From July 1 to July 3, 1863, Union and Confederate armies engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Considered the turning point in the American Civil War, it also was the war's bloodiest battle with nearly 10,000 dead and more than 25,000 wounded.
Four and a half months after Union armies defeated Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's forces, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history.
Lincoln drew inspiration from the Declaration of Independence when he penned his famous speech, delivered Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery. The cemetery was established on a central part of the Gettysburg battlefield. In his speech, Lincoln honored the sacrifices of those who gave their lives there and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union.
Focusing on the Declaration's hallowed words, "all men are created equal," Lincoln equated the catastrophic suffering caused by the Civil War with the efforts of the American people to live up to such an ideal.
Before Lincoln spoke, prominent orator Edward Everett spoke to the crowd for two hours. The next day Everett wrote to Lincoln, "Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity and appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."