The Gettysburg Gospel

  • by Gabor Boritt
  • Narrated by Michael Kramer
  • 9 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The literature of the Gettysburg Address tends to fall into one of two extremes. At one end are those books that maintain that Lincoln wrote his speech hastily, even on a scrap of paper on the train en route from Washington to Gettysburg. In this version, Lincoln delivered his remarks to an uncomprehending public, which applauded politely, failing to appreciate his genius. Many of the books that argued this point of view are out of print today, but the myths and legends live on. At the other end of the spectrum are those books that argue that Lincoln's remarks were written with great care and that they altered the course of the Civil War, even of the country. This point of view exalts the Gettysburg Address at the expense of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been made public 11 months earlier.
Gabor Boritt, a Lincoln and Civil War scholar who teaches at Gettysburg College and lives in an old farmhouse adjacent to the battlefield, says that Lincoln's remarks were written rapidly, though not at the last minute, and they received attention, though not nearly so much attention as the lengthy remarks of the featured speaker, Edward Everett. But Lincoln's address was largely forgotten for decades afterward. It had no effect on the Civil War, and played no role in American history until the 20th century.
Boritt's narrative covers the events of the day, November 19, 1863, as well as the events preceding and following the dedication of the soldiers' cemetery, which was the occasion for Lincoln's remarks. He also describes the conditions in Gettysburg in the aftermath of the battle: the stench of rotting corpses of horses and mules filling the air, wounded soldiers occupying hospitals and houses everywhere, and damage to roads and houses that was still being repaired when the cemetery was dedicated.

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What the Critics Say

"[An] engrossing study....This elegant account will delight readers." (Publishers Weekly)
"Boritt's account has a freshness appealing in such an exhaustively examined subject." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

add this to your Lincoln bookshelf

Boritt's "Gettysburg Gospel" is a valuable addition to anyone's Civil War or Lincoln bookshelf. Boritt successfully differentiates his work from the thousands, no tens of thousands of others in this genre by focusing on the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, what the participants & observers in the post-battle period did & thought, where the famous dedication ceremony fits, in its time, in the next 20 years &, eventually, in the next 150 years. How Edward Everett's keynote was viewed at the time, and later. How the legend of Lincoln's words was built & continuously reinterpreted in subsequent eras. Boritt is an excellent word painter -- the book is narrative & analytical history, but he pulls the reader (listener) into the story so you hardly notice the minutes ticking by. Boritt's work may not be the very best one on the roots of Lincoln's speech, but it does a good job nonetheless, without bogging the reader down in philosophical & theological discussion.

The final section of the book, a textual analysis of materials from the dedication day, is probably best read in the book itself, or read & listened to simultaneously. This only represents the last 10% - 15% of the audiobook.
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- D. Littman "history buff"

Excellent

This is an extensively researched and concisely written book. Boritt goes back to countless original sources. He debunks many popular myths about the speech. More important though, he places the Gettysburg Address in its time and place and brings the speech alive.

Boritt also reviews the reactions to the speech, both contemporaneous and over the succeeding century and a half, as well as the uses to which the Address has been, and is still being put.

He also includes Edward Everett's speech at the cemetery dedication, which was quite good in its own right. Without his fuller exposition, the beauty, simplicity and directness of Lincoln's address would not have been possible.
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- Roger

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-19-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio