after Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas joined them. These states made up the Confederacy. This was the beginning of the bloodiest war ever to be fought on U.S. soil. The American Civil War. For over two years, control seemed to shift back and forth between the North and South, neither ever having clear dominance over the other. The war appeared headed towards stalemate until July 1, 1863 and the 3 day Battle of Gettysburg. This battle was considered, “by most military historians to be the single most decisive turning point in the Civil War” (Encarta). In an effort gain foreign recognition, lessen pressure on confederate forces at Vicksburg, obtain much needed food and clothing, and “increase Northern war-weariness, General Robert E. Lee boldly lead his troops into northern territory” namely, Gettysburg (World Book 485). Here Lee encountered Union troops lead by General George G. Meade and battle commenced. In a decisive Union victory (mostly due to their occupation of Cemetery Hill) the battle ended on July 4, 1863. However both sides suffered heavy casualties totaling nearly 50,000 which were split almost equally between North and South. This horrific battle gave the divided states some common ground. The extensive loss of life was, no matter Confederate or Union, was all American and the pain of it shared by each and every living American. It began to open their eyes to a much larger mutual goal, resolution. Soon after the battle, “Pennsylvania governor Andrew Curtain had charged [David] Wills, a successful local citizen and Judge, with cleaning up the horrible aftermath of the battle” (LOC). Wills acquired seventeen acres of the battlefield for purposes of establishing a national cemetery for the soldiers who gave their lives at Gettysburg. He then invited venerable Edward Everett, the nations foremost rhetorician, to give an oration at the dedication ceremony. Wills also asked President Lincoln to speak extending him as well as Everett an invitation to stay in his home while in...
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