1992, 319 pp.
Nobody can agree about poor Abraham Lincoln. He seems to be all things to all people, including an object of pillory and condemnation for some. Fortunately, Lincoln at Gettysburg is not a reappraisal or yet another massive psycho-biography, but instead a meticulous in-depth textual analysis of the Gettysburg Address and an explanation of the circumstances which led to its composition and which surrounded its delivery. Wills analyzes the Address using the categories and tools of Greek oratory, and compares it line-by-line with Pericles' Funeral Oration, which of course is to be found in Book II of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. He makes a persuasive case for the central theme of rebirth through death, and the importance of the mid-nineteenth century intellectual pivot from Roman neo-classicism to Greek. He uses the simple principles expressed in the Address as a door into
Wills is probably
Of course an entire book about a speech of 272 words requires some stretching. There is a chapter about the architecture of cemeteries in nineteenth century
In sum, Lincoln at Gettysburg is a fascinating book and one which contributes greatly to our knowledge of Lincoln and the milieu of his intellectual development, though it would perhaps have worked better as a lengthy scholarly article and with less of the author’s presence.