How the Gettysburg Address Worked

Reaction to the Gettysburg Address

abraham lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, engraved from a photograph by William G. Jackman
After Mathew Brady/Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images

There is some debate about the immediate public reaction to the Gettysburg Address. Some newspapers panned it, others loved it. According to some accounts, the crowd gathered for the dedication didn't think it was a very good speech for the occasion — and neither did Lincoln himself. Historian Shelby Foote says that Lincoln lamented that the speech was "a flat failure and the people are disappointed" [source: Foote]. Wills disputes this account, saying that the claim Lincoln was disappointed with the speech "has no basis" [source: Wills].

Shortly after Lincoln's assassination, he was often martyred in the press, so these references to the Gettysburg Address cannot necessarily be taken as absolute fact. The New York Times does refer to the speech as "the late President Lincoln's celebrated Gettysburg Address" in a May 3, 1868, article [source: New York Times].


­Today, it is generally accepted that the Gettysburg Address is an important document that provides an interpretation of the Declaration of Independence that we still refer to today. Not only has it changed our views on government, but it has influenced Americans' goal for equality and a government that "shall not perish from the earth."

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More Great Links


  • ­Abbott, Philip. "Political Thought in America." Waveland Press, Inc. 1991.
  • "Everett, Edward." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 23 Jan. 2008.
  • Ferguson, Andrew. "Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America." Grove/Atlantic, Inc. 2007.
  • ­Foote, Shelby. "The Civil War: A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian." Random House. 1963.
  • The Gettysburg Address (Library of Congress Exhibition).
  • "The Gettysburg Oration." The New York Times. 2 July 1869.
  • ­"Great Army of the Republic." The New York Times. 30 May 1868.
  • Katula, Richard A. "The Gettysburg Address as the Centerpiece of American Racial Discourse." The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. No. 28. Summer 2000.
  • McPherson, James M. "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era." Ballantine Books, 1988.
  • National Park Service.
  • Wills, Garry. "Lincoln at Gettysburg." Simon & Schuster Inc. 1992.