Gettysburg Address

“That These Dead Shall Not
Have Died in Vain”

These nine words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address were taken from Reverend Mason Weems’s Life of General Washington. The story goes that Lincoln had borrowed the book from a nearby farmer and had read it nightly for months. One night, after a torrential rainstorm, Lincoln discovered that water had seeped between the logs of his home and destroyed the book. One page, however, in this ruined book was still legible. It was the last page showing a woodcut of General Washington kneeling before a monument marked “Valley Forge.” Underneath the woodcut were the words: “That these dead shall not have died in vain.” These nine words became permanently etched into the mind of twelve-year-old Lincoln. Forty years later, he would use these very words on November 19, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when dedicating its battlefield cemetery. (It has been reported that young Lincoln cleared an acre of woods to pay for his neighbor’s ruined book.)