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Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 12:01 am

The story of the Gettysburg Address

In a beautiful new volume, local authors keep the national memory alive

A July sunset over South Mountain. Controlling the high ridge was crucial to the Union victory.


A Day Long to Be Remembered: Lincoln in Gettysburg, by Michael Burlingame with photography by Robert Shaw. Published by Firelight Publishing, Heyworth, Ill., in association with John Warner IV, 2013. 220 pages. $34.

Photographer Robert Shaw and preeminent Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame have collaborated for the second time on a beautiful new book about Lincoln and Gettysburg, published in time for the 150th anniversary of the momentous Civil War battle in July and the November Gettysburg Address.

Like their first book, Abraham Lincoln Traveled This Way published two years ago, A Day Long to Be Remembered: Lincoln in Gettysburg is a gorgeous hardbound book of remarkable photographs and engaging history. The new book concentrates on Lincoln’s iconic speech and tells the story of the Pennsylvania battlefield where 170,000 Union and Confederate soldiers converged for a three-day battle, which began July 1, 1863.

Shaw made seven trips to the Gettysburg battlefield site in the past two years to create photographs with just the right atmosphere. He set up his equipment an hour before sunrise on many days, and the photo of the fiery red sunrise gracing the cover of the book is the result of him patiently waiting day after day. He also went on 30 different tours of the area with park rangers so he could understand the landscape and history. “It takes a long time to get an understanding of the battlefield,” Shaw said. “It’s just so large.”

Burlingame discusses the truth and myths of the Gettysburg Address. Was it a success or failure? Did people appreciate it at the time? Lincoln had presented his theme that all men are created equal many times, years before his address at Gettysburg in 1863. He did so in Springfield and Peoria, and during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Casual followers of Lincoln may not realize that the message has a strong link to Springfield and the state of Illinois.

The author also gives plenty of context for Lincoln’s historic speech. The Chicago Times, a Democratic journal in 1863, called it “an offensive exhibition of boorishness and vulgarity.” The Harrisburg, Pa., weekly newspaper poked fun at the president’s speech, calling it merely “silly remarks.” That newspaper, which is now the Patriot-News, recently apologized and “regrets the error.”

Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, accompanied Lincoln to the cemetery at Gettysburg in November 1863 and wrote an account of the speech and the scene anonymously for the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle. Burlingame discovered only in the last few years that this account was written by Hay himself. “It is in the distinctive Hay style,” Burlingame confirmed. The entire newspaper article is reprinted for the book and gives a good account of the historic day.

The title of the book is from the last paragraph of Hay’s article: “The train arrived in Washington at ten minutes to one on Friday morning, and thus ended the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery – a day long to be remembered by the Gettysburghers in this to them eventful year, and one whose effects will pass into history.”

Photographer Shaw preplanned 80 to 90 percent of the photos in the book, to complement Burlingame’s text. All the battlefield photos are made from Union positions. “I studied many books on Gettysburg, and the photos didn’t capture the essence of the battlefield,” Shaw said. “I like shooting in early light, late light, or fog.” His patience, waiting for just the right light, paid off. The photographs, made with minimal use of PhotoShop software, are simply stunning. 

General Meade’s headquarters. Lincoln may have ridden by here on his tour of the battlefield.

The book includes letters from Lincoln to his field generals, which reveal various difficulties he had with them. Historic maps and photographs of the battlefield and the scene of the address were collected, as were photographs of Lincoln during this time. There are two double foldouts in this book, one of which is by David Bachrach, Jr., and is the only known photograph of the Gettysburg site where Lincoln is identifiable.

Shaw noted that Lincoln had his portrait made by Alexander Gardner in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8, 1863, 11 days before his historic speech. Five portraits were made, more than were usually done. “He knew he was getting ready to do something big,” Shaw said.

A Day Long to Be Remembered: Lincoln in Gettysburg was printed on premium paper in the U.S. and sells for $34, an astonishingly low price for 218 pages full of photos, etchings, maps and text. It is clearly a labor of love, and Shaw and Burlingame are to be congratulated on a masterpiece.

Ginny Lee has been a Springfield photographer since 1989 and an occasional contributor to this newspaper since 1978. She hopes to visit Gettysburg next year.

About the authors
Michael Burlingame of Springfield is the Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at UIS and author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life, a two-volume work, which is considered the essential biography of Lincoln.

Robert Shaw of Heyworth, Ill., has been a landscape photographer for 27 years, and is author of Illinois – Seasons of Light as well as Windy City Wild – Chicago’s Natural Wonders.

They will sign copies of their new book at Tinsley Dry Goods during the Downtown Holiday Walk 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4.


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