SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Add to Cart

Jared Peatman


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
266 pages, 6 x 9, 16 illustrations


Additional Materials

  • News / Publicity



About the Book

When Abraham Lincoln addressed the crowd at the new national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863, he intended his speech to be his most eloquent statement on the inextricable link between equality and democracy. However, unwilling to commit to equality at that time, the nation stood ill-prepared to accept the full message of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In the ensuing century, groups wishing to advance a particular position hijacked Lincoln’s words for their own ends, highlighting the specific parts of the speech that echoed their stance while ignoring the rest. Only as the nation slowly moved toward equality did those invoking Lincoln’s speech come closer to recovering his true purpose. In this incisive work, Jared Peatman seeks to understand Lincoln’s intentions at Gettysburg and how his words were received, invoked, and interpreted over time, providing a timely and insightful analysis of one of America’s most legendary orations.

After reviewing the events leading up to November 19, 1863, Peatman examines immediate responses to the ceremony in New York, Gettysburg itself, Confederate Richmond, and London, showing how parochial concerns and political affiliations shaped initial coverage of the day and led to the censoring of Lincoln’s words in some locales.  He then traces how, over time, proponents of certain ideals invoked the particular parts of the address that suited their message, from reunification early in the twentieth century to American democracy and patriotism during the world wars and, finally, to Lincoln’s full intended message of equality during the Civil War centennial commemorations and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Peatman also explores foreign invocations of the Gettysburg Address and its influence on both the Chinese constitution of 1912 and the current French constitution. An epilogue highlights recent and even current applications of the Gettysburg Address and hints at ways the speech might be used in the future.

By tracing the evolution of Lincoln’s brief words at a cemetery dedication into a revered document essential to American national identity, this revealing work provides fresh insight into the enduring legacy of Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address on American history and culture.


Jared Peatman was a doctoral fellow of the Organization of American Historians and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in 2009, and he received the Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Prize for the best work on Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War in 2012. Through his company, Four Score Consulting, he provides history-themed leadership development events for government and corporate clients. His second book is about Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine, and the Battle of Gettysburg.


“Among the numerous volumes on that famous speech, Jared Peatman’s The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address stands among the best.”—Frank J. Williams, Civil War Times
“Indispensable to the library of anyone concerned with the changing meanings of the Gettysburg Address. Never have these changes been described in richer or fuller detail.”—Barry Schwartz, American Historical Review

The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is an excellent and welcome addition to public and college library American history shelves.” Midwest Book Review
“[Peatman] provides a fascinating account of how Lincoln’s most famous speech has been remembered, forgotten, and remembered again during key moments of America’s history since 1863.”—Tom Pace, Journal of American Culture
“Jared Peatman is less concerned with the immediate reaction to the address, though he considers that topic, than with how Lincoln’s address has been interpreted and used (and abused) by later generations of Americans and by people throughout the world. In short, Peatman examines the Gettysburg Address as a study in historical memory, and, in doing so, he puts forward an argument—written in clear, jargon-free prose, and rooted in extensive primary source research and in the relevant secondary literature—that is ultimately convincing.”—John C. Rodrigue, Presidential Studies Quarterly

“Peatman . . . explore[s] anew Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech and its . . . legacies, the most important of which . . . was Lincoln’s emphasis on equality. . . . Peatman is concerned with what the address meant (both for Americans and for people overseas) in the years 1901–22, during World War II, and in the Cold War. [The book] demonstrate[s] how arguments about the Gettysburg Address and its egalitarian ideals remain with us.”—John M. Barr, Journal of Southern History
“Peatman’s book offers a refreshing view of the historical trajectory of the Gettysburg Address from a quiet, short speech at a cemetery dedication into a quintessential document of American identity. Arguing that the speech did not become a revered historical document for Americans until after World War II, Peatman rejects Gary Wills’s interpretation that Lincoln’s speech remade America in the 1860s, and he tempers Gabor Borritt’s assertion that the document became important in America following the end of Reconstruction.”—Stacy Pratt McDermott, Annals of Iowa

“Peatman reassures his readers that the words of the Gettysburg Address are as relevant today as they were 150 years ago. . . . The author reminds us that the speech has no expiration date. He concludes that ‘the speech is ever present, ready to be called to duty at any moment, a moral yardstick with which to measure our progress both in this nation and the nations of the world.’ The long shadow of the Gettysburg Address has fallen softly on generation after generation of Americans and citizens of the world[,] reminding them ‘that all men are created equal.’ . . .  Readers will come away from this study with a deeper understanding of the relevance of the Gettysburg Address to the present age both domestically and internationally.”—Leonne M. Hudson, Civil War Book Review
“Peatman is at his best when he shows how during the middle decades of the twentieth century an array of American leaders—from Theodore Hesburgh to Lyndon Johnson and, most decisively, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—compelled the nation finally to grapple with the Gettysburg Address as an ever more urgent articulation of the unmet challenge of achieving racial justice.”—Andrew Delbanco, Civil War History
“Peatman intelligently traces the reception accorded the address delivered on November 19, 1863, regarding that summer’s butchery on the battlefield. Initially many commentators—not only in the South—ignored or dismissed Abraham Lincoln’s oration. Most failed to acknowledge the centrality of equality that opened the Gettysburg Address, as well as the subsequent pronouncement that the US awaited ‘a new birth of freedom.’ Failing to underscore Lincoln’s exhortation for an enlargement of democracy and an ushering in of equality, some writers dismissed the president as ignorant, coarse, or fearful altogether. Two to three generations later, Lincoln’s speech began garnering more acclaim, with greater recognition that the president had been committed to both equality and democracy. Most, however, emphasized Lincoln’s lyricism or championing of democratic practices, while Southern textbooks skipped over the speech entirely. [World War I] resulted in greater attention being accorded Lincoln’s own words, helping lead to the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. . . . Summing up: Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries"—R. C. Cottrell, California State University, Chico 
“Its words are magnificent in their brevity and their meaning. Yet, until the appearance of Jared Peatman’s book, no one had shown as clearly as he does the long-term effect of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on friend and foe alike. Must reading for all Americans.”—John F. Marszalek, executive director and managing editor, Ulysses S. Grant Association
“After 150 years Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg still live with meaning. Any time Americans face crisis and sacrifice, that immortal few minutes’ talk reappears to comfort and inspire. Jared Peatman’s wonderfully researched and ably presented book is the first in more than a generation to examine thoroughly the events of November 19, 1863, the public response to the address, and what it has meant to the world ever since. The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address goes a long way toward explaining why we cannot escape its power, and why we wouldn’t escape it if we could. Like Lincoln, it belongs to the ages.”—William C. Davis, director, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Virginia Tech

“Who owns the immortal words that Abraham Lincoln delivered at the soldiers’ cemetery overlooking Gettysburg? This question animates Jared Peatman’s immensely important The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. From the moment the president stepped away from the speaker’s platform on November 19, 1863, his ‘brief remarks’ unleashed fierce disagreements throughout the country. This contentious debate, as the author argues, quickly turned into a global conversation about issues of human freedom and the meaning of citizenship that continues to this day. Peatman’s powerful book reminds us that . . . every student who memorizes the Gettysburg Address . . . will likely reach very different conclusions as to what Lincoln meant by a ‘new birth of freedom.’”—Peter S. Carmichael, Fluhrer Professor of History and director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College