Author's Note: This was written for an essay contest when I was in 7th grade.
It was November 19th, 1863, when Private John Windsor of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, under the command of General John Buford, stood on Cemetery Ridge waiting for President Abraham Lincoln to begin. John had fought on this battlefield only a few months before, during the Battle of Gettysburg, in the beginning of July. Now he was on his way back to the army from a leave, and had decided to listen to Lincoln's speech. He glanced around at the crowds of people around him, who were all waiting for the same reason he was.
Lincoln stood up and silence fell among the crowd. It was now time for the speech to start, which John Windsor could hardly wait to hear. It was a great honor to have the president himself here for the dedication. As Lincoln said the first few words, John listened intently.
"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal.'"
John thought about his great-grandfather, who was killed at Yorktown while fighting in the American Revolution. He had helped his fellow soldiers earn freedom and liberty for the new nation. As John thought about his great-grandfather, tears began to fill his eyes.
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live."
"Freedom was earned in the Revolutionary War, and it must continue!" John thought. "That's why we are fighting this war. We have to work to preserve a nation of freedom, and end slavery. It is important that we bring the states together again."
"This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground—the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here."
John remembered all the fighting that took place at this spot in July on the first day, and he heard again the bullets whizzing every which way, and the people crying for help. "It had been challenging to keep the Confederates back," John thought, "but when the infantry finally arrived we were able to stop them. The sacrifice and bravery of soldiers have honored this ground; not the people listening to the speech today."
"The world can never forget what happened here," thought John. "If we hadn't defended our high ground, and the Confederate Army went past us and took it, they probably would've won the battle at Gettysburg, and ended the war in July."
"It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth."
John thought about Private David Diffenbaugh, and how he was serving his country. Diffenbaugh, also from the 8th Illinois Cavalry, had died on the day of the battle. The nation had to work together to make sure that he and many other people hadn't died for no reason. "If the Confederates win this war," John thought to himself, "the country would be divided, and the Union soldiers who died would have died in vain. I don't want everyone who died in my regiment, more than six hundred of them, to have died for no reason! But if we win this war, the nation shall come together again, and the people shall be treated fairly."
Waiting for more, the crowd waited in complete silence, not knowing that no more words would come out of Lincoln's mouth. Finally, when it was obvious that the speech was already over, John ran for his horse. He couldn't wait to tell his friends at camp his news. The speech had been short, to the point, and very understandable.