November 2023: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War: the Gettysburg Address

Wednesday, November 15, 2023, 11-12:30 EDT

Please join us for a one-day-only Virtual Reading Group to discuss Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War: the Gettysburg Address, with Vernon Burton.


Pre-registration is required, and we ask you to register only if you can be present for ALL sessions. Readings will be available for registered participants in the LF Portal.


Many of Lincoln’s speeches (and letters) articulate the concept of American freedom, and Lincoln’s vision continues to penetrate our culture today.  Among his most celebrated speeches is his Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.  He spoke a language of love, patriotism, and human liberty.  To the crowd of 20,000 listeners, and to us today, Lincoln invoked a new nation, “under God,” and dedicated to “a new birth of freedom.”  What would that new birth of freedom mean?

It was ten months earlier, on January 1, 1863, that Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation.  In a language not in the least poetical, he spoke in an attorney’s legalese, and the rule of law was one of the document’s bedrock principles.  But beyond any doubt this national contract broadened freedom, in some locales as a reality but in more areas as a goal.  The measure clarified a moral issue at play throughout the civil war; the war for the nation was now undeniably a war for freedom.  

We will discuss the history behind these documents and the meaning we ascribe to them today.


The Gettysburg Address 

Chapter 9, “The Gettysburg Address Revisited.” In 1863:  Lincoln’s Pivotal Year.  Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2013), pp. 137-55. (PDF provided)

Orville Vernon Burton, The Age of Lincoln (excerpts)  

Prologue:  3-9; pp. 114-115 and p. 217 (PDF provided)

Orville Vernon  Burton, ed.  The Essential Lincoln:  Speeches and Correspondence. Chapter 23, “ Letter to James C. Conkling on Emancipation,” August 26, 1863,  pp. 147-152 (PDF provided)