Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address
President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history. His brief, yet powerful, Gettysburg Address described the United States as being at a pivotal crossroads. The United States, Lincoln said, would either fall apart or continue on as a stronger and more truly free nation.
In the mid-1800s, the northern states, which did not allow slavery, and the southern states, which did, were headed to a crisis over whether the national government should be allowed to prohibit slavery in territories. Territories were part of the United States, but not yet states.
By the time Lincoln was elected president in November of 1860, the United States was in danger of breaking apart. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Many southern states soon followed and formed the Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861. Two years later, the country was in the middle of the American Civil War. The war claimed approximately 620,000 lives, which was two percent of the American population at the time.
President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863, at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle, which occurred in early July of that year, resulted in approximately 51,000 casualties.
Lincoln was the second to speak at a dedication ceremony for a cemetery for the soldiers killed in the battle. Edward Everett, a well-known American orator and former vice-presidential candidate, spoke first, for approximately two hours. President Lincoln followed him with less than 300 words. In his speech, Lincoln stressed the importance of honoring the human sacrifices that had been made. He declared, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.”
The Civil War continued until the spring of 1865 when the North won the war. Throughout 1864 and 1865, President Lincoln worked with the Senate and the House to pass the 13th Amendment, which declared that slavery and involuntary servitude were no longer allowed in the United States and gave Congress the power to enforce this law. The Senate passed the amendment in April of 1864, and the House approved it in January of 1865, but the states’ ratification process was not over at the time of Lincoln’s death on April 14, 1865. The new president, Andrew Johnson, oversaw the last of the ratifications and the official adoption of the 13th Amendment into the United States Constitution on December 6th, 1865.
The Gettysburg Address remains a powerful statement on human equality, sacrifice, and the idea of the United States as a “nation conceived in liberty.”
Abraham Lincoln's Famous Words
A reproducible of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to use as a hand-out for students or a classroom poster.
This double-column template allows students to break down and respond to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address for close reading.
The Civil War Trust has gathered together primary documents from the Civil War period, including speeches, personal correspondence, maps, and resources about the Gettysburg Address.
The United States Library of Congress has made much of its collection available online, including drafts of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and many accompanying resources.
Find high-res images and transcripts to explore the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and many more historical documents with Our Documents.
Help students understand the Civil War and the events leading up to President Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address with these activities.
This online learning activity offers students a detailed look at how the Civil War of the 1860s impacted, and divided, America.
This book contains biographies of six people who played an important role in the United States during one of the darkest periods of U.S. history.
Eighty-five years after the United States declared its independence, the country was at war again. Learn about the American Civil War in this Grolier Online Encyclopedia article.
An interactive map the shows the differences between the two sides that fought in the Civil War.
It's 1863, and Thomas and his father are slaves in South Carolina. But in the chaos of the Civil War, they manage to break free and head north. Through the Underground Railroad they make their way to Pennsylvania. But they can't escape the war, and soon Thomas finds himself in the middle of a harrowing battle.
Profiles #1: The Civil War provides an opportunity to teach students how to explain the relationship or interactions between individuals and historical events. Activities engage students in viewing animated battles of the war, taking a journey on the Underground Railroad, and doing a close reading of the Gettysburg Address.
More About Abraham Lincoln
Teach students about one of the most famous presidents with lesson plans, quick activities, book resources, and more.
With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address fast approaching, here are four classroom-tested ideas for teaching about our sixteenth president.
Use these books to help you teach about the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was famous for freeing the slaves and ending the Civil War. This mini-biography — coupled with a companion crossword puzzle — helps build comprehension and boosts vocabulary.