programs_header.jpg
The Gettysburg Story
Airing Saturday, January 25 at 8pm

 

America's Veterans: A Musical Tribute

It was the greatest battle ever fought on American soil. Over three nation-changing days, war-weary men and boys from small towns and big cities across the great 19th century expanse of land called the United States of America met at a backwater Pennsylvania crossroads to decide the fate of the greatest nation the world has ever seen. Over 150 years, the Battle of Gettysburg has become the stuff of legend, told and retold using technologies of the time for each generation: from glass plate negatives to woodcut prints, black and white silent films, bestselling novels and TV miniseries. Now, on the 150th anniversary of the battle, the story is told for our time, using story-telling technologies that create for the viewer a new lens through which to watch the battle story unfold in clear and dramatic terms. Narrated by acclaimed actor Stephen Lang (Avatar, Tombstone, Gettysburg), The Gettysburg Story captures a unique, timeless American place as it's never been seen before.

The Gettysburg Story does this with the use of cutting edge imaging technologies to reinterpret the timeless Civil War stories buried within the battle's chronology – all while capturing the iconic landscape of the town and battlefield for a new generation of viewers. Through years of preparation and close cooperation with the National Park Service, the producers have been granted unprecedented access to the 6000-acre battlefield. Production tools included radio-controlled helicopters equipped with electronic gyro stabilization and mounted with high definition cameras. West Coast-based FreeFly Cinema, a leader in the rapidly evolving field of aerial drone cinematography, captured the entire battlefield using its cameras. High resolution, stabilized imagery captures battle sites from 400 feet high to inches above the ground. And the use of geo-locational technology creates precise digital maps that are animated, showing the movements of the battle over time and geography. Additionally, digital time-lapse cinematography using large sensor DSLRs with their unprecedented light sensitivity show the battlefield at night, with its ethereal beauty as billions of stars pass overhead, producing unique and timeless imagery that transfixes the viewer.

These new cinematography techniques allow the viewer to experience the grandiose scale of the battlefield, with its sculpted but vexing landscape in precise, intimate details that have never before been recorded from an intimate aerial perspective such as these.

The History of the Battle

The story begins in June, 1863. The United States, under President Abraham Lincoln, has been torn apart by Civil War. Now the new Confederate nation, its best army lead by the seemingly invincible Robert E. Lee, is ready to win the war by crushing the Union army in Northern territory. Lee's men advance though Maryland into Pennsylvania. On June 28 Lincoln replaces the Union's commanding general with George Meade. Three days later he will lead his men into the greatest battle ever fought in North America.

The battle begins on July 1 as both sides race to the crossroads town of Gettysburg. The great Union General Reynolds is killed immediately, the Yankees retreat in panic and the day ends in yet another overwhelming Confederate victory. It appears Lee will gain the victory he desires on Northern soil. Gettysburg's civilians hide in their cellars, but a 20 year old woman, Jenny Wade bakes bread for the Union soldiers, between enemy lines, her bravery will have tragic consequences. African-Americans flee the oncoming Confederate army who capture and sell free blacks into slavery. Among them are Abraham Bryan who leaves his small farm on Cemetery Ridge. Union General Hancock arrives and rallies the defeated men on Cemetery Hill, the Unions have fallen back onto defensible ground. Confederate General Longstreet arrives and is unhappy with his commander General Lee's plans to attack the new Union position on high ground. The aggressive and confident Lee will not listen to Longstreet.

On the second day of the battle Confederates attack the Union flanks. The Rebels take Devils Den, the Peach Orchard and charge onward. Fierce fighting by Joshua Chamberlain's 20th Maine and others barely holds Little Round Top. A young private named Isaac Taylor with his First Minnesota regiment, outnumbered 5 to 1, charges into advancing Confederates hoping to stall the massive force and allow Union reinforcements to save the position. Soon Rebels attack the opposite end of the Union line, crucial positions on Culps and Cemetery Hills. Foresight by 65 year old General George Greene to build entrenchments allows 1500 Union men to hold off 5000 Confederates as fighting rages in the night. The Unions have barely held their ground and Lee believes one more attack will force the them to retreat. Meade's generals, their men battered, decide to stand their ground.

On the third day, following the largest cannon bombardment in American history, 13,000 Confederate soldiers march across open fields to charge upon the Union center: Pickett's Charge. Under constant fire, only 250 of them will make it across to the Bloody Angle. At the High Water Mark where Rebel General Lewis Armistead falls, yards from his best friend, the Union Hancock. The Union repulses the great charge and win the battle. However, in the days that follow Lee's crippled army escapes back to Virginia, prolonging the war. Now nearly 10,000 rotting bodies lie on the fields, it is the greatest manmade disaster in American history. Four months after the battle Abraham Lincoln will come to this place. Standing over fresh graves he must explain why the brutal war must go on. In his Gettysburg Address Lincoln will redefine American democracy, calling for "a new birth of freedom."

Imagery of legendary places of the battlefield – Little Round Top, Devils Den, The Railroad Cut, Cemetery Ridge, the fields of Pickett's Charge – visually tell the epic Gettysburg Story like no other film before. Civil War era music reinterpreted with 21st century sensibility and technology and a dramatic and evocative sound mix makes the vicious battle come alive. The history and the land speak in this unique visual and aural interpretation of The Gettysburg Story.