Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America

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Simon and Schuster, 1992 - History - 317 pages
11 Reviews
The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom"--by tracing its first birth to the Declaration of Independence (which called all men equal) rather than to the Constitution (which tolerated slavery). In the space of a mere 272 words, Lincoln brought to bear the rhetoric of the Greek Revival, the categories of Transcendentalism, and the imagery of the "rural cemetery" movement. His entire life and previous training, his deep political experience, went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. As Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel has been restored to its bold colors and forgotten details, Garry Wills restores the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln at Gettysburg combines the same extraordinary quality of observation that defines Wills's previous best-selling portraits of modern presidents, such as Reagan's America and Nixon Agonistes, with the iconoclastic scholarship of his studies of our founding documents, such as Inventing America. By examining both the Address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew and reveals much about a President so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world, to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns. The Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln wanted it to mean. Now Garry Wills explains how Lincoln wove a spell that has not, yet, been broken.

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User Review  - bezoar44 - LibraryThing

Over two decades after its first publication, this analysis of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address remains a powerful and persuasive work of intellectual history. Wills illuminates the speech by ... Read full review

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User Review  - Muscogulus - LibraryThing

Biographies of Lincoln have never been in short supply. Opinionated, contradictory essays on the sixteenth president have been as numberless as stars. Garry Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg stands out ... Read full review


Key to Brief Citations
Oratory of the Greek Revival
Gettysburg and the Culture of Death
The Transcendental Declaration
Revolution in Thought
Revolution in Style
The Site
Four Funeral Orations
Index to the Gettysburg Address
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About the author (1992)

Garry Wills, former Henry R. Luce Professor of American Culture and Public Policy at Northwestern University, is the author of Inventing America and Explaining America, as well as Reagan's America, Under God, Nixon Agonistes, The Kennedy Imprisonment, and other books. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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