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The Last Full Measure
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The Last Full Measure
Abraham Lincoln on his way to address the crowd at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetary. This has to be one of the greatest speeches ever presented by a head of state!
Gregory J Christiano
I was born in NYC 1947, lived in the Bronx till I got married and moved to Jersey in 1979. I was raised Roman Catholic and went to Catholic grammar and High School. Graduated with BA from Central University of Iowa. Worked in Manhattan most of my career. Presently I am a Claims Adjuster for a service company in the city.
I have only been writing seriously for the past three years, but am published in various nostalgia magazines, have won some awards on line and was awarded the coveted Halpern Memorial Award for best narrative for the Fall 2002 issue of the Bronx County Historical Society Journal. I also have several of my poems published in anthologies. Two short stories will be published at the end of this year.
I will submit essays, historical articles, short stories, and poetry. Looking forward to reading and commenting on the works of fellow authors at this site.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (14)
A Death In The City (Poetry) It is a painful and tragic event when a parent must bury their child. [241 words]
Card Sharps (Short Stories) The poker game grew heated. The cheated card player lay dead on the floor! [1,309 words] [Crime]
Dancing With A Stranger (Poetry) It's a Make Believe Ballroom - when two stangers meet and fall in love! [312 words] [Drama]
Invisible Universe (Novels) Suppose our science was able to shrink a man into a sub-atomic level. What would he find there, and wouls his journey ever end? This is a story of one such traveller and his adventures into that rea... [2,651 words] [Science Fiction]
Invisible Universe - Chapter Ii - First Contact (Novels) The sub-atomic traveller, attacked by a microscopic life-form fell into the abyss. The adventure continues. [2,184 words] [Science Fiction]
Invisible Universe - Chapter Iii - Myth! (Novels) The lonely traveler continues his journey, ever downward, into vast and endless universes. [2,315 words] [Science Fiction]
Lenny's Last Jump! (Short Stories) Two gangsters out for a night’s work, but they’re in for a surprise! [880 words]
Lincoln Past (Poetry) To the honor of one of our greatest Presidents. [107 words] [Biography]
The Five Points (Essays) The old rookeries and dilapidated shanties that formerly abounded in the vicinity of the Five Points and Cow's Bay in the Sixth Ward were the resort and refuge of a desperate class of criminals. This... [897 words] [History]
The Lonely Lighthouse (Poetry) Lighthouse keepers and their wives have an isolated life...most of the time cut off from the mainland. It is a constant struggle to combat loneliness and its effects! [382 words] [Adventure]
The Ninth Avenue El (Essays) Rapid Transit had been a top priority for the city fathers in mid 19th Cenbtury Manhattan. The first elevated railway was a failure but the idea was sound. Once the overhead trains were run by stea... [3,038 words] [History]
The Old Salts And The Sea (Poetry) A shanty to the countless sailors that perished at sea! [205 words] [Adventure]
We Attack At Dawn! (Short Stories) Toward the end of WWII, an army platoon encouters German resistance. [1,391 words] [History]
Who Is The Hero? (Short Stories) Schoolyard bullies have always intimidated their classmates. But what if a boy refuses to fight back? Is he a coward or a hero? [1,534 words] [Motivational]
The Last Full Measure
Gregory J Christiano
It was the morning of November 18, 1863,an occasion of some importance, when a special train drew out of Washington carrying distinguished company. Among these travelers were judges of the Supreme Court, heads of government departments, members of the cabinet and the general-in-chief of the army and his staff. With them, also the Marine Band! And in their midst towered a man, a sad man, preoccupied, unassuming; a man awkward and ill-dressed; a man who leaned slouching against the coach wall. He had an anguished look and manner. His haggard face seemed to bear the suffering of all the sins of the world! Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, journeyed with this party to assist at the consecration of the national cemetery at Gettysburg.
The quiet November landscape rushed past the clattering train and the President's deep-set eyes stared out the window gravely and a bit listlessly. Occasionally he would talk with those about him; and from time to time there were flashes of his quaint wit, but his mind was dispirited today, if not hopeful! There was a weight on his shoulders pressing more and more - and only his courage pressed back against it! He carried the responsibility of a war-torn country - more than a human soul and body could bear. The speech he would give tomorrow needed to be brilliant, eloquent, strong. Thousands of people would expect their President to rise to the occasion and make history! And the Chief Executive was dreadfully afraid of failure!
