On the night he lost the Illinois primary, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum vowed to fight on, not from the Land of Lincoln but from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Three weeks later, Gettysburg is where Santorum chose to end his presidential campaign.

The choice to stage two major events in Gettysburg shows how Santorum would like his campaign to be seen: not as another longshot presidential bid but as an important part of world history.

"What I tried to bring to the battle was what Abraham Lincoln brought to this battlefield back in 1863,” Santorum said in his concession speech, “when he talked about this country being conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to 3 of 1863, was the bloodiest of the Civil War and a turning point in the fight. It was the last major offensive launched by the South against the North.

Four months later, Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers’ National Cemetery on that site, using the speech to firmly establish the Declaration of Independence as the guiding spirit of the nation.

Santorum, in turn, cast his campaign as the best chance at recapturing that spirit.

 “I think it’s the most important election since the election of 1860,” Santorum said in Illinois. “The election in 1860 was about whether these United States ... would be ... a nation based on a concept, a concept that we were birthed with, a concept birthed with our founding document of the Declaration of Independence.” This election too, he said, was about “freedom.”

He frequently referenced the American Revolution and the Civil War. Too much government involvement in health care, Santorum said recently, meant “You no longer become a people where the government is there to serve you, but you will become a people just like the folks who conducted a revolution back in 1776,” he said.

Political machinations aren’t entirely new to Gettysburg. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin visited the battlefield when she was flirting with a presidential bid. Barry Goldwater used a conversation he had with President Eisenhower at Gettysburg in a 1964 campaign ad.

And other politicians have been known to tie themselves to Honest Abe. President Obama announced his campaign in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln gave his famous anti-slavery “House Divided” speech.

But Gettysburg has a bit of extra significance for Santorum. While he lives in Virginia now, Pennsylvania is the site of both his political rise and ignominious defeat. His speech here was his last chance to tell his old constituents that he’s more than just a failed senator.