In the News: Our Great National Cemetery at Gettysburg

The Christian Recorder was first published in 1854 under the editorship of the Rev. J.P. Campbell. This early edition was short-lived, however, and in 1861, under the editorship of Elisha Weaver, a new series began. The Recorder was introduced into the South by distribution among the negro regiments in the Union army. This newspaper published secular as well as religious material, and included good coverage of the black regiments together with the major incidents of the Civil War.

The Christian Recorder is complete from 1861 through December 1902; excluding 1892 and can be found in our African American Newspapers Collection.

This was their coverage of the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.

Our Great National Cemetery. – Its Dedication and Consecration. – Interesting Ceremonials. – The Address of President Lincoln

Gettysburg , Nov. 19th.

To-day was a great day in the history of Pennsylvania. Her great battlefield, the battle-ground of the present civil war, the field of national, decisive victory, was dedicated, with appropriate ceremonies, as the Cemetery of the Union. We give the following account of the consecration and the ceremonies of the day:

THE WEATHER

A lovely day, with an unclouded sky, dawned in Gettysburg this morning, giving assurance that the weather would be propitious for the grand celebration of the dedication of the National Cemetery at this town.

THE CROWD

Early in the day the streets were swarmed with people from all sections of the Union. Every available spot was occupied.

THE DEDICATION

The ceremonies attending the dedication of the National Cemetery commenced this morning, by a grand military and civic display under the command of Major-General Couch. The line of parade was taken up at ten o’clock, and proceeded through the principal streets to the Cemetery, where the military formed in line and saluted the President. At a quarter past eleven o’clock, the head of the procession arrived at the main stand.

The President and members of the Cabinet, together with the chief military and civil dignitaries, took their positions on the stand, the President being seated between Messrs. Seward and Everett, after a reception marked with respect and perfect silence due to the solemnity of the occasion, every man among the immense gathering uncovering on his appearance. Chief Marshal Lamon then introduced ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States.

Making his appearance before the assembled multitude, the President was greeted with most enthusiastic cheering. After order had been restored he spoke as follows:

PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S SPEECH

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing the question whether this nation or any nation so conceived, so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on the great battlefield of that war. We are met to dedicate it, on a position of the field set apart as the final resting-place of those who gave their lives for the nation’s life; but the nation must live, and it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

In a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground in reality. The number of men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor attempts to add to its consecration. The world will little know and nothing remember of what we see here, but we cannot forget what these brave men did here.

We owe this offering to our dead. We imbibe increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; we here might resolve that they shall not have died in vain; that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the Government of the people, for the people, and for all people, shall not perish from earth.

Mr. Lincoln sat down amid a scene of wild and lengthened excitement.

THE PRAYER

After the favored ones were provided with seats on the stand, the Rev. Dr. Stockton, Chaplain of the House of Representatives, was introduced, and offered a prayer to the throne of grace. The prayer of Dr. Stockton was delivered in the most impressive manner, and was listened to with breathless attention.

Oh God, our Father, for the sake of thy Son, our Saviour, inspire us with Thy Spirit and sanctify us to the right fulfillment of the duties of this occasion. We come to dedicate this new historic centre as a National Cemetery.

If all departments of the one Government which Thou hast ordained over one Union and of the many Governments which Thou hast subordinated to the Union represented; if all classes, relations and interests of our blended brotherhood of people stand severally and thoroughly apparent in Thy presence, we trust it is because Thou hast called us, that Thy blessing awaits us, and that Thy designs may be embodied in practical results of the incalculable and imperishable good. And so with Thy holy Apostle and with the Church of all lands and ages, we unite in the inscription “Blessed be God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

In emulation of all angels, in fellowship with all saints, and in sympathy with all sufferers, in remembrance of Thy works, in reverence of Thy ways and in accordance with Thy word, we love and magnify Thine infinite perfections, Thy creative glory, Thy redeeming grace, Thy Providential goodness and the progressive, richer and fairer development of Thy supreme, universal and everlasting administration.

In behalf of all humanity, whose ideal is divine, whose first memory is Thy image lost, and whose last hope is thy image restored, and especially in behalf of our own nation, whose history has been so favorable, whose position is so peerless, whose mission is so sublime, and whose future is so attractive, we thank Thee for the unspeakable patience of Thy compassion, and for the exceeding greatness of thy loving kindness.

In contemplation of Eden, Calvary and heaven, of Christ in the God, on the cross and on the throne; nay, more, of Christ as coming again in all subduing power and glory, we gratefully prolong our homage by this altar of sacrifice, on this field of deliverance, on this mount of salvation, within the fiery and bloody line of these munitions of rocks, looking back to the dark days of fear and trembling, and to the rapture of relief that came after. We multiply our thanksgivings and confess our obligations to renew and perfect our personal and social consecration to Thy service and glory.

Oh! had it not been for God! for lo! Our enemies, they came unresisted, multitudinous, mighty, flushed with victory and sure of success. They exalted on our mountains, they revelled in our valleys, they feasted, they rested, they slept, they awaked, they grew stronger, prouder and bolder every day; they spread abroad, they concentrated here, they looked beyond this horizon to the stores of wealth, to the haunts of pleasure and to the seats of power in our capital and chief cities; they prepared to cast the chain of slavery around the form of freedom and to bind life and death together forever.

Their premature triumphs was the mockery of God and man. One more victory and all was theirs, but behind these hills was heard the feebler march of a smaller but still pursuing host. Onward they hurried day and night, for their country and their God; foot-sore, way-worn, hungry, thirsty and faint – but not in heart – they came to dare all, to bear all, and to do all that is possible to heroes. At first, they met the blast on the plain, and bent before it like the trees; but the, led by Thy hand to these hills, they took their stand on these rocks, and remained as firm and immovable as thee.

In vain were they assaulted, all act, all violence, all desperation failed to dislodge them. Ruffled, bruised and broken, their enemies retired and disappeared. Glory to God for this rescue; but oh the slain in the freshness and fulness of their young and manly life, with such sweet memories of fathers and mothers, brother and sister, wife and children, maiden and friends; from the coasts beneath the eastern star, from the shores of the northern lakes and rivers, from the homes of the midway and the border, they came here to die for us and for mankind. Alas! how little we can do for them.

We come with humility of prayer, with the pathetic eloquence of venerable wisdom, with the tender beauty of poetry, with the plaintive harmony of muses, with the honest tribute of our Chief Magistrate, and with all this honorable attendance, but our best hope is in Thy blessing. Oh, Lord our God, bless us! Oh! our Father bless the bereaved, whether absent or present.

Bless our sick and wounded soldiers and sailors. Bless all our rulers and people. Bless our army and navy. Bless the efforts to suppress the Rebellion, and bless all the associations of this day, and the place and scene forever.

As the trees are not dead though their foliage is gone, so our heroes are not dead though their forms have fallen, in their proper personality they are all with Thee and the spirit of their example is here.

It fills the air, it fills our hearts, and as long as time shall last it will hover on these skies and rest on this landscape; and the pilgrims of our own land, and of all lands, will thrill with its inspiration, and confirm their devotion to Liberty, Religion and God.

Mr. Everett then commenced the delivery of his oration, which was listened to with marked attention throughout. The vast assemblage gathered within a circle of great extent around the stand were so quiet and attentive, that every word uttered by the orator of the day must have been heard by them all. Numerous flags and banners, suitably draped, were exhibited on the stand among the audience. The entire scene was one of a grandeur due to the importance of the occasion.

Source

Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: The Christian Recorder
Date: November 28, 1863
Title: Our Great National Cemetery. – Its Dedication and Consecratation
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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