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Writing the Gettysburg Address
     

Writing the Gettysburg Address

by Martin P. Johnson
 

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Four score and seven years ago . . . .

Are any six words better known, of greater import, or from a more crucial moment in our nation’s history? And yet after 150 years the dramatic and surprising story of how Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address has never been fully told. Until now.

Martin Johnson's remarkable work of historical and literary

Overview


Four score and seven years ago . . . .

Are any six words better known, of greater import, or from a more crucial moment in our nation’s history? And yet after 150 years the dramatic and surprising story of how Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address has never been fully told. Until now.

Martin Johnson's remarkable work of historical and literary detection illuminates a speech, a man, and a moment in history that we thought we knew. Johnson guides readers on Lincoln’s emotional and intellectual journey to the speaker’s platform, revealing that Lincoln himself experienced writing the Gettysburg Address as an eventful process that was filled with the possibility of failure, but which he knew resulted finally in success beyond expectation.

We listen as Lincoln talks with the cemetery designer about the ideals and aspirations behind the unprecedented cemetery project, look over Lincoln's shoulder as he rethinks and rewrites his speech on the very morning of the ceremony, and share his anxiety that he might not live up to the occasion. And then, at last, we stand with Lincoln at Gettysburg, when he created the words and image of an enduring and authentic legend.

Writing the Gettysburg Address resolves the puzzles and problems that have shrouded the composition of Lincoln's most admired speech in mystery for fifteen decades. Johnson shows when Lincoln first started his speech, reveals the state of the document Lincoln brought to Gettysburg, traces the origin of the false story that Lincoln wrote his speech on the train, identifies the manuscript Lincoln held while speaking, and presents a new method for deciding what Lincoln’s audience actually heard him say.

Ultimately, Johnson shows that the Gettysburg Address was a speech that grew and changed with each step of Lincoln's eventful journey to the podium. His two-minute speech made the battlefield and the cemetery into landmarks of the American imagination, but it was Lincoln’s own journey to Gettysburg that made the Gettysburg Address.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
01/01/2015
Johnson discards the myths surrounding Lincoln's drafting of the famous address by explaining that Lincoln thought deeply about the speech, recognizing that it had important political, military, and moral implications, especially in light of the new emancipation purpose of the war. (LJ 7/13)
From the Publisher

“So you thought you knew everything about Lincoln's most famous three minutes? Martin Johnson has opened new windows onto a canonical moment in history, and unleashed a fresh breeze of new research and sharp analysis. This is simply one of the best books ever written about the Gettysburg Address. It will be read and appreciated by Lincoln students for years to come.”—Harold Holzer, Chairman, Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation “With Sherlock Holmes-like ingenuity and sophistication, Johnson solves a number of mysteries surrounding the composition, delivery, and reception of the Gettysburg Address. His strikingly original conclusions rest on exhaustive research and subtle analysis. This book is a major contribution to the Lincoln literature, shedding bright light on the evolution of Lincoln’s thinking about the significance of the Civil War.”—:Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life “Through exhaustive research and detective work, Johnson provides a near hour-by-hour account of how Lincoln wrote and delivered the Gettysburg Address. The result is a masterful work of historical scholarship that erases many of the myths and mysteries that surround the speech and allows us to understand it in a new light.”—:Louis Masur, author of Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union

"Beautifully written and closely argued, this book grips the reader much like a detective novel and teaches us how little we know about a subject we thought we knew so well."—Library Journal, starred review

"A truly remarkable example of exhaustive scholarship whose findings will last generations."—Presidential Studies Quarterly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700619337
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
10/08/2013
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author


Martin P. Johnson is an assistant professor of history at Miami University and is the author of two books on European politics and several articles on Lincoln and the Civil War.

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