GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Gettysburg Address, delivered 150 years ago on Nov. 19 and memorized by generations that followed, is unsurpassable.
It's unusual among great American speeches, in part because the occasion did not call for a great American speech. Lincoln was not giving an inaugural address, a commencement speech or remarks in the immediate aftermath of a shocking national tragedy, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the Sept. 11 attacks.
"No one was looking for him to make history," says the Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian James McPherson.
Brief as Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was, many newspaper reports paraphrased or outright butchered it.
In his new book, "Writing the Gettysburg Address," Martin P. Johnson argues that the fledgling Associated Press played a key role in ensuring that most Americans experienced the true power and poetry of their president's words at a time when he desperately wanted to reach them.
"The Gettysburg Address was not necessarily going to be an important text, if the first version published had been such a truncated version," he says. Still, debate continues over exactly what Lincoln said that day.
On the battlefield where President Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech that has gone on to symbolize his presidency and explain the sacrifices made by Union and Confederate forces, the 150th anniversary of that address and the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery is being remembered with speeches by historian James McPherson and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
It's the final event of a momentous sesquicentennial year for the park, college and city that has seen hundreds of thousands of visitors come to take part in historical re-enactments and ceremonies.