Witness to Gettysburg Address

Viewpoints of Photograph by Alexander Gardner and Sketch by Joseph Becker as Witness to November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address (Viewpoints illustrated, on Underlying Map from National Park Service, by S. H. Smith, 2013)

Viewpoints of Photograph by Alexander Gardner and Sketch by Joseph Becker as Witness to November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address (Viewpoints illustrated, on Underlying Map from National Park Service, by S. H. Smith, 2013)

I first walked through the Gettysburg National Cemetery as a child on a Cub Scout field trip.  From that trip, I still have the Gettysburg Handbook, published by the National Park Service.  On page 39 of the handbook it states, “The Soldiers’ National Monument honors the Federal dead who fell at Gettysburg.  Dedicated July 1, 1869, it stands where Lincoln stood when he delivered the Gettysburg Address.”

In visits over the years, the spot where Lincoln stood when he delivered the Gettysburg Address has gradually shifted to the southeast; first still in the National Cemetery and now most historians believe that Lincoln stood on a platform in the neighboring Evergreen Cemetery.  I decided to plot viewpoints, of a photograph by Alexander Gardner and a sketch by Joseph Becker, on a map to draw my own conclusions.

A few of my related Gettysburg & Lincoln posts include:

Continue reading for my explanation about plotting the viewpoints of a photograph by Alexander Gardner and a sketch by Joseph Becker.

 

I’ve zoomed into a portion of an Alexander Gardner photograph taken on November 19, 1863; the day that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.  Historians point out that the speakers platform is located in the area indicated.

Zoomed-in-view of Alexander Gardner photograph taken in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863 (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs)

Zoomed-in-view of Alexander Gardner photograph taken in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863 (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs)

The arched structure on the left side of the photograph is the backside of the Main Gate in the adjoining Evergreen Cemetery.  Evergreen Cemetery was established in 1854.  Being a relatively new cemetery, there were a few, but not many graves.

The Evergreen Main Gate sets the far end of the left field of view line for my zoomed-in-view of this photograph.  On November 19, 1863, a flagpole stood at the site presently occupied by the Soldiers’ National Monument.  The flagpole is just out of view to left, setting the near end of the left field of view line.

The photograph was taken at a moderate distance from the speakers platform.  Coupling viewpoints with different-ranges-of-view, from different directions, usually yields nice results.  One such long-range view was published in the December 5, 1863, issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Banner of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (Issue of December 5, 1863)

Banner of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (Issue of December 5, 1863)

Artist and reporter, Joseph Becker, was witness to the events of November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg.  He produced sketches of what he saw that day.  He later created an elaborate detailed sketch entitled “Dedication Ceremony,” which appeared as a two-page spread in the December 5, 1863, issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.  I’ve zoomed-in on the center section of this sketch in the following illustration.

Zoomed-in-view of Joseph Becker’s sketch entitled “Dedication Ceremony” (Appearing in the December 5, 1863, issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs)

Zoomed-in-view of Joseph Becker’s sketch entitled “Dedication Ceremony” (Appearing in the December 5, 1863, issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs)

The front of the Evergreen Cemetery Main Gate appears at the left of this zoomed-in-view, therefore this is a long-distance view from a hilltop on the east side of the Baltimore Pike.  The Main Gate and flagpole pretty much dictate the placement of the viewpoint and my estimate of the location of the speakers platform in Evergreen Cemetery.  I’d say the location is between 140 and 170 feet southeast of the Soldiers’ National Monument.

One might question the accuracy of a sketch produced at a later date.  Actually Joseph Becker drew on-the-spot sketches, prior to creating his elaborate detailed sketch entitled “Dedication Ceremony.”

Joseph Becker’s on-the-spot Sketch showing the Location of the Speakers Platform during the Dedication Ceremony on November 19, 1863  (Source is United States Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, PA)

Joseph Becker’s on-the-spot Sketch showing the Location of the Speakers Platform during the Dedication Ceremony on November 19, 1863 (Source is United States Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, PA)

This is a Joseph Becker on-the-spot sketch showing the location of the speakers platform on November 19, 1863.  One can see how Becker used this on-the-spot sketch to create his elaborate detailed sketch entitled “Dedication Ceremony.”

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About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America." Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.
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7 Responses to Witness to Gettysburg Address

  1. Pingback: York Town Square | Gettysburg 150, Nov. 19 edition: 6 best story, photo and video links

  2. Mark Whitney says:

    Very nice article and graphics/photos! Just what I was looking to find and more than I had hoped to find in one place!! Thanks again and very best for the holidays!

  3. Jack Reichert says:

    Just read your article on Gettysburg Address. My GGrandfather was Robert W. Green who served in Co. F, 1st Battalion Pa. Vols. ( later known as the 187th Rgt.)

    In an article in a Harrisburg newspaper dated July 12, 1926, Robert Green stated :
    ” I can’t seem to remember much of the exercises…my memory is not as good as it might be “. ” But I know my company was on guard duty around the platform, so I got a good chance to see everything. The platform was draped in black, and was placed just inside the main entrance to the cemetery ”

    Seems to match your article fairly closely..

    • Stephen H. Smith says:

      Jack … Thanks for sharing your GGrandfather’s eyewitness account of the day Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.

  4. Scott S says:

    Always an interesting topic. I think, however, you have misidentified the speakers’ platform in the above Gardner photograph. The speakers’ platform was directly adjacent to Everett’s “relief tent”. Both are cropped out of the version of the photo you have above. The platform and tent would be further to the right in the full image. I would also recommend you use the full image when determining the viewpoint and related angle plots. The flagpole is an important landmark to compare to the Evergreen Cemetery gate and thereby establish a more accurate estimation of the photographer’s viewpoint. When viewing the full image, you can see that the actual speakers’ platform is more centrally located in the photo. I would recommend William A. Frassanito’s book: Early Photography at Gettysburg, for what is currently the best published photographic study of the location of the speakers’ platform. It also presents several other relevant photographs including the photograph (a different angle from Gardner’s) that when zoomed in shows what most historians consider the only verified photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg.

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