Mankato author Maud Hart Lovelace once referred to the month of November as “the gray time.”
The skies are often cloudy and cold. The dead leaves have fallen from the trees and lay scattered over the frozen ground. Flowers have withered, and have turned brown.
And it is also a month of solemn anniversaries: All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, Veterans’ Day, Remembrance Day at Gettysburg, John F. Kennedy’s assassination day, and Thanksgiving Day. Kent Gramm, author of “November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg” summed it up well when he wrote:
Modernity was ripe in November 1863 when Abraham Lincoln stated for all time the high hope and sheer faith of his world. One hundred years later, by the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, that world was completely gone. Despite their differences, the 1860s and 1960s were mirror decades: both times of civil war, of passions and politics and violence, of leaders like meteors who burnished the skies and were shot dead… November begins in grief, and ends in hope. It is the drear month of faith. November courage runs in the blood of saints. These are the days of November.
President Lincoln received his official invitation to attend and deliver “a few appropriate remarks” at the dedication of the new national cemetery at Gettysburg, Penn., on Nov. 2, 1863, only two weeks before the ceremony was to take place on Nov. 19.
If he had wanted to, Lincoln could have found many reasons to turn down the speaking engagement: he was not the keynote speaker (famed orator Edward Everett was given that honor); Tad was ill and Mary Todd Lincoln did not want the boy’s father away in case Tad took a turn for the worse; and the war was grinding on with no end to it in sight.