An invitation was sent to the White House, too. The governor asked President Lincoln to come to the ceremony. He asked Lincoln to say a few words.
Lincoln agreed to do so. He felt it was his duty to go. He wanted to honor the brave men who had died at Gettysburg. Lincoln hoped his words might ease the sorrow over the loss of these men and lift the spirit of the nation.
Lincoln was advised to talk about democracy. He recently had received a letter from a man in Massachusetts. The man had just returned from a visit to Europe.
The man told Lincoln that Europeans saw the war more clearly than Americans, who were in the middle of it. He said they saw it as a war between the people and an aristocracy. The South, he said, was ruled by a small group of aristocrats. He said once the people understood that it was a war for democracy, they would win it quickly.
The man urged Lincoln to explain to the common people that the war was not the North against the South, but democracy against the enemies of democracy.
Lincoln was busy during the two weeks before the ceremony at Gettysburg. He did not have much time to work on his speech. He decided what to say. But he did not choose the exact words he would use.
Lincoln left Washington November eighteenth for the train ride to Gettysburg. The train stopped in Baltimore. A crowd waited to see him.
An old man came up and shook Lincoln's hand. He told the president that he had lost a son in the fighting at Gettysburg. Lincoln said he understood the man's sorrow.
Lincoln said to the old man: "When I think of the sacrifices of life still to be offered, and the hearts and homes to be made lonely before this terrible war is over, my heart is like lead. I feel at times like hiding in a deep darkness."
Lincoln arrived at Gettysburg at sundown.