Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, just 272 words long, took about two minutes to deliver, said reenactor Peter Lindemann of Cobleskill, who read the address as part of a commemoration at American Legion Post 72 on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The address followed a two-hour keynote speech by Edward Everett, a former senator, Massachusetts governor and secretary of state.
Lindemann, in his role as Lincoln, said, “If you want to know what he said, you can look it up; it’s in the books. I spoke for two minutes. If you want to know what I said, you can ask any school child.”
Before delivering the address itself, Lindemann offered several anecdotes related to the address and its drafting. Like many reenactors, Lindemann remained in character, always referring to Lincoln in the first person.
Speaking of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, he said, “If my name ever goes into history, I told the people in that room, it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”
The bloodiest battle of the war to date – Gettysburg – took place six months after the proclamation went into effect. “So many men died there that it was necessary to establish a national cemetery right there on the spot,” he said.
He recounted the family background of illness, including the death of two of his sons. With one son suffering a mild attack of smallpox, Lincoln’s wife begged him to skip the commemoration, but he felt he had to go.
Following the reenactment of the speech in Saugerties, the singing group, Veterans in a New Field, led the audience in the Battle Hymn of the Republic to conclude the outdoor ceremony.
In his benediction, Rev. Duane Buddle of the Saugerties United Methodist Church asked for remembrance of “those who bore the cost of battle then, and those who bear the cost of battle today, and for those who rise to the occasion as our former President Lincoln did.”
The ceremony also included the placing of plaques on two weeping cherry trees that were planted at the Post by Bill Payne and R.J. Butler. “These weeping cherry trees commemorate the sadness and the weeping of the losses in war; and the sweetness of the victory and the maintenance of the Union,” Payne said.
Following the outdoor ceremony, the speakers and audience moved inside for a program of music related to Lincoln by the Veterans in a New Field, with introductions to some of the songs by Lindemann, still in character.