Eight score years ago this weekend, on November 19th, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered what we now call the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Once upon a time nearly all American school students could recite it. If your homescholars can’t yet, perhaps learning it would be a worthy goal this month:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on 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 whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
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 what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
This six-minute segment from Ken Burns’ famous documentary The Civil War (1990) will fill in some of the historical background for your students (including uncensored images of the battlefield), to help them understand the context of the address a little better.
And if you want to expand into an educational reflection on the passage of time, from four score and seven to eight score — the Civil War is almost twice as remote from us today as the Revolution was from Lincoln — you can add the picture below of the Gettysburg fields and read Carl Sandburg’s famous poem of remembering and forgetting, “Grass” (1918).
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work —
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.
You can learn more about the history of the Gettysburg Address at a special online exhibition prepared by the Library of Congress. The text of the Address is available in your River Houses almanac, and an illustrated outline of Abraham Lincoln’s life and work is available on pages 316–317 in your history encyclopedia. Your atlas will point you to the location of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
What historical anniversaries are you and your students marking in your homeschool this Cygnus Term?
❡ Explore more: The Gettysburg cemetery and battlefield today are part of Gettysburg National Military Park, a unit of the National Park System that you and your students can visit on your homeschool travels around the country. 🕊
❡ Let us now praise famous men: Classical homeschoolers may recognize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, like Pericles’ Funeral Oration and Ronald Reagan’s Challenger Address, as an example of epideictic oratory. 🏛
❡ Here, said the year: This is one of our regular posts about Homeschool Holidays & History. Add your name to our weekly River Houses mailing list to get more great homeschool history lessons delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 📫
❡ Homeschool calendars: We have a whole collection of free, printable, educational homeschool calendars and planners available on our main River Houses calendar page. They will all help you create a light and easy structure for your homeschool year. Give them a try today! 🗓
❡ Support our work: If you enjoy our educational materials, please support us by starting your regular Amazon shopping from our very own homeschool teaching supplies page. When you click through from our page, any purchase you make earns us a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping us to keep going and growing! 🛒
❡ Join us! The aim of the River Houses project is to create a network of friendly local homeschool support groups — local chapters that we call “Houses.” Our first at-large chapter, Headwaters House, is now forming and is open to homeschoolers everywhere. Find out how to become one of our founding members on the Headwaters House membership page. 🏡