The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows

Gabor Boritt, Author . Simon & Schuster $28 (415p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8820-0

In this engrossing study, Civil War scholar Boritt (editor of The Lincoln Enigma ) offers a revealing history of that most famous piece of American oratory, the Gettysburg Address. Boritt opens with an evocative description of a stench-filled, corpse-strewn Gettysburg on July 4, 1863, after the battle. When Lincoln arrived a few months later to dedicate the national cemetery, he had an important task: "to explain to the people," writes Borritt, in plain, powerful prose, "why the bloodletting must go on." After vividly recreating the delivery of the address, Boritt discusses the speech's mixed reception. Republican newspapers praised it; Democrats, viewing it as the beginning of Lincoln's re-election campaign, belittled or tried to ignore it; one Democratic newspaper called the speech a "mawkish harangue." Just as bad, Lincoln's graceful oratory was garbled in transmission to newspapers. Most interesting is Boritt's recounting of how, after Lincoln's assassination, the speech was mostly forgotten until the 1880s, when Gettysburg increasingly became a symbol of a reunion between North and South, and the Gettysburg Address took on the sheen of America's "sacred scriptures." Lincoln's poetic language, says Boritt, helps the speech live on, and the message of "sacrificial redemption" still speaks to Americans today. This elegant account will delight readers who enjoyed Garry Wills's Lincoln at Gettysburg . (Lengthy appendixes parsing drafts of the speech, however, will interest mainly aficionados.) 16 pages of b&w illus., and b&w illus. throughout. (Nov. 19)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4001-0351-5
Paperback - 415 pages - 978-0-7432-8821-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-4001-5351-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-60514-671-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-4001-3351-2
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-7432-9847-6
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