On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a short speech at the close of ceremonies dedicating the battlefield cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Requested to offer a few remarks, Lincoln memorialized the Union dead and highlighted the redemptive power of their sacrifice. Placing the common soldier at the center of the struggle for equality, Lincoln reminded his listeners of the higher purpose for which blood was shed.
In composing his address, Lincoln must have been reminded of the words of David Wills. A prominent citizen of Gettysburg charged with cleaning up after the grisly battle of July 1-3, Wills urged the president to attend the ceremony.