GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Movie director Steven Spielberg came to this famous Civil War town today to honor the 149th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address.
Mr. Spielberg's appearance coincided with the release of his new movie, simply called "Lincoln," which focuses on the president's final months in office in late 1864 and early 1865, when, after a difficult political struggle, he persuaded Congress to approve the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the abolition of slavery.
"I wanted to bring Abe Lincoln back from his sleep of one and a half centuries, if only for 2 1/2 hours," he told a crowd of nearly 10,000 people at the Soldiers National Cemetery, where thousands of Northern troops killed at Gettysburg are buried.
"This is sacred ground; great events occurred here," said one visitor, Ralph Siegel of Trenton, N.J.
"There is something special here, there is a lot of history,'' said Gene Zeglen, who, with his wife Donna, have come here each Nov. 19 for 40 years.
The soldiers cemetery was built from August to November 1863, following the July 1-3 battle, in which 51,000 troops, Union and Confederate, were killed or wounded. Local lawyer David Wills, who assembled the land for the cemetery, asked Lincoln to make "a few appropriate remarks" about the fallen soldiers, which turned into the Gettysburg Address.
Officials said a famous orator of the time, Edward Everett, was the main speaker on Nov. 19, 1863, and he went on for two hours "but no one remembers what he said," said Charles Kuhn, president of the Lincoln Fellowship, which has held Dedication Day here every Nov. 19 since 1938. "Everyone remembers what Mr. Lincoln said in his two minutes."
Mr. Spielberg, maker of such famous films as "E.T.," "Jaws," the Indiana Jones movies and "Saving Private Ryan," said he feels "a huge debt of gratitude" to Lincoln for his courage in office and effort to keep the nation together.
Tom Barnes: email@example.com.