The Inside Scoop On Gettysburg

 

There's more to the Gettysbug Address than you know.

You have no doubt heard Abraham Lincoln was a good egg.  Yet, there’s far more to his amazing life story than has been told.

 

Having read Doris Goodwin’s remarkably well-written biography on Lincoln called “Team Of Rivals”, I feel obliged to offer up a few important omissions to the author’s work—the most glaring, of which, was her failure to mention the real story behind The Gettysburg Address.

 

Lincoln was an honest man.

Lincoln was a good egg.

 

One Of The Greatest

 

While the Gettysburg Address is considered by political experts (that is, those souls who have the time to stare at their navels, twiddle their thumbs, dwell on such things and then argue over them for hours on end) to be one of the greatest speeches in American history, there is some disagreement over the actual words Lincoln spoke.  In fact, there are no less than five different versions of the speech historians refer to as “The Address”, and we can’t be certain if any are entirely accurate.  However, most historians cite the “Bliss” version as the most likely to correctly reflect the actual speech delivered on November 19, 1863, for it was the only copy ever signed by Lincoln.  I should also note that Colonel Alexander Bliss, for which the copy was named, received it long after the speech had been delivered.

 

Long Johns

 

Being a fair-weather duck blogging history buff, I believe the Bliss version is close enough to the real deal as not to be confused with any run of the mill duck decoy.  As a consequence, I do not intend to fire off any potshots.  Furthermore, I shall proceed to quote the Bliss copy without regard to the intense mental anguish I am bound to experience the precise moment I announce its true (and up until now secret) purpose.  Are you ready?  Drum roll please…The Gettysburg Address, was actually meant to be the coded verse in the first refrain of a song celebrating the historical significance of long underwear.  Though I realize it’s sometimes hard to tell truth from fiction (especially when I mix it all together in the same sentence), long underwear came to symbolize the struggle for the emancipation of women, and in this case, the reference to four score and seven refers to the original number of  decorative buttons sewn on the “rear cargo access” of a Union Suit.  If you hadn’t heard, Union Suits were basically the first  “joined” versions of long underwear where the tops and bottoms were sewn together–thus the need for a little trap door behind me.

 

Which Address?

 

Now, before we get off into an extended diatribe over Women’s Rights (i.e. my glorious and revered right to be eternally wrong) or before we leap off a cliff and dive face first into the actual text of Lincoln’s speech, there is another significant point of Mr. Lincoln’s oft overlooked history that must be addressed (other than “The Address” which I mentioned previously, or his other address, which as everyone should know was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

 

Close Relations

 

Whilst young Abraham Lincoln started out his professional career as a country lawyer, most seem utterly unaware that one of his first acts in the practice of law was to file a motion to change his name from Abrahaminski DoLincoln to just plain old Abe Lincoln.  If the name DoLincoln seems oddly familiar it may be because you’ve heard of Mr. Lincoln’s famous relative, a sixth cousin twice removed, Dr. John DoLittle.  As you may recollect, Dr. DoLittle’s unique ability to converse with animals was a talent for which he became world renowned.  In all due respect, why such a talent was considered so remarkable is a mystery, since Honest Abe himself, plus a number of little old ladies I’ve known throughout the years, all had similar abilities.   Ah, but I digress…

 

A Gabby Fellow

 

History is a strange thing (and honestly folks, we’re doing our best to make it even stranger here).  Believe it or not, Lincoln, as President, was not the major speaker on the day he gave his famed Gettysburg Address.  No, that title went to Edward Everett, a well-regarded orator, former U. S. Congressman, former state governor, President of Harvard and Vice Presidential candidate—in other words, your basic low-life and good for nothing nobody.  As it happened, Mr. Everett bleated, blabbed and blathered on for well over two hours before Lincoln ever took the podium to pound out his 271 word soliloquy.  As I know my patoody would have required electroshock therapy after listening to Everett natter on like that, I suspect Lincoln’s brevity may have something to do with the standing ovation he received.

 

Let Me Check My Calendar

 

Now, here’s the really curious part:  Lincoln had very little time or opportunity to write his speech.  This was because his invite to the Gettysburg cemetery dedication arrived only 17 days before the big event—not much time to get his act together being a busy sitting President.  Though historians will argue over whether he wrote his speech in Washington D.C. or in Gettysburg the night before he gave it, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is far and away more difficult to come by unless one has access to an elite squadron of duck-loving history buffs as I do. And in case you’re wondering, that’s why you’re reading all about it here.

