The Gettysburg Address, which Abraham Lincoln delivered on Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of a national cemetery at the Gettysburg battlefield – the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War – is recognized as a literary masterpiece and one of the most important speeches in American history.
In three brief paragraphs, the president proclaimed the principles upon which the nation was founded, honored the men who had given “the last full measure of devotion” in its defense, and challenged all citizens to a renewed commitment to freedom and democracy.
The Library of Congress will display the John Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address for six weeks, starting today through May 4, in its “Civil War in America” exhibition, located in the Thomas Jefferson Building. The Library also will extend the exhibition from its original closing date of June 1, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014.
The John Hay copy of the address is one of five known manuscript drafts and is considered the second draft, made by Lincoln shortly after his return to Washington from Gettysburg. Lincoln gave the copy to Hay, one of his two secretaries. Hay’s descendants donated the copy to the Library of Congress in 1916.
The Library also holds the earliest known of the five drafts – known as the Nicolay Copy – of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s other secretary was John Nicolay, whom this copy was entrusted to.