Gettysburg Address

05 29, 2017

11 facts about Charles Anderson & his forgotten Gettysburg Address

By |2017-05-29T06:00:48-04:00May 29, 2017|

Historian David T. Dixon answers questions and signs books after discussing Charles Anderson and his forgotten Gettysburg Address.

Historian David T. Dixon answers questions and signs books after discussing Charles Anderson and his forgotten Gettysburg Address.

Historian and author David T. Dixon visited us earlier this month to discuss former Ohio governor Charles Anderson, his wild life, and forgotten Gettysburg Address.

1. Anderson came from a connected and famous family. His father, Richard Clough Anderson, was an aide-de-camp to Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. His brother, Robert Anderson, surrendered Fort Sumter. And his uncle was William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame.

2. Though he later found slavery distasteful, he grew up on a farm in Kentucky with twenty slaves and even had a black wet nurse.

3. He graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1833. His graduation speech had a soporific title: An Oration on the Influence of Monumental Records upon National Morals. In it, he argued that the nation should erect a monument to George Washington. He recommended something “simple, towering, sublime” that “resemble(d) obelisks of ancient Egypt.” There’s no proof that Anderson’s recommendations influenced the eventual Washington Monument, but his suggestions do seem prescient.

4. After graduating, Anderson became a lawyer and was elected to the Ohio State Senate. Unfortunately, he alienated Democrats and even his fellow Whigs when he suggested state laws that discriminated against blacks should be abolished. He only served a single term.

5. A lifelong asthmatic, he moved from Cincinnati to San Antonio in 1859 after reading Frederick Law Olmsted’s A Journey through Texas. He thought the warm weather might improve his condition. Turns out that was a bad time for a union loyalist to move south.

(You may remember Olmsted as part of the landscape architecture firm that designed the Cleveland Metroparks.)

6. Despite being opposed to the concept of slavery and declaiming the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon peoples (a popular “scientific” assumption at the time), Anderson owned two slaves while he lived in Texas. (One, a young boy, was found murdered in the San Antonio River.)

7. After Texas seceded, Anderson was arrested and not permitted to leave the state. He escaped prison with the help of a widowed Union woman and Belgium astronomer who happened to be traveling through Texas at the time.

8. Anderson briefly served as colonel of Ohio’s 93rd during the Civil War, but he was wounded twice during the Battle of Stones River. He also contracted typhoid soon thereafter and resigned his commission.

9. Despite sharing a famous bill with Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, Anderson often disagreed with the president. In 1860, he endorsed John Bell for president and Edward Everett for vice president. (Anderson’s line: “Anything to defeat Lincoln. Almost anything to defeat Breckenridge.”) In 1864, Anderson again declined endorsing Lincoln. He suggested the president had a better chance navigating Niagara Falls with a dilapidated canoe and a feather for a paddle than getting his support.

10. When Anderson ran for lieutenant governor of Ohio in 1863, the opposing gubernatorial candidate, Clement Vallandigham, had already been convicted of treason and exiled to Canada. (As a Peace Democrat or Copperhead, Vallandigham had demanded the immediate end of the Civil War and was accused of being an enemy sympathizer.)

11. At Gettysburg, Anderson spoke after Everett and Lincoln at the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. His 45-minute speech was well-received but forgotten compared to Everett’s 2-hour oratory and Lincoln’s historic comments. Decades later, when asked for a copy of his speech so it could be enshrined in Gettysburg, Anderson could not find it.

Gettysburg’s lost address seemed lost forever until an anthropologist from Indiana University East befriended Anderson’s great-grandson while visiting his ranch in Pinedale, Wyoming. The great-grandson gave the academic boxes of Anderson’s speeches, notes, and diaries, not realizing the treasures they held.

11 19, 2016

5 Things You Didn’t Know about the Gettysburg Address

By |2016-11-19T06:00:03-05:00November 19, 2016|

gettysbug-addressExactly 153 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln spoke at a newly commemorated national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He spoke briefly—a mere 262 words—but those words are still remembered verbatim by hundreds of people, and even the most apolitical Americans can recall its most famous phrases: “Four score and seven years ago;” “the last full measure of devotion;” “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Todd Arrington from James A. Garfield National Historic Site visited us earlier this month to deconstruct the Gettysburg Address.

Here are five things you might not know about Lincoln’s famous speech.

1. Abraham Lincoln received a last-minute invitation to the ceremony

Lincoln wasn’t the keynote speaker that day. (More on that later.) Instead, David Wills—a local attorney who had spearheaded the creation of the national cemetery in Gettysburg—sent him a letter earlier that month, encouraging the president to attend and offer “a few appropriate remarks.”

2. Lincoln barely spoke for two minutes

Lincoln’s comments were so concise that none of the newspaper photographers could snap a photo of him while he spoke. (Remember, photography was much more of an ordeal back then.) Lincoln concluded his remarks before anyone could ready their camera.

3. Lincoln was not the primary speaker that day

As previously alluded, Lincoln’s speech was intended as an epilogue for the ceremony. The keynote speaker was Edward Everett—a renowned orator who served as the president of Harvard, ambassador to Britain, senator, and governor of Massachusetts during his life.

He spoke for two hours. While pretty much everyone has heard of the Gettysburg Address, almost no one can muster a word that Everett spoke that day.

4. Lincoln did not initially realize the historic import of his speech

Historically speaking, Lincoln got a lot of things right. However, he misjudged how his speech would be remembered. During his address, he said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

He was only half right.

5. Not everyone was impressed by the Gettysburg Address

Shortly after Lincoln’s speech, Harrisburg’s Patriot & Union (a Democrat newspaper) panned it. They published:

We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.

But 150 years later, they retracted their critique.

For what it counts, Edward Everett realized that he had been upstaged. He later wrote Lincoln, saying, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Learn about the Road to Appomattox during a free talk

Learn about the Road to Appomattox during a free talk on Thursday, Dec. 15, at Mentor Public Library’s Main Branch.

Our ongoing Civil War series continues in December.

At noon on Wednesday, Dec. 14, we’ll discuss the history and legacy of Confederate General James Longstreet.

Then, we’ll talk about Grant’s pursuit of Lee and the road to Appomattox at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15.

Both talks will be at our Main Branch. They are free and open to the public.

The speakers are rangers or park volunteers from James A. Garfield National Historic Site—which also holds a wealth of information on the Civil War where President Garfield served as a brigadier general.


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