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Abraham Lincoln: Civil War Essay

SUMMARY:

It is true that president Lincoln felt deep grief over the loss of thousands of Union soldiers in a battle against the Confederacy in order to turn the tides of war and keep the Confederate soldiers from encroaching on Union soil. The deaths of the soldiers was not in vain; the Battle of Gettysburg had been a pivotal point in the Civil War and rekindled some hope in Union. However, the grieving families and surviving soldiers felt none of this bolstered morale and so the president not only aimed at addressing the tragic loss of the soldiers, but also remind the families and others in the Union that they had lost their lives for a greater good. He tells the citizens that they are not fighting solely to preserve the Union, but also to unite the nation and allow for greater freedom throughout the country. As a result of Lincoln’s passionate final words and his declaration of the preservation of democracy in the country, the grieving families and disheartened common men were rejuvenated and rallied behind this new cause.

The tone of this speech was prideful and convicted. Abraham Lincoln describes the soldiers as “brave” and that they have honored the land their bodies had been strewn upon far more than the men who dug their graves and create a national cemetery had. His pride in his men is most evident when he states that they must dedicate their time to finishing the war the soldiers had “so nobly advanced.” He also shows a sense of conviction, and tries to persuade the audience that it is imperative they win the war so that “these dead shall not have died in vain” and that they ensure “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”. He is trying to convince his audience that the only way to ensure democracy does not perish is to win the Civil War and reunite the nation. Lincoln is referring to the “birth” of their nation and describes the way the nation came to be the democratic place it is as almost akin to childbirth. He says that liberty is the nation’s mother and the fathers are those who had written the Constitution.

The effect of this idea of the nation being almost child-like and alive reminds them that America was still infantile compared to European countries, like England and France, and that it was still growing and learning. The Civil War was just another minor, albeit important, event to learn from and use to make their country stronger when the Union and the Confederacy finally merged as one again. Before Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address, the man before him had given a two-and-a-half long speech. Lincoln’s succinct speech allowed him to illustrate his feelings about the war and the deaths of the soldiers concisely; he was able to hold the audience’s attention and come off as sympathetic, as opposed to pretentious, as the man before him had with his rambling “ode”. Lincoln’s 82 word last sentence, comparatively longer next to the other simpler sentences, summarized his feelings on the war and the necessary action the Union must take.

He called for action and held the audience accountable for ensuring the “new birth of freedom”. The length of the sentence allowed for a build-up of emotion that climaxed at his last, most famous declaration that they create “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Two examples of repeated diction were his usage of the words “consecrated” in the second paragraph and “devotion” in the third. His repetition of the word consecrated, synonymous with the word honored, reminds the audience that the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the Union were to be held in the highest regard and that they were heroes to emulate in both manner and thought. Lincoln is telling the audience indirectly that to fight and die for one’s country is a noble thing, not something to grieve over and the intended effect is to “set a fire in their hearts” and convince them that continuing in the war, despite the losses, is necessary.

The repetition of the word “devotion” also illustrate Lincoln’s point of the soldiers being heroes for their sacrifice to the country, and that those in the audience should aspire to work to make sure the devotion the soldiers had for their country was not in vain. It should be the desire of the entire Union to act as the deceased soldiers had and give their all for America. Two examples of parallelism are when Lincoln says “…of the people, by the people, for the people…” and “…from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”. His repetition of a government completely revolving around the citizens arouses a sense of importance in the role the American people have in their country and makes them aspire to achieve the objectives Lincoln has given in order to gain this kind of control over their government. The contrast Lincoln draws in the second example of parallelism portrays the audience as only benefiting from the sacrifice the soldiers had made and the soldiers as noble heroes who only gave all they had to protect the Union.

This gives the audience a sense of guilt and a desire to protect their country and serve it just as the brave, deceased soldiers had. One example of Lincoln’s use of juxtaposition and antithesis is in his line “for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.” The contrasts between the real and the abstract, immortality and mortality and life and death are all made in this one phrase. The death of a human being is a harsh reality that people can see and recognize, but the death of a nation is more abstract and is personification, not truth. A nation is immortal because it is not truly alive in an organic sense, and therefore it can not truly die as a human being can. Lastly, a contrast is drawn between the word lives, which has a positive connotation, and the phrase “gave their lives”, which has a negative connotation. The effect of the juxtaposition and antithesis reinforces Lincoln’s idea of the nation as being something alive and real, as a human being, and that it is important to protect the nation so it can continue its life, unlike those who chose to die in order to save it, and democracy, from destruction.

The purpose of the word “But” in the second paragraph rhetorically is that Lincoln is informing his audience that he is going to be speaking about a greater subject: not just the loss of a few men, but what the loss of those men, and their sacrifice, meant to the Union as a whole. One example of ethos in his speech is when he speaks of the framers of the Constitution and how they were also dedicated to gaining freedom and liberty for America. One example of pathos is when he says “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” This is an example of pathos because it is drawing on the emotions of the audience, which was comprised mostly of the family of the dead soldiers, and makes it clear that their sacrifice was a great one for the nation – one that will never be forgotten.

One example of logos when Lincoln states that “it is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated hereto the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” This is logos because it appeals the the logical sense of the audience because it convinces them that if people were so dedicated to this war, that it is only reasonable to finish it, since to fail to do so would mean that the soldiers died in vain and democracy would be destroyed.


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