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The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

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Jared Peatman


Hardcover (Other formats: Paperback)
264 pages, 6 x 9, 16 illustrations


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About the Book

When Abraham Lincoln addressed the crowd at the new national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863, he intended his speech to be his most eloquent statement on the inextricable link between equality and democracy. However, unwilling to commit to equality at that time, the nation stood ill-prepared to accept the full message of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In the ensuing century, groups wishing to advance a particular position hijacked Lincoln’s words for their own ends, highlighting the specific parts of the speech that echoed their stance while ignoring the rest. Only as the nation slowly moved toward equality did those invoking Lincoln’s speech come closer to recovering his true purpose. In this incisive work, Jared Peatman seeks to understand Lincoln’s intentions at Gettysburg and how his words were received, invoked, and interpreted over time, providing a timely and insightful analysis of one of America’s most legendary orations.

After reviewing the events leading up to November 19, 1863, Peatman examines immediate responses to the ceremony in New York, Gettysburg itself, Confederate Richmond, and London, showing how parochial concerns and political affiliations shaped initial coverage of the day and led to the censoring of Lincoln’s words in some locales.  He then traces how, over time, proponents of certain ideals invoked the particular parts of the address that suited their message, from reunification early in the twentieth century to American democracy and patriotism during the world wars and, finally, to Lincoln’s full intended message of equality during the Civil War centennial commemorations and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Peatman also explores foreign invocations of the Gettysburg Address and its influence on both the Chinese constitution of 1912 and the current French constitution. An epilogue highlights recent and even current applications of the Gettysburg Address and hints at ways the speech might be used in the future.

By tracing the evolution of Lincoln’s brief words at a cemetery dedication into a revered document essential to American national identity, this revealing work provides fresh insight into the enduring legacy of Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address on American history and culture.


Jared Peatman is a leadership development consultant and the director of curriculum for the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg.


“Its words are magnificent in their brevity and their meaning. Yet, until the appearance of Jared Peatman’s book, no one had shown as clearly as he does the long-term effect of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on friend and foe alike. Must reading for all Americans.”—John F. Marszalek, executive director and managing editor, Ulysses S. Grant Association

“After 150 years Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg still live with meaning. Any time Americans face crisis and sacrifice, that immortal few minutes’ talk reappears to comfort and inspire. Jared Peatman’s wonderfully researched and ably presented book is the first in more than a generation to examine thoroughly the events of November 19, 1863, the public response to the address, and what it has meant to the world ever since. The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address goes a long way toward explaining why we cannot escape its power, and why we wouldn’t escape it if we could. Like Lincoln, it belongs to the ages.”—William C. Davis, director, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Virginia Tech

“Who owns the immortal words that Abraham Lincoln delivered at the soldiers’ cemetery overlooking Gettysburg? This question animates Jared Peatman’s immensely important The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. From the moment the president stepped away from the speaker’s platform on November 19, 1863, his ‘brief remarks’ unleashed fierce disagreements throughout the country. This contentious debate, as the author argues, quickly turned into a global conversation about issues of human freedom and the meaning of citizenship that continues to this day. Peatman’s powerful book reminds us that for every student who memorizes the Gettysburg Address, he or she will likely reach very different conclusions as to what Lincoln meant by a ‘new birth of freedom.’”—Peter S. Carmichael, Fluhrer Professor of History and director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College

"The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is an excellent and welcome addition to public and college library American History shelves."The Midwest Book Review

"Jared Peatman . . . explore[s] anew Abraham Lincoln's most famous speech and its . . . legacies, the most important of which . . . was Lincoln's emphasis on equality. . . . Peatman is concerned with what the address meant (both for Americans and for people overseas) in the years 1901-1922, during World War II, and in the Cold War. [The book] demonstrate[s] how arguments about the Gettysburg Address and its egalitarian ideals remain with us." The Journal of Southern History

"In Jared Peatman’s The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the author provides a fascinating account of how Lincoln’s most famous speech has been remembered, forgotten, and remembered again during key moments of America’s history since 1863...Peatman, the director of curriculum for the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, has produced a highly readable account of the speech’s place in American and international discourse."-Tom Pace, John Carrol University 

"Peatman’s book offers a refreshing view of the historical trajectory of the Gettysburg Address from a quiet, short speech at a cemetery dedication into a quintessential document of American identity. Arguing that the speech did not become a revered historical document for Americans until after World War II, Peatman rejects Gary Wills’s interpretation that Lincoln’s speech remade America in the 1860s, and he tempers Gabor Borritt’s assertion that the document became important in America following the end of Reconstruction."--Stacy Pratt McDermott, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

Peatman (Lincoln Leadership Institute, Gettysburg) intelligently traces the reception accorded the address delivered on November 19, 1863, regarding that summer’s butchery on the battlefield. Initially many commentators—not only in the south—ignored or dismissed Abraham Lincoln’s oration. Most failed to acknowledge the centrality of equality that opened the Gettysburg Address, as well as the subsequent pronouncement that the US awaited “a new birth of freedom.” Failing to underscore Lincoln’s exhortation for an enlargement of democracy and an ushering in of equality, some writers dismissed the president as ignorant, coarse, or fearful altogether. Two to three generations later, Lincoln’s speech began garnering more acclaim, with greater recognition that the president had been committed to both equality and democracy. Most, however, emphasized Lincoln’s lyricism or championing of democratic practices, while Southern textbooks skipped over the speech entirely. WWI resulted in greater attention being accorded Lincoln’s own words, helping lead to the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, which contained the Kennedy era that its egalitarian aspects were frequently highlighted. Summing up: Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries—R.C. Cottrell, California State University, Chico