Book Review: Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address


by Bradley M. Gottfried and Linda I. Gottfried

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2021. Pp. xii, 182. Illus., maps, appends., index. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 1611215595

Lincoln at Gettysburg

There have been many books written on Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg and his famous address there, but few tie the battle of Gettysburg and the deaths and burial of over 8,000 soldiers, with the creation of the Soldiers’ Cemetery and the President’s visit and speech. In Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg, Bradley Gottfried, the author of many books on the Civil War and his wife, graphic designer and sculptor Linda Gottfried, describe the proceedings concerning the establishment and dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, concentrating on Lincoln’s travels and two-day visit to Gettysburg on November 18-19, 1863. The book uses text, anecdotes, and images to explain the founding of the cemetery, and the ceremony memorializing the significant actions of the Army of the Potomac and their consequences.

In the aftermath of the battle in July, Lincoln was invited to make a few remarks to help dedicate the new cemetery. He spoke briefly of the battle, the war, and the founding of the country with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but primarily of the soldiers who survived as well as those who died and the need to complete the task that they had begun, to restore the nation. His 272 words inspired the North to bring the war to an end, to preserve and extend the rule of the people. Even the primary orator, Edward Everett – who spoke for two hours -- was unable to summarize the issues as well as Lincoln in his brief address.

No famous speech is shorter than Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and none has been analyzed at greater length. Can anything still be said about the speech that has not already been said? The answer is yes. The Gottfrieds offer fresh and stimulating insights on the origins, meaning, impact, and continuing relevance of the Address.

Their account unfolds in thirteen short chapters, providing a blow-by-blow looks at the circumstances, need, planning for the cemetery, the leadership and competition between people such as David Wills and David McConaughy, who helped create the cemetery, the ceremony itself, and the writing, reaction, and legacy of the Gettysburg Address. They offer what is equally a sympathetic and nuanced story of the individual human beings who died in the battle and were buried at the cemetery. The Gottfrieds carefully intersperse the tale of the establishment of the cemetery and the dedication with first hand accounts of the experiences of individual soldiers and others, thus adding many often thoughtful details that for this writer brought to life this crucial moment in our country's history and made me think about it in a new way.

Three appendices – Lincoln’s activities at Gettysburg, the perception of the Address, and a tour of the cemetery – plus numerous maps and many illustration which enrich the Gottfried’s account.

Well written, hard to put down, and an excellent read. Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg is among the best volumes in Savas Beatie’s “Emerging Civil War Series” and is highly recommended.


Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. Some of his previous reviews include A Contest of Civilizations: Exposing the Crisis of American Exceptionalism in the Civil War Era, Unlike Anything That Ever Floated, Meade at Gettysburg, A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, Grant's Left Hook, The Winter that Won the War: The Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778, Gettysburg Rebels, The Siege of Vicksburg: Climax of the Campaign to Open the Mississippi River, From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865, Unsung Hero of Gettysburg: The Story of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg, The Man Who Punched Jefferson Davis: The Political Life of Henry S. Foote, Custer: From the Civil War’s Boy General to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War.


Note: Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg, a volume in the Savas Beatie "Emerging Civil War Series". is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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