The Fight For Tennessee: July 1863 to January 1864
Where did Lincoln the orator go from there?
“But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget that they died here.”
Here Lincoln stepped beyond even his earlier magnificent prose. Up to this point, what he said could have been anticipated, or even employed, by some other orator. But when he invoked the presence of those “who struggled here,” Lincoln did not sound like the commander-in-chief or the leading war strategist. He sounded like the father of a nation, and there was a Biblical feeling that he included the Confederate dead among those who were to be honored. Only someone who anguished over the war, who saw all the telegrams and the casualty lists, could have composed these words, and the only other person who was in that situation was Jefferson Davis. It is no slight to Davis to say that he never rose to this level of image-making prose; very few people ever have.