Almost a year after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to dedicate its new National Cemetery. The largest battle ever fought in North America had been waged there from July 1-3, 1863, and Lincoln stood on that same ground on November 19 to try and give meaning to the bloodshed. He spoke with humility about the sacrifices made there but resolved that those losses would help foster a “new birth of freedom” in America.

It became his most famous political speech and perhaps the most well-known in recorded history. The original handwritten text has been lost, but Lincoln wrote five copies over the rest of his life. This is one of those copies, acquired by the State of Illinois in 1944 partly through pennies and nickels donated by schoolchildren.

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Lincoln's Life in Letters Gettysburg Photos

Photos for Lincoln's Life in Letters Gettysburg panel.

The documents highlighted in this exhibit are all drawn from our own collection. The originals are in our vault and the images were created by our Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. Please visit their website,, to see more documents written to and by Lincoln from all over the world. If you have a Lincoln document, or know someone who does, please reach out to us. We are always looking for new discoveries.

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