by Brad Gottfried
When Linda and I retired in 2017, we decided to move up to the Gettysburg area of Pennsylvania. I became a Gettysburg Licensed Town Guide. I loved (and still do) walking visitors around the streets of Gettysburg, describing its founding, the role the town played in the battle, and Lincoln’s visit. The latter generated uniform interest among guests.
During my research on the founding of the national cemetery and Lincoln’s visit for my tours, I realized most were fat works that would put most people to sleep. The Emerging Civil War Series was the perfect vehicle to tell the story. I had written more than a dozen books—most scholarly endeavors or map studies of various campaigns in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War—so telling the story to a different audience became a challenge. However, Linda helped by “livening” up the narrative and adding the perfect illustrations.
Researching the book was fairly easy as John Heiser at the Gettysburg NMP Library opened his archives and Andrew Dalton and Tim Smith did the same at the Adams County Historical Society. We found a wealth of first-person accounts, but soon realized that many were written decades after the event—in some cases, more than 50 years later. We all know how memory changes with age, and we were struck by how many people swore they had personal interactions with Lincoln. We decided to discount most of these narratives, except when their perspectives were corroborated by others.
We also had to sort through different recollections. For example, did Lincoln read his notes or did he memorize his remarks? Did people applaud after his remarks? Where was the speakers’ platform? Rather than accept one over the others, we decided to describe the various recollections with the supporting evidence and let the reader decide.
Then there was the issue of perspective. The horse Lincoln rode is a good example. Some swore Lincoln rode a tiny horse—so small his feet almost touched the ground, making him look ludicrous. Others had the opposite perspective—the horse was a mighty black steed. So many of these difference can be traced to political differences. The Democrats tended to discount Lincoln’s speech and everything he did at Gettysburg.
Linda and I had a great time researching this important event in American history and are pleased to be able to share it with a broad audience. Chris Mackowski was a wonderful editor and the book might not have been published had it not been for his constant encouragement and gentle push.
Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
by Bradley M. Gottfried and Linda I. Gottfried
Savas Beatie, 2021
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