Dedication of National Cemetery Where Lincoln Gives Gettysburg Address

National Cemetery, Gettysburg

Rain and clouds that mark the Pennsylvania skies on the early morning of November 19, 1863, soon clear to give an exhilarating nip in the air in and around Gettysburg. After a lively evening in the crowded streets last night, folks are still entering town for the important occasion of dedicating the new national cemetery.

President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward take a carriage ride to the Lutheran Seminary grounds where fierce fighting took place on July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

They return in time to change for the dedication ceremony. Before 10 am, Lincoln emerges from David Wills’ home where he spent the night. He is dressed in black, wears a black frock coat, and carries white gauntlets. Sad. Serious. A wide mourning band adorns his stovepipe hat in memory of his son, Willie, who died of typhoid fever on February 20, 1862.

People press around him, shaking his hand even after he mounts his horse. They cheer for him. The marshals motion the crowd back.

The Marine Band begins the procession followed by a squadron of cavalry, two artillery batteries, and an infantry regiment. President Lincoln rides with several generals, nine governors, Cabinet members, and three foreign ministers among others.

Edward Everett, the main speaker, tours the battlefield and does not participate in the procession.

A 12’ x 20’ platform has been built for the occasion. Honored guests take their place on the three rows of ten chairs each. There are other chairs scattered on the platform and chairs at a table in back for reporters.

A tent stands at the east end of the platform—at Everett’s request and for his use. He emerges from this tent. David Wills, organizer of the event, and New York Governor Seymour escort him to his seat beside Lincoln in the middle of the front row.

Bright sun shines down on the spectators arranged in a semi-circle by the marshals. Many, like Lincoln, wear mourning.

The pleasing array of flags, banners, and costumes of those in attendance do not mask the signs of the recent battle, where the fields are still littered with broken muskets, canteens, and bits of gray or blue uniforms.

The Marshal-in-Chief Ward H. Lamon is not on the platform to begin the ceremony so his assistant, Benjamin B. French, signals the Birgfield’s Band. They play “Homage d’un Heroes,” a funeral dirge.

Lamon nods to Rev. Thomas H. Stockton to pray. The emotional prayer of the chaplain of the House of Representatives brings tears to many eyes, including Everett and Lincoln.

Next, Lamon calls on the Marine Band. They play Martin Luther’s hymn “Old Hundred.”

Lamon then introduces Edward Everett as the speaker of the day.

Everett speaks for about two hours. The President listens with kind, thoughtful attention. Lincoln rises and shakes Everett hand while some in the crowd applaud at the end.

The Maryland Musical Association sings “Consecration Hymn” that was written by Benjamin B. French for the dedication.

Lamon introduces the President of the United States.

National Cemetery, Gettysburg

Lincoln steps forward. He extracts a paper from his pocket. He puts on his spectacles.  The crowd is silent as they look up him.

The President gazes at the solemn mourners … at soldiers who will never forget the battle or their comrades. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers National Cemetery

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The crowd gives President Lincoln three cheers and then another three cheers for the Governors.

Birgfield’s Band accompanies a chorus of Gettysburg men and women.

Lamon nods to Rev. Henry L. Baugher, who leads those gathered to close the ceremony with a benediction.

Lincoln participates in the procession that leads back to David Wills’ home, where he eats dinner and then receives guests. He attends a service at the Presbyterian Church and then boards a train. It is time to return to Washington D.C.

Back at the cemetery, some mourners remain until darkness falls.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.

Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.


The Day Before President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Excitement fills the overcrowded streets of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, November 18, 1863. It’s been a long time since they had something to celebrate. President Abraham Lincoln and other distinguished guests will arrive soon for tomorrow’s dedication ceremony of the national cemetery.  Preparations  have taken weeks. Thousands come by train and in carriages, buggies, farm carts, and Pennsylvania wagons. Some ride horseback into town and others walk.

At noon, a special train leaves Washington D.C. on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, two foreign ministers, Lincoln’s private secretary and assistant secretary, army officers, Marine Band members, and newspaper correspondents are passengers.

An unusually quiet Lincoln sits in the last car. Sadness marks his face. Perhaps he reflects on the tragic loss of so many soldiers who died at the battle, a loss that reminds him of losing his precious Willie, his third son, a year earlier.

Gettysburg attorney David Wills, Ward H. Lamon (marshal of the event,) and Edward Everett (the dedication’s main speaker) are among those who meet the President’s train at dusk. They and the First Regiment of the Invalid Corps escort him to the Wills’ home where he will spend the night.

