Researcher Claims to Have Settled an Enduring Lincoln Question

Gettysburg Address given 20 yards from where most historians thought it happened
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2022 2:58 PM CST
Updated Nov 26, 2022 4:50 PM CST
Researcher Claims to Put Enduring Question About Gettysburg Address to Rest
This undated illustration depicts President Abraham Lincoln making his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa., Nov. 19, 1863.   (Library of Congress via AP, File)

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln appeared at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg Battlefield and predicted that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Of course, that was wildly inaccurate, as the president's Gettysburg Address would prove to be among the most famous speeches in American history. According to New York Times reporter Jennifer Schuessler, that speech was delivered almost exactly four score and 79 years ago. It was just 272 words, and it was over so quickly many in the audience didn’t even have time to start paying attention. Furthermore, none of the four photographers on scene managed to get a snapshot of Lincoln speaking.

By themselves, the few photos taken that day do not provide enough evidence to pinpoint the exact location of the speaker's platform, but they do offer clues. With the help of modern technology, researcher Christopher Oakley—a professor of new media at UNC-Asheville, a former Disney animator, and a self-proclaimed "Lincoln Freak"—says he was able to triangulate the exact position of the speaker's platform. He used Google Maps and Maya, a type of graphics software, to create a 3-D model of the grounds around Gettysburg as they appeared in 1863, including where each of the photographers were positioned that day. According to Oakley, the speech was actually delivered inside what is now the national cemetery, about 20 yards from the spot held by tradition. He presented his research at an annual meeting of Gettysburg enthusiasts over the weekend. (Read more Gettysburg Address stories.)

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