John F Kennedy and Gettysburg

1 Conversation

During 1963 the Gettysburg National Battlefield celebrated the 100th anniversary of the pivotal American Civil War battle with a variety of special events.

For the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the battle, Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt came to the battlefield on 4 July and gave speeches. In 1963, President John F Kennedy was invited to speak, but a previously arranged tour of Europe prevented him from doing so1. Undeterred, the anniversary organizers recruited the closest president they could find - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania resident Dwight Eisenhower.

Kennedy did tour the battlefield in March 1963 in an Oldsmobile convertible. He is said to have impressed his tour guides by being able to read the Gaelic inscription on the monument to the 28th Massachusetts2.

On Memorial Day3, Kennedy did not attend ceremonies at the battlefield and sent Vice President Lyndon B Johnson in his stead. At the time, LBJ's remarks drew little notice, but once he became president they took on special meaning as he was the first Southerner to speak at Gettysburg about Civil Rights.

The final special event at the battlefield in 1963 was to mark the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's reading of his famous Gettysburg Address at the National Cemetery.

Again Kennedy declined an invitation to speak and again Eisenhower filled in admirably. Kennedy did send a message which read 'Let us remember those thousands of American patriots whose graves at home, beneath the sea and in distant lands are silent sentries of our heritage'.

The reason Kennedy could not attend the event was because he was needed in Texas to settle a political squabble between the two Texans - Governor John Connally and US Senator Ralph Yarborough. Instead of attending the ceremonies on 19 November, Kennedy flew down to Texas and stayed the weekend at LBJ's ranch.

Three days later, on 22 November, Kennedy was assassinated as he rode through the streets of Dallas.

Related h2g2 entries

Check out some of the other h2g2 entries relating to the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg:

1During this European tour, Kennedy he spoke the famous phrase 'Ich bin ein Berliner' at the Berlin City Hall.2The Park Service had to contact the Irish Embassy in 1935 for a translation.3A holiday celebrated the last Monday in May in which America's war dead are remembered.

Bookmark on your Personal Space



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Written and Edited by


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more