The Fifth New York Artillery Band plays as the crowd serenades Lincoln while he eats supper. They request a speech.

Lincoln appears at the front entrance of the home. He bows for the exuberant crowd yet refuses to give a speech. “I have no speech to make.”

The crowd laughs.

“In my position it is somewhat important that I should not say any foolish thing.”

“If you can help it,” someone yells.

“It very often happens,” Lincoln smiles, “that the only way to help it is to say nothing at all.”

The crowd laughs and the President soon goes back inside.

The inns and homes are full. Many visitors remain on the streets late into the night for they have no place to go. They shout and cheer and sing while bands take turns playing patriotic songs and hymns.

Inside, President Lincoln pulls out his speech for tomorrow’s dedication. A few lines are all they’ve asked of him. He must make those “few appropriate remarks” count.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.

Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.


Gettysburg Attorney David Wills Prepares for National Cemetery

Over 7,000 soldiers died in Gettysburg at the Civil War battle that lasted from July 1st to July 3rd in 1863. While the Confederates under General Robert E. Lee retreated in the pouring rain on July 4th, some Southerners stayed to bury a small portion of their dead. The rest of the fallen were left for Union soldiers and Gettysburg citizens, who had their hands full caring for the wounded, to bury.

There was little time. Over 5,000 shallow graves were dug along fences, in the Wheatfield, beside the Peach Orchard, on Culp’s Hill, in the fields of Cemetery Ridge and other battle locations.

Gettysburg attorney David Wills wanted to purchase land for a national cemetery as a burial place for those killed in the battle. He requested approval from Pennsylvania Governor Curtin, who granted it. Curtin also requested that Wills write the other 17 Union state governors. Fifteen approved the plan.

Wills bought 17 acres next to the town’s cemetery. A monument was to be erected in the center of a semi-circle of graves. There are 22 sections: 3 sections for unidentified soldiers; 1 for regular army soldiers; and the remaining 18 sections were for the 18 individual Union states’ soldiers.

About 25% of the soldiers were from New York, so that state has the largest section.

They began transferring bodies to the new cemetery on October 27, 1863. Only 50 – 60 were reburied on a daily basis.

Wills wanted to dedicate the new national cemetery in a ceremony. Edward Everett, a well-known orator of the day, was invited as the main speaker. President Lincoln and his Cabinet received invitations. Some notable Union generals were also invited.

President Lincoln accepted. Wills then invited him to make “a few appropriate remarks” at the November 19th dedication ceremony.

History has overshadowed the gifted Everett’s two-hour speech for Lincoln’s two-minute Gettysburg Address.

No one predicted just how much Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks” would inspire a nation—even today—and deliver a message the people attending desperately needed to hear.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.


Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.


Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.


World War II Memorial

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the National Mall late one rainy evening. I think that my favorite memorial was the World War II Memorial, which I’d somehow missed on an earlier trip. The beauty of the fountains and the soothing sounds of the water splashing into the pool drew me in immediately.

The memorial designed by Friedrich St. Florian opened on April 29, 2004. The official dedication, May 27 – 30, 2004, was a celebration filled with reunions for World War II veterans.



Citizens and veterans alike enjoyed big band music from that era. Family activities, a display of military equipment, and a Wartime Stories Tent were among the activities enjoyed by about 315,000 over the four-day celebration. President George W. Bush spoke at the formal dedication.

The spacious memorial is adjacent to the Reflecting Pool. The Lincoln Memorial can be clearly seen from the fountains inside the memorial.

World War II Memorial honors the sixteen million who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

Also honored are millions of citizens on the home front, who sacrificed throughout the war to support our troops. They bought War Bonds. They endured rationing of many common staples like sugar, butter, coal, gasoline, and shoes. Quotes etched on the walls honor their sacrifice.

Four thousand golden stars on a curved Freedom Wall serve as a memorial to the 405,399 Americans who died in the war. Each star represents 100 deaths by our American military. In front of the wall is a granite engraving: “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

-Sandra Merville Hart



Murray, Lorraine. “National World War II Memorial, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019/10/22

“National WWII Memorial,” National WWII Memorial Washington D.C., 2019/10/22

“World War II Memorial,” National Park Service, 2019/10/22

Civil War Women: Clara Judd, Confederate Spy

Clara Judd, a Northerner, had moved to Winchester, Tennessee, in 1859 with her husband and eight children. He and one of their children was killed in an accident two years later. The widow found jobs at a government factory for her older sons.

Union armies controlled Winchester five times during the first two years of the Civil War (1861-1862) and Clara hosted them. A Union officer warned her that they’d been ordered to destroy her crops “except enough to last six weeks” and that she should leave.

Losing her possessions probably embittered her toward the Union soldiers.

She eventually ended up leaving her children with her sister in Louisville. Obtaining Union passes to travel to Atlanta to visit her son and Louisville to visit her youngest children enabled Clara to learn troop movements and other military information for the Confederacy.

Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, while planning his famous raid, contacted Clara in December of 1862. He asked her to discover Union troop locations and strength of those controlling the railroad. She agreed.

While traveling north, she was stopped in Murfreesboro and had to wait three days for a pass to Nashville. Unable to find transportation, she walked.

Delos Thurman Blythe, a Northern counterespionage agent posing as Southern paroled prisoner, offered her a ride in his buggy. Blythe’s pass into Nashville was accepted but not Clara’s. He overheard a Confederate soldier giving her information about getting through Union lines and became suspicious.

Clara received a pass to visit her children and then told Blythe everything. He promised to help her.

His pretense of loyalty to the South had worked. He reported her to Union authorities yet advised them to give her the passes she requested.

They traveled north by train. Clara, from her window, asked folks at each station about troops in the area. In Louisville, Blythe escorted her in all her errands and took her to dinner. She fell in love with him. Meanwhile, Blythe asked the authorities to arrest him and Clara in Mitchelsville, Tennessee.

On their return trip, military police arrested them in Mitchelsville. Goods and drugs for the Confederate army were found in her bags—quinine, nitrate of silver, and morphine.

Placed under guard in a Nashville hotel shortly before Christmas, Clara told her captors that Blythe was innocent. She didn’t know that he had already been released or that loving her had been an act.

Charged with espionage, she went to prison in Alton, Illinois for about eight months before being paroled due to poor health.

-Sandra Merville Hart




McCurry, Stephanie. “Clara Judd and the Laws of War,” HistoryNet, 2019/08/16

Winkler, H. Donald. Stealing Secrets, Cumberland House, 2010.


Washington Monument

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the National Mall late on a rainy evening. Though I didn’t go into the Washington Monument, the view at night was spectacular.

Early Americans wanted to build a monument to honor George Washington. Not only had he defeated the British as commander of the Continental Army, he paved the way for future leaders by serving as our first president.

The Washington National Monument Society began asking for donations to the monument in 1833. This private organization collected money and chose Robert Mills’ design in 1845.

On July 4, 1848, construction began with a ceremony to lay the cornerstone. President James K. Polk attended with about 20,000 citizens, including three future presidents—Buchanan, Lincoln, and Johnson.

Problems arose when the Society was taken over by the Know-Nothing Party. Building the monument stopped when the money ran out in 1854.

The nation had more pressing concerns with the Civil War looming and the monument stood idle, about a third completed.

Congress took over the funding of the monument in 1876. After this, Lt. Col. Thomas Lincoln Casey led the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the monument with a few changes to Mills’ original design. He did away with a ring of columns around the monument and adjusted the height from 600 feet to 555 feet. One of the inscriptions on the east face of the aluminum cap topping the Washington Monument is Laus Deo, Latin for “Praise be to God.”

Citizens, groups, cities, states, and other countries donated commemorative stones that are inset into the walls of the building dedicated on February 21, 1885. It was the tallest building in the world at its dedication.

Another fun fact about the monument is that the original elevator took 10-12 minutes to ascend to the top.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Guide to Visiting the Soon-to-be Reopened Washington Monument,” Washington DC, 2019/09/05

“Washington Monument,” NPS, 2019/09/05


Announcing New Christmas Book Release!

I’m thrilled to announce my newest book release! This collection of Christmas stories is called “Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path” and contains stories with an unexpected twist.

I’ve always wanted to be in a Christmas collection. The story that I’ve written for the collection, Not This Year, is very close to my heart.

Here is the back blurb:

Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …

Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.

Inspired by the song, Mary Did You Know?— a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY, DID YOU KNOW?

A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES

Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant — combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA

Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchange presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR

Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life — and the echoes from that day continue to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED

A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world — a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS

Pick up your copy today on Amazon!

Korean War Veterans Memorial

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It was a dark, rainy evening for my first view of these rugged American soldiers wearing ponchos. The soldiers in the field face different directions so one of the statues is looking at you from any of three sides. When I returned home, I discovered more about this memorial located on the National Mall.

