150 Years Later, Gettysburg Message Still "Emotional, Gripping"

Lincoln Scholar Reflects on the Importance of the Gettysburg Address

November 19, 2013

Douglas Wilson, professor emeritus of English at Knox and co-director of Knox's Lincoln Studies Center

The Gettysburg Address may be 150 years old, but the message still resonates today.

"Readers find it stirring, emotional, gripping. It gets to you -- it carries an emotional charge," said Douglas Wilson, professor emeritus of English at Knox and co-director of Knox's Lincoln Studies Center. 

November 19 marks the 150th anniversary of the address, celebrated as one of the best-known speeches in American history, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. To honor the event, Wilson gave a talk at Knox earlier this month, "Thoughts on the Gettysburg Address," where he discussed the importance of the speech and debunked several myths surrounding Lincoln and the writing of the two minute message (one being that he wrote it on the back of envelopes as he traveled to Gettysburg). A speech Wilson made to The Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia was also featured on C-SPAN3's American History TV this weekend. View part of the speech.

Wilson has been studying Lincoln for the last quarter century and his research and writings have revolutionized the field of Lincoln history. His books include Lincoln's Sword, which focuses on Lincoln's use of language and received the esteemed Lincoln Prize.

Knox has many authentic connections to our 16th president. Lincoln was a member of the Illinois legislature that granted the institution its charter in 1837, he addressed the issue of the morality of slavery for the first time on the steps of Old Main during the Lincoln-Douglas debate, and Knox College awarded its first honorary doctorate to presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln in 1860. 

Through the end of December, Knox has a special exhibit in Seymour Library, "Lincoln's Speech at Gettysburg, Written but not Finished," which includes materials from Seymour Library's Special Collections and Archives and can be viewed in the Eastman Exhibit Area, adjacent to the Muelder Reading Room.