Assuming this column runs on its regularly scheduled third Saturday of the month, you may be reading this on Nov. 19, 159 years to the day since Abraham Lincoln contributed his “few appropriate remarks” to the consecration of Gettysburg’s Soldiers National Cemetery. Of no historical significance whatsoever, I will have celebrated my 72nd birthday three days previous, the 16th of November. President Lincoln, of course, is well-known for bouts of melancholy, and I have wondered how much of my own inclination to the same may be attributable to my birth month. In his wonderful book, “November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg,” Kent Gramm writes, “November is nature’s elegy. Let the month itself stand for grief and faith, a gray month of blank sky and cold winds, beginning in remembrance and ending in expectation—a month through whose strange beauty we all must pass and whose alien work must truly be our own.”

If local organizers had their way in 1863, dedication of the new burial ground would have happened in October, while the leaves were still on the trees in the brilliant colors of autumn. On Sept. 23, attorney David Wills had written to celebrity orator Edward Everett inviting him to deliver the keynote address in a ceremony scheduled for Oct. 23. Everett accepted, but said a month’s lead time wasn’t sufficient, and so it was that Abraham Lincoln would lead the procession from the Wills house to Cemetery Hill in mid-November.

Bruce Davis is the president of the Civil War Round Table of Gettysburg. The opinions and ideas expressed here are his own and he invites you to contact him at

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