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File:Gettysburgposter 8055.jpg

This battle will decide the fate of our country.


 "The same God, same language, same culture and history, same songs, stories, legends, myths - different dreams. