The Index – 10 December 1863
The short article on the left hand side of the page from 10 December 1863 refers to the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. At this event, which took place on 19 November, President Lincoln delivered his famous address Gettysburg Address, a speech that the article does not mention. Instead, The Index criticises the President’s lack of ‘all sense of dignity and propriety’ and his continual appearance to ‘play the part of a west-country jester’.
The Index was staunchly anti–Lincoln and often caricatured him as an ignorant, backcountry politician incapable of reuniting the country. In this article, the attack is focused on the fact that after arriving at the Pennsylvanian town the night before the dedication, he was ‘serenaded’ and met by followers who gathered around where he was spending the evening. Here, ‘within sight of the new-made graves’, the newspaper implies he revelled in the attention he received, giving a speech about the fact that he would not be giving the crowd a speech that evening – ‘I appear before you, fellow citizens, merely to thank you for this compliment…I have no speech to make. In my position it is somewhat important that I should not say any foolish things’.
The article goes on to suggest that when he went to see the battlefield, where ‘the dead were yet unburied’, the President ‘called upon an officer to sing a comic song’. This is perhaps a reference to a rumour that had circulated after the Battle of Antietam in 1862 about Lincoln’s visiting party singing songs on the battlefield. It is most likely to be anti–Lincoln propaganda used to cast aspersions on the President’s moral suitability as a national leader.
The newspaper makes no comment of the speech that Lincoln gave at the cemetery dedication, but does mention the two hour speech delivered by Edward Everett, a Massachusetts politician, who spoke before the President. The fact that the Gettysburg Address itself is not mentioned is unsurprising; reaction to the now famous speech was very mixed and at barely two minutes long, many who heard it later reported that they surprised by how brief the President was, as he was known for speaking at length. Aside from the Lincoln criticisms, however, the article does note that the fact the Union was honouring the dead in such a significant way was ‘meet and proper’.