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Lincoln at Gettysburg

Lincoln at Gettysburg

The Words that Remade America

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The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom" in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece.

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743299633 | 
  • November 2006
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Oratory of the Greek Revival

James Hurt says that Lincoln used "the ordinary coin of funeral oratory" at Gettysburg. Insofar as there was a standard coinage of funeral tribute, Pericles struck the master coin 2,394 years before Lincoln spoke. At the end of the first year of Athens' war with Sparta, Pericles gave a speech over the ashes of the Athenians who had fallen in that year. Thucydides put a version of that speech in his history of the Peloponnesian War, and it became the most famous oration of its kind, a model endlessly copied, praised, and cited -- especially in the early nineteenth century, during... see more

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