A melancholy gaze crossed the President's face, struggling to combat his own limitations. Bred in a backwood's cabin, no formal education, snatching bits of knowledge, self-taught - he was carefully editing the speech he would give. This self-made President had to present a balanced and polished oration! He feared he was too rough-hewn, lacking from his scanty schooling. Yet his command of English was clear and forceful. He had to fashion a speech to compete with the finest orator of the day - Edward Everett. Lincoln's words had to be short and real and be able not to exhaust the patience of the audience.
As a sculptor must dream the statue imprisioned in the marble, like the musician dreams a song, he who writes must have a vision of his finished work. In this medium it must be elastic, more vivid, more poerful than anything else! Lincoln set about this labor, building together close-fitted word on word, sentence on sentence.
At eleven o'clock on the morning of November 19, 1863, a vast, silent multitude gathered. They billowed, like waves of the sea over what was once the battlefield of Gettysburg. Among the crowd were wounded soldiers, and veterans who had held their ground under stinging fire some five months before. They had seen their comrades die and buried here. There were troops also in attendance, grave and responsible, who must soon go into battle again. There were the rank and file of every-day Americans surging in the thousands. And above them all on an open-air platform, were the leaders of the land here to salute the memory of thousands of soldiers who died bravely. Now, so many attentive faces turned, on that still November day, towards the orators.
For two hours Everett spoke and the people listened untired, and fascinated by his dignity and highbred manner and voice of deep resonance. He spoke of the great battle, of the causes of the war, of the results. There was great bitterness in his speech and no shade of expression was lost to its meaning. He spoke with passion about the rebels and their crime against the country. These were war days, an men's passions were inflamed and Everett's speech would reinforce that passion! As his clear, cultivated voice fell silent, a storm of applause burst from the throng. They clapped and cheered again and again! At last Mr. Everett, the once Governor of Massachusetts, ex-ambassador to England, ex-Senator of the United States, walked toward his seat. The good citizens acclaimed a man worthy of honor.
As Everett took his seat, a tall, gaunt figure walked across the open space and stood facing the audience. A sudden hush fell over the field, a quivering silence settled down and every eye and ear strained. While Everett was handsome, distinguished, graceful, sure of voice and movement - this figure who now faced them, was tall, awkward, looking disappointing in appearance. This was the President! Suddenly the voice came, in a queer, squeaking falsetto. The effect on the audience was irrepressible, gahstly. After Everett's deep tones, this extraordinary, gaunt apparition, thin, high-pitched sound overpowered the crowd's sense of reverence to humor! But the crowd suppressed their reactions. The President's face was calm, and after a pause, and after uttering a dozen words, his tone gathered volume with power and dignity. The smiles from the crowd were gone. People stopped, afraid they would miss a word or inflection!
There before them, a loose-hung figure, six feet, four inches high, towering above them. His charm of personality reversed his bad first impression. His voice and manner didn't matter now because of what he was about to say...
"Fourscore and seven years ago," spoke the President, "our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, 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 here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or to detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It id for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here 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 that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."
There was no sound from the vast assembly. The President's large figure stood before them, inspired, glorified, lapsing slowly into a stillness. He stared at them for a moment with eyes full of gentleness, resignation, deep quiet...
Not a hand was lifted in applause! Slowly, the tall, awkward man slouched back across the platform and took his seat. There was no sound of approval, no sign of recognition from the audience, only a long sigh that ran like a ripple on the ocean! Lincoln felt his heart throb in pain, thinking his speech was a failure. His own countrymen would not even give a perfunctory applause for what he felt was his best effort! A disappointment cut deep into his soul. But his part was done. Them, music cut the silence - the choir was singing a dirge.
When the ceremonies were over, Everett approached the President, "Mr. President," he began, "Your speech-" but Mr. Lincoln interrupted him, flashing a smile, shaking his head and laying a hand on Everett's shoulder.
"We'll manage not to talk about my speech, Mr. Everett,' he said. "This isn't the first time I've felt that my dignity ought not to permit me to be a public speaker."
"Mr. President," Everett said simply, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."
Mr. Lincoln laughed and turned to speak to another person. He flashed a kindly smile to everyone, and in long strides he left the podium and walked off the platform. The serene sky of November arched, the hushed crowd dispersed and another year would pass from the heartbreak of summer to the war of winter. And those brave souls of the men who gave their last full measure of devotion would pass into memory, for they had gone from earthly war to heavenly joy.
© 2003 by Gregory Christiano
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© 2003 Gregory J Christiano
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