Dick's Reviews > Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills
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's review
Jan 12, 2009

really liked it

I picked this book up at a small private book store in St. Augustine, Florida - do they have small book stores anymore? - and hoped it would be good.

It was more than good. The research for the book is excellent. I was most impressed with that aspect.

Had expected to see a rehash of the day at the cemetery, the repeating of the words, how Lincoln did NOT write the speech on an envelope on the way to Gettysburg.

It was none of that.

Rather it was a fascinating insight into Lincoln's thought process and how over time it evolved, as well as what and whom influenced him during that process.

I came away finding Lincoln even more complex than I thought before reading the book.

Lincoln's love of words, the language and how they influence others was made very clear in the book. Lincoln was a poet, albeit only average, but loved to compare with his private secretary John Hay who was poet laureate in his class at Brown.

Lincoln and Hay developed a father son relationship over the five years Hay was one of his secretaries.

The term "government of the people, of the people and for the people originated in writings of Theodore Park - a transdentalist.

I came away after reading this book more convinced that after Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln was the most intellectual president we have had. Lincoln memorized a book of algorithms. He memorized many of Shakespeare's plays, as well as many of the parts in those plays.

His speech at Gettysburg ran about 2.5 minutes vs 2 hours by the featured speaker Edward Everett. Everett asked for a personal copy of Lincoln's speech shortly after the dedication at the cemetery and wrote Lincoln saying that he hoped he should flatter himself that he had come as close to the central meaning of the occasion in two hours as Lincoln did in two minutes.

The speech was a defining departure from the old way of long speeches to the more concise and shorter speeches.

Excellent book & a great addition to my library.
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