American served in the Korean War from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953. Of 5.8 million who served, 54,246 Americans died, 8,200 went missing in action, and 103,284 were wounded.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, dedicated on July 27, 1995, honors Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard on a Mural Wall.

The United Nations Wall honors the 22 nations that sent troops to Korea.

A Pool of Remembrances offers a reflective place to sit.

Most impressive are the 19 seven-foot tall statues standing among juniper bushes and separated by granite strips that symbolize Korea’s rice paddies. Each represents duties filled by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Above the Lead Scout is a Dedication Stone with the saying:

     Our Nation honors her sons and daughters

     who answered the call to defend a country

     they never knew and a people they never met

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Korean War Memorial,” American Battle Monuments Commission, 2019/09/05

“Korean War Veterans Memorial,” Washington DC, 2019/09/05

“The Korean War Veterans Memorial,” The Korean War Veterans Memorial, 2019/09/05


Iwo Jima Memorial

The World War II Battle of Iwo Jima between the U.S. Marines and the Imperial Army of Japan lasted five weeks, beginning in February of 1945. The Japanese under General Tadamichi Kuribayashi had camouflaged their artillery and at first caused significant casualties for the Marines under the command of Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith.

Over the next few days, about 70,000 U.S. Marines soon outnumbered the 21,000 Japanese forces. The battle eventually claimed the lives of nearly 7,000 Marines. The losses for the Japanese were far greater—only about 200 survived the battle.

Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, were ordered to capture Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi. About 10:30 am, a U.S. flag was raised on February 23, 1945—four days after the battle began. A larger flag was raised that afternoon. The afternoon flag raising was the image taken for the iconic photograph by Joseph Rosenthal, Associated Press.

The photo inspired Sculptor Felix W. de Weldon to make a life size image that three of the six flag raisers—Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and John Bradley—posed for. Sadly, the others were killed.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, also called Iwo Jima Memorial, was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954.

Because there were two actual historic flag raisings that day, doubt arose regarding the identity of one man in the photo. The Marines conducted an investigation. They discovered that though John Bradley had been one of the six men who raised the first flag, Private First Class Harold Schultz actually replaced him in the second flag raising.

The six flag raisers in the iconic photo are: Corporal Harlon Block, Private First Class Rene Gagnon, Private First Class Ira Hayes, Private First Class Harold Schultz, Private First Class Franklin Sousley, and Sergeant Michael Strank.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“History of the Marine Corps War Memorial,”, 2019/09/05 editors. “Iwo Jima,” History, 2019/09/05

“USMC Statement on Iwo Jima Flag Raisers,” Marines, 2019/09/05


Pentagon Memorial

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the Pentagon Memorial. It was late in the evening and there were only a handful of visitors at the memorial. As I looked at the benches—184 of them—with lighted pools of water flowing underneath, I was struck once again by the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

No American alive that day can forget its horror. Four commercial airplanes were hijacked in coordinated attacks on specific targets and tragic loss of innocent lives resulted.

Five hijackers boarded American Airlines Flight 77 to Los Angeles from Dulles International Airport that sunny morning. The flight, delayed 10 minutes, departed at 8:20 am with 58 passengers and a crew of 6. What the crew didn’t know was that armed hijackers were among the passengers.

While flying over eastern Kentucky, hijackers took control of the plane, possibly between 8:51 and 8:54 am. It’s believed that one of them piloted the plane. None of the radio messages sent to the pilot after that time were answered.

It crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am, bringing a tragic end to 184 innocent lives.

The Pentagon Memorial, in remembrance of those who died there, opened on September 11, 2008. Architects Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman along with engineer Buro Happold designed the memorial in a timeline, from the youngest victim (Dana Falkenberg at 3) to the oldest victim (John D. Yamnicky at 71), both on Flight 77.

Victims’ names have been placed on cantilevered benches with pools of flowing water underneath, which are lit at night. The designers put a lot of thought into the placement of the benches. Visitors read the names of those who perished in the Pentagon with that building behind it. Names face the sky where the plane approached for those from Flight 77.

Beautiful Crepe Myrtles, 85 of them, will eventually grow to height of 30 feet, giving shade to the Memorial in future years.

The Age Wall starts at a height of 3 inches for the youngest victim and builds to 71 inches for the oldest.

It’s a beautiful, well-designed unique memorial.

May we never forget.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Pentagon Memorial,” The National 9/11, 2019/09/05

“Pentagon Memorial,” National Geographic, 2019/09/05