Each year on November 19, residents and honored guests gather in the Gettysburg National Cemetery to remember the occasion when President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on the same date in 1863. When Nancy and I were sophomores at Gettysburg High School in 1946, students were dismissed early to attend the 83rd anniversary program.
More than a thousand persons grouped around the Soldiers National Monument which the local print media reported “marks the spot where Lincoln spoke.” That same article indicated that the main speaker, Congressman Jennings Randolph, “stood where Lincoln stood.”
The fact is that President Lincoln did not deliver his famous Gettysburg Address in the National Cemetery because there were open graves and fresh reburials everywhere. The dedication ceremony in 1863 occurred in the adjacent Evergreen Cemetery which, incidentally, is where Nancy’s parents and many of her relatives are buried.
When we were growing up in Gettysburg, Nancy’s home was at the bottom of the Baltimore Street hill before it rises again to Cemetery Hill. If she had lived there in 1863, she could have waved to President Lincoln going to the dedication ceremony and returning to the diamond as the center of Gettysburg was known then.
When Nancy and I were dating, we often walked through the beautifully landscaped Gettysburg National Cemetery. We still visit the hallowed ground each December to participate in the Christmas Wreath Program sponsored by the Sgt Mac Foundation.
Each year, hundreds of volunteers prepare Christmas wreaths which are placed on the headstones of graves in the Gettysburg and Quantico National Cemeteries. The project was initiated by the parents of Marine Corps Sergeant and Gettysburg native Eric McColley, who was killed in the line of duty in 2006.