Gettysburg (1993 film notes)

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Gettysburg (1993 film notes)

Theatrical release poster

Directed by

Ronald F. Maxwell

Produced by

Moctesuma Esparza
Robert Katz

Screenplay by

Ronald F. Maxwell

Based on

The Killer Angels by
Michael Shaara

Narrated by

W. Morgan Sheppard


Tom Berenger
Jeff Daniels
Martin Sheen
Maxwell Caulfield
Kevin Conway
C. Thomas Howell
Richard Jordan
James Lancaster
Stephen Lang
Sam Elliott

Music by

Randy Edelman


Turner Pictures

Distributed by

United States Theatrical:
New Line Cinema
Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s)

  • October 8, 1993 (1993-10-08)

Running time

262 minutes / 271 minutes (director's cut)




$25 million[1]

Box office


Gettysburg is a 1993 American war film. It is based on the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, a historical fiction writer, about the decisive Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. The film adaptation was written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell and produced by Moctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz. Randy Edelman composed the score. The film stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels and Martin Sheen, and tells the story of the Union and Confederate armies during this pivotal battle of the war.

Though it did poorly at the box office, Gettysburg has been highly praised by critics.



The film starts with spoken exposition over the image of a map that establishes the location of the battle and how the two armies converged at Gettysburg. Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia are making an offensive through Pennsylvania to lure the Union Army of the Potomac into a decisive battle that will end the war. The narration states that Confederate President Jefferson Davis has prepared a letter of peace to be delivered to the desk of Abraham Lincoln once the Army of the Potomac has been destroyed somewhere outside of Washington.

Early scenes depict actor-turned-spy Henry Thomas Harrison spotting Union cavalry. Shortly thereafter, Harrison locates a major body of Union infantry and, immediately, crosses the Confederate picket line in order to notify Lieutenant General James "Pete" Longstreet, the senior lieutenant general in the Confederate Army and second-in-command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Major General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry, the “eyes” of Lee’s army, has gone off on raids without keeping in touch with Lee’s army. Meanwhile, U.S. Brig. Gen. John Buford and his cavalry division arrive at Gettysburg. Buford surmizes that if Lee's army is allowed access to the town, the Confederates might easily take a strong defensive position that could destroy the Army of the Potomac. Buford decides to deploy his division along Seminary Ridge in order to obstruct any Confederate advance on Gettysburg from the west. The day ends with Buford writing a letter to Maj. Gen. John Reynolds, commanding officer of the nearby Union I Corps infantry, inquiring if he should hold his position.

Meanwhile, miles from Gettysburg, U.S. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine regiment is awakened and informed that his unit will be absorbing 120 recalcitrant members of another Maine regiment, the 2nd Maine. Orders state that it is within his power to have the rebellious men shot, if necessary. Chamberlain wins over all but six (three of whom will later fight in the second day of battle) of the soldiers with an inspirational speech.

First day

Back in Gettysburg on July 1, the first day of battle, Buford's cavalry engages Henry Heth's division of A. P. Hill's corps; Heth had intended to lead his troops to Gettysburg to restock the Confederacy's dwindling shoe supply. Believing the forces at Gettysburg to be local militia, Heth engages Buford without first communicating with General Lee.

Buford repels Heth's initial attacks, but Heth's superior numbers begin to tell. General Reynolds and the I Corps arrive to reinforce the position. Meanwhile Lee arrives on the field but is hesitant to commit the whole of Hill's Third Corps due to a lack of intelligence on the Army of the Potomac's position, given J.E.B. Stuart's lack of contact with the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee's only information on the enemy is what has been relayed to him by General Longstreet from Harrison's report.

Union forces retake Seminary Ridge, but Reynolds, while leading the Iron Brigade into battle, is killed by a Confederate sharpshooter. Soon after Heth informs Lee that Union forces are being flanked by Lt. General Dick Ewell's corps advancing on Gettysburg from the north. Recognizing a tactical advantage, Lee gives the order for all forces to attack.

Union forces, out-manned and flanked, begin to retreat, but a decisive Confederate victory is compromised when Ewell fails to follow through with orders to take the crucial strategic location of Cemetery Hill, allowing Union troops to rally in a strong defensive position. Confederate General Isaac Trimble, attached to Ewell's command, but disgusted by Ewell's inability to take the high ground of Cemetery Hill, reports to General Lee. Trimble asks to be removed from Ewell's command, but Lee informs the enraged Trimble that such action would not be necessary.

At the end of the first day, one of Longstreet's division commanders, Maj. Gen. George Pickett, arrives at Longstreet's headquarters with his three brigade commanders, Gens. James Kemper, Richard B. Garnett and Lewis Armistead. The four meet with Gen. Longstreet and begin exchanging banter around the fireside with British Colonel Arthur Fremantle, who has been traveling with Lee's army as an observer. Armistead discusses with Longstreet his friendship with Union General Winfield Scott Hancock and his desire to meet with him.

On the other side of the battlefield, at the center of the Union position south of the town, Hancock congratulates Buford on a hard fight on the first day. Hancock reflects on Reynolds's death and Armistead's whereabouts, to which Buford responds that Armistead is serving in Pickett's division. Hancock states that he would hate to meet Armistead again while still on opposite sides. After a moment of recollection, he again congratulates Buford and instructs him that he should reorganize his cavalry.

Second day

On the second day, Lee orders an attack on the Union left flank to be led by two divisions of Longstreet’s First Corps. The primary focus of the attack is to be on the treacherous terrain of Devil's Den and Little Round Top. John "Sam" Bell Hood, one of Longstreet's division commanders and a close friend tasked with flanking the Union forces, pleads with Longstreet to allow him to bypass Devil's Den and Little Round Top in favor of capturing the taller heights of the adjacent Big Round Top. However, Longstreet tells Hood that he has tried to argue much the same plan with Lee and that the commanding general will not accept an attack elsewhere on the field.

Meanwhile, Chamberlain and the 20th Maine are deployed on Little Round Top as the furthermost left flank of the entire Federal line. When Devil’s Den falls, there is little to protect Chamberlain’s regiment. Chamberlain and the undersized 20th put up a valiant defense, repelling multiple Confederate charges, but his men become short on ammunition. Chamberlain orders a bayonet charge and the Confederate forces retreat in confusion, many being taken prisoner.

Late that afternoon, Longstreet visits a severely wounded Hood in a field hospital. Longstreet informs Hood that they took Devil’s Den, but that they were unable to take Little Round Top. Hood again states that the Rebel attack should have taken Big Round Top.

That evening, in Longstreet’s camp, General Armistead, believing he’s soon to see combat gives a package to Longstreet to be delivered to the wife of General Hancock in the event of Armistead's death. The package contains his personal Bible.

Robert E. Lee meets with J.E.B. Stuart, who had finally returned that afternoon, but not in time to give Lee an advantage. Lee scolds Stuart, who attempts to resign, but Lee denies him and orders him to never leave Lee’s army blind again.

Pickett's Charge

On the third and final day of combat, General Lee believes that the Federal line is weakest in the center and could be divided in two. Longstreet protests, but Lee, now confident that the Army of Northern Virginia is invincible, places Longstreet in charge of a frontal assault on the Union position on Cemetery Ridge with General Pickett’s division forming the center of the assault which would go on to be known as Pickett's Charge.

Longstreet, not believing the attack will be successful from the beginning, orders for an extended artillery bombardment. However, the Confederates do not realize that their guns are overshooting the Union defenses, and in the process, the bombardment hardly does any damage to the Union center. When the bombardment ends, Pickett’s forces begin their advance. Immediately they fall under fire of the Union’s long-distance artillery. They make it to the Union line where numbers are further decreased by canister and the Union musket fire.

Armistead, whose brigade was at the rear of Pickett’s forces, sees General Garnett’s horse riding off away from the line, its rider having been killed by an artillery round. This prompts Armistead to thrust his sword through his hat and rally his fellow Virginians to follow him. His rally is enough to penetrate a low stone wall near the Union line (a location now known as the High-water mark of the Confederacy), but his force is too small, and Armistead is mortally wounded. All Confederate forces that broke the line would be killed or captured. General Kemper is wounded and captured, but rescued by Confederate troops.

Thomas Chamberlain, Joshua's brother, encounters the mortally wounded Armistead, who asks to see his old friend Hancock. Chamberlain informs him that Hancock has been wounded as well. Armistead asks Chamberlain to tell Hancock that he sends his regrets and that he is very sorry. Chamberlain agrees to do this as Armistead begins to expire.

Lee rides out to the remains of the retreating Confederate forces and declares that everything is all his fault. He orders a distraught General Pickett to reform his division to prepare for a possible counter attack, to which Pickett informs Lee that he has no division.

The day, along with the battle, ends with a victorious North and Lee informing Longstreet of plans to fall back into Virginia beginning the next day, feeling that the Union forces would be unlikely to pursue on Independence Day. However, Lee's hypothesis proves false. The film ends with Chamberlain and his brother, Tom, hugging and in tears knowing that they both survived the battle. The last scene in the film shows three zouaves of the 72nd Pennsylvania with the Union flag against the sunset.


The film began life as a miniseries. The producers originally pitched the project to ABC in 1991. ABC initially agreed to back the project, but when the TV movie Son of the Morning Star about George Armstrong Custer received low ratings, ABC withdrew. Subsequently, media mogul and Civil War buff Ted Turner took up the project and filming began, helped considerably when the National Park Service permitted unprecedented access to Gettysburg Battlefield, including Devil's Den and Little Round Top. However, much of the movie was shot at a nearby Adams County farm. Thousands of Civil War reenactors from across the country volunteered to come to Gettysburg to participate in the massive battle scenes.[1]

When filming was completed, the miniseries was set to air on TNT. But during post-production, Turner, who made a cameo as a Confederate officer during Pickett's Charge, was so impressed by what he saw that he decided to release "Gettysburg" theatrically. The film was distributed by New Line Cinema, which Turner had just acquired. The film was only shown in 248 theaters at its widest release, and was limited to one or two showings a day because of its inordinate length. "Gettysburg" grossed nearly $11 million, but was still considered a box-office flop. However, the film became an all-time top grosser in the home-entertainment market, and has become a staple of classroom history lessons. Its TV premiere on TNT in June 1994 garnered over 23 million viewers, a record for cable TV at the time.

One of the longest films ever released by a Hollywood studio, Gettysburg runs 254 minutes (4 hours, 14 minutes) on VHS and DVD. A director's cut edition, with several extended or deleted scenes, sold as part of a special "Collector's Edition" on VHS and LaserDisc, which also included a book of Gettysburg paintings by Civil War artist Mort Künstler, an original Civil War lead Minié ball, stock photographs of key officers from the battle, and other items. Ron Maxwell's 271-minute (4 hours, 31 minutes) Director's Cut has been shown on Turner's TNT Station regularly and is now available on DVD.

The movie was released on Blu-Ray as a Collector's Edition on May 24, 2011 for the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War.

A prequel entitled Gods and Generals was released in 2003 based on the novel of the same name, written by Michael Shaara's son Jeff Shaara. It primarily focuses on the life of Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and the battles leading up to Gettysburg.

The PC strategy game, Gettysburg: Multimedia Battle Simulation was released by Turner Interactive in 1994. It contained 67 cinematic scenes from the film,[2] many of them outtakes.


  • Tom Berenger as Lieutenant General James Longstreet (CSA)

  • Jeff Daniels as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (USA)

  • Martin Sheen as General Robert E. Lee (CSA)

  • Kevin Conway as Sergeant Buster Kilrain (USA)

  • C. Thomas Howell as Lieutenant Thomas Chamberlain (USA)

  • Richard Jordan as Brigadier General Lewis A. "Lo" Armistead (CSA)

  • Richard Anderson as Major General George Meade (USA)

  • Royce D. Applegate as Brigadier General James L. Kemper (CSA)

  • John Diehl as Private Bucklin (USA)

  • Maxwell Caulfield as Colonel Strong Vincent (USA)

  • Joshua D. Maurer as Colonel James Clay Rice (USA)

  • Patrick Gorman as Major General John Bell Hood (CSA)

  • Cooper Huckabee as Henry Thomas Harrison

  • James Lancaster as Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle (British Army, the Coldstream Guards)

  • Brian Mallon as Major General Winfield Scott Hancock (USA)

  • Andrew Prine as Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett (CSA)

  • John Rothman as Major General John F. Reynolds (USA)

  • Tim Scott as Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell (CSA)

  • W. Morgan Sheppard as Major General Isaac R. Trimble (CSA) and narrator

  • Stephen Lang as Major General George Pickett (CSA)

  • Sam Elliott as Brigadier General John Buford (USA)

  • Joseph Fuqua as Major General J.E.B. Stuart (CSA)

  • Bo Brinkman as Lieutenant Colonel Walter H. Taylor (CSA)

  • Kieran Mulroney as Major Moxley Sorrel (CSA)

  • Ivan Kane as Captain T.J. Goree (CSA)

  • James Patrick Stuart as Colonel Edward Porter Alexander (CSA)

  • Warren Burton as Major General Henry Heth (CSA)

  • Buck Taylor as Colonel William Gamble (USA)

  • David Carpenter as Colonel Thomas C. Devin (USA)

  • Donal Logue as Captain Ellis Spear (USA)

  • Herb Mitchell as Sergeant Andrew J. Tozier (USA)

  • Dwier Brown as Captain Brewer (USA)


Civil War buff Ted Turner has a cameo appearance in one of the battle scenes as Colonel Waller T. Patton. During Major General Pickett's (Stephen Lang) charge, Confederate troops must climb a fence in their path. Turner plays the Confederate officer who leads the charge, then gets shot down.

Former James Bond actor George Lazenby has a brief role as General Johnston Pettigrew, who, along with General Isaac Trimble and General Pickett, helps lead the final charge of the battle.

Ken Burns, who co-wrote and directed the epic PBS documentary The Civil War, portrays an aide to Major General Hancock (Brian Mallon) during a massive bombardment that precedes Pickett's Charge. Burns can be seen saying, "General, please get down. We cannot spare you," to Hancock, to which Hancock replies with a famous quotation, "There are times when a corps commander's life does not count."


The score was composed by Randy Edelman. The soundtrack was released through Milan Records in September 1993 and features eighteen tracks of score.

  1. "Main Title" (4:36)

  2. "Men of Honor" (2:57)

  3. "Battle of Little Round Top" (3:57)

  4. "Fife and Gun" (3:03)

  5. "General Lee at Twilight" (1:25)

  6. "The First Battle" (2:41)

  7. "Dawn" (1:59)

  8. "From History to Legend" (2:56)

  9. "Over the Fence" (4:11)

  10. "We are the Flank" (2:15)

  11. "Charging Up the Hill" (2:23)

  12. "Dixie" (2:26) – traditional

  13. "General Lee's Solitude" (3:41)

  14. "Battle at Devil's Den" (1:46)

  15. "Killer Angel" (4:42)

  16. "March to Mortality (Pickett's Charge)" (3:18)

  17. "Kathleen Mavourneen" (3:17) – composed by Frederick Crouch

  18. "Reunion and Finale" (5:45)

Two related albums were subsequently released: More Songs and Music From Gettysburg and a Deluxe Commemorative Edition. The former includes popular songs from the time period and a recitation of the Gettysburg Address by Jeff Daniels; the latter contains previously unreleased tracks from the score.[3]


The critical reception for Gettysburg has been mostly positive, currently holding an 88% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 16 reviews.[4] Reception by Civil War reenactors and historians has proved particularly positive despite historical errors.[citation needed]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a positive review of 3 out of 4 stars, stating "This is a film that Civil War buffs will find indispensable, even if others might find it interminable." Ebert said that despite his initial indifference, he left the film with a new understanding of the Civil War, and that he felt Jeff Daniels deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance.[5] Ebert also gave the film a 'thumbs-up' rating on Siskel & Ebert, while companion Gene Siskel gave it a 'thumbs-down', claiming that the film was "bloated Southern propaganda." He did however, praise some elements of the film, including Jeff Daniels' performance (which he recommended for an Oscar nomination on the Memo to the Academy edition of Siskel & Ebert.)


    1. ^ a b Jubera, Drew (October 9, 1993). "GETTYSBURG: Ted Turner, a cast of thousands and the ghosts of the past". Baltimore Sun (Tribune Company). Retrieved October 12, 2011.

    2. ^ Gettysburg Multimedia Battle Simulation at

    3. ^ Gettysburg soundtrack review at

    4. ^

    5. ^ "Gettysburg". Chicago Sun-Times.

Gettysburg Campaign


  • Brandy Station ·

  • Second Winchester ·

  • Aldie ·

  • Middleburg ·

  • Upperville ·

  • Sporting Hill ·

  • Hanover ·

  • Carlisle ·

  • Hunterstown ·

  • Fairfield


  • 1st day ·

  • 2nd Day ·

  • 3rd day


    • Longstreet's Assault


      • Artillery barrage ·

      • Pickett's Charge



    • East cavalry battle



  • Monterey Pass ·

  • Williamsport ·

  • Boonsboro ·

  • Funkstown ·

  • Manassas Gap

Confederate commanders
order of battle)

  • Robert E. Lee ·

  • E. Porter Alexander ·

  • Richard H. Anderson ·

  • Jubal A. Early ·

  • Richard S. Ewell ·

  • Henry Heth ·

  • A.P. Hill ·

  • John B. Hood ·

  • Allegheny Johnson ·

  • James Longstreet ·

  • Lafayette McLaws ·

  • W. Dorsey Pender ·

  • J. Johnston Pettigrew ·

  • George E. Pickett ·

  • Robert E. Rodes ·

  • J.E.B. Stuart ·

  • Isaac R. Trimble ·

  • Lewis Armistead

Union commanders
order of battle)

  • Joseph Hooker/George G. Meade ·

  • John Buford ·

  • Joshua L. Chamberlain ·

  • George A. Custer ·

  • Abner Doubleday ·

  • John Gibbon ·

  • George S. Greene ·

  • Winfield S. Hancock ·

  • Oliver O. Howard ·

  • Henry J. Hunt ·

  • Alfred Pleasonton ·

  • John F. Reynolds ·

  • John Sedgwick ·

  • Daniel E. Sickles ·

  • Henry W. Slocum ·

  • George Sykes ·

  • Gouverneur K. Warren

Army of the Potomac

  • I Corps ·

  • II Corps ·

  • III Corps ·

  • V Corps ·

  • VI Corps ·

  • XI Corps ·

  • XII Corps ·

  • Iron Brigade ·

  • 1st Minnesota ·

  • 20th Maine

Army of N. Virginia

  • First Corps ·

  • Second Corps ·

  • Third Corps ·

  • Cavalry Corps

Campaign geography

  • Eastern Theater of the American Civil War ·

  • Departments:


    • Monongahela ·

    • Susquehanna



  • Virginia ·

  • West Virginia ·

  • Maryland

  • Pennsylvania ·

  • Gettysburg Battlefield


    • template ·

    • timeline


  • Battle of Gettysburg media ·

  • Gettysburg textbooks from Wikibooks ·

  • Gettysburg news stories from Wikinews ·

  • Gettysburg images and media from Commons

Films directed by Ronald F. Maxwell


  • Verna: USO Girl (1978)


  • Little Darlings (1980) ·

  • The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981) ·

  • Kidco (1984) ·

  • The Parent Trap II (1986)


  • Gettysburg (1993)


  • Gods and Generals (2003)

Retrieved from ""


  • 1993 films

  • English-language films

  • 1990s drama films

  • American Civil War films

  • American drama films

  • American epic films

  • Films based on military novels

  • Films directed by Ronald F. Maxwell

  • Films set in Pennsylvania

  • War films based on actual events

  • New Line Cinema films

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