The Formal Invitation; Judge David Wills to Abraham Lincoln, November 2, 1863

David Wills

House Divided Project at Dickinson College

House Divided Project at Dickinson College
Carlisle, United States

Judge David Wills’s letter to Abraham Lincoln is the official invitation to the president to participate in the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Wills carefully explained to Lincoln that the proposed cemetery was planned and financed by states having soldiers buried at Gettysburg. Wills, who had conceived the idea of a national cemetery and had organized the dedication, made it equally clear to the president that he would have only a small part in the ceremonies. Although there is some evidence Lincoln expected Wills’s letter, its late date makes the author appear presumptuous, especially when one realizes that Edward Everett, the principal speaker for the occasion, received his invitation in September.


  • Title: The Formal Invitation; Judge David Wills to Abraham Lincoln, November 2, 1863
  • Creator: David Wills
  • Original Source: Library of Congress
  • Transcription: Gettysburg Nov. 2 1863 To His Excellency A. Lincoln President U. S. Sir, The Several States having Soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, who were killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, or have since died at the various hospitals which were established in the vicinity, have procured grounds on a prominent part of the Battle Field for a Cemetery, and are having the dead removed to them and properly buried. These Grounds will be Consecrated and set apart to this Sacred purpose, by appropriate Ceremonies, on Thursday, the 19th instant. Hon Edward Everett will deliver the Oration. I am authorized by the Governors of the different States to invite you to be present, and participate in these Ceremonies, which will doubtless be very imposing and solemnly impressive. It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their Sacred use by a few appropriate remarks. It will be a source of great gratification to the many widows and orphans that have been made almost friendless by the Great Battle here, to have you here personally; and it will kindle anew in the breasts of the Comrades of these brave dead, who are now in the tented field or nobly meeting the foe in the front, a confidence that they who sleep in death on the Battle Field are not forgotten by those highest in Authority; and they will feel that, should their fate be the same, their remains will not be uncared for. We hope you will be able to be present to perform this last solemn act to the Soldiers dead on this Battle Field. I am with great Respect, Your Excellency's Obedient Servant David Wills Agent for A. G. Curtin Gov. of Penna. and acting for all the States
  • Reproduction Number: Digital ID # al0181p1
  • Call Number: Robert Todd Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

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