 

Extraordinary Meeting

 

And so it came to pass, that while he was in route by train from Washington to Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln shared a table in the dining car with none other than Abraduck Lincoln, the world famous mallard and 5-star sushi chef, who had been selected to preside over the Swine-Avian Flew Fair, the Butternut Squash Hurling Championship, and most prestigious of all, the grand opening and dedication of the Federal Avian Administration’s newly certified Gettysbird Airfield.  Coincidentally, the Gettysbird dedication was being held at the exact moment in time Lincoln was scheduled to deliver his speech at the Soldier’s National Cemetery Dedication, (a mere two miles due south as a duck flies).  The only problem, as both parties soon realized after chatting, was that neither had been able to come up with a single thing to tell their respective audiences.  Even more fascinating, had it not been for their chance encounter, it seems highly unlikely either Abraham’s Gettysburg Address or Abraduck’s Gettysbird Address would be as remarkable or acclaimed as they are.

 

Lincoln on the day of his famed Gettysbird Address

The Sauce, er, Source of Inspiration

 

Yes, sir, yesss, sir, yesssssss, sir…it’s hard to imagine all the trouble they’d have in river city had the two never met on a train.  Somehow, after both Abe Lincolns had downed liberal quantities of sarsaparilla mixed in truly scandalous proportions with vodka provided to President Lincoln for his train trip by the Imperialist Russian Ambassador, joint inspiration struck like a bolt out of the blue.  Suddenly, neither man nor duck could write down all their thoughts and words fast enough.  Without a doubt, the spectacle of two such diverse creatures working side by side must have been a sight to behold.   In fact, I’d be willing to stake my pompous, smug and self-righteous reputation as the world’s foremost authority on that which clearly only matters to a few, that the episode on the train was one of history’s most amazing collaborative speech writing efforts on or off the record.  If you doubt me, just take a close look and compare each of the speaker’s words, one paragraph after another to discover their remarkable similarities.  You can see the inspired genius in each version and imagine them tossing their words back and forth like the Harlem Globetrotters passing basketballs.  Though their encounter may have been a stroke of luck, their words are nothing short of miraculous.

 

Gettysburg vs. Gettysbird

 

Abraham: Paragraph 1

 

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

 

Abraduck: Paragraph 1

 

“Before a score of blackbirds were ever baked in a pie, our fore-feathers flew forth over this continent as a new generation of wing’ed critters, conceived in midair with only minor collision, and birthed to the notion that all birds should have equal access to air space.”

 

Abraham: Paragraph 2

 

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

 

Abraduck: Paragraph 2

Now we are engaged in a great hullaballoo, since we are testing whether that generation and all the other generations so conceived, and so dedicated, can agree to a new set of rules governing avian flight.  We are met today on this great new airfield where those rules have and shall continue be severely flight-tested.  We have also come to dedicate a portion of runway one-niner-niner, and the new concourse B in the southwest portion of the main terminal.  We shall then proceed to take our life in our hands, close our eyes, leap into the sky, and trust that some new hatchling fresh out of the nest has the capacity to guide the flow of air traffic, and thus prevent the rest of us from taking a final splat all over the ground.  It is altogether fitting to do this, though perhaps a tad improper that we have gathered with flowers in our feathers and are bathing in these public bird baths, while smoking rubber cigars.

 

Abraham: Paragraph 3

 

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

Abraduck: Paragraph 3

 

“But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not construct more runways, nor can we swoop off this ground.  The brave birds living, and those that have been drafted into the great and eternal bird choir in the sky, have sacrificed far and above our poor power to add or subtract, since none of us are all that great at ciphering while we sing or fly, at any rate.  The human world will take no note, nor long remember what we chirp, cheap or twitter here, but it should never forget why they can’t remember we gather here in the first place.  It is thus for us, not to write sentences which can barely be understood, much less nobly advanced, to plead our cause.  It is rather for us to rededicate ourselves to the idea we should rededicate to the task remaining before us, lest we forget what that task is—that from those formerly wing’ed spirits who are now soaring in the heavens above us, we take note of their bird-brained devotion and sacrifice—that we hereby resolve to soar at least ten feet off the ground so that those who perished for flying under radar shall not have taken their unfortunate beak plants in vain—that we should inhale deeply here so this sentence can continue to run on and on under the guise of coming to a point sometime in the near future—and that the anarchy of the birds, by the birds and for the birds, shall not give up the ghost, or if by some most fowl and dastardly deed it does, a consortium of crows shall rise up from the ashes of civilization and throw one heck of a party.”

 

And that, as they say, it about as far as anyone can fly with this one.

 

For other startling duck history, you may also want to visit our
Famous Ducks Of History page.

 

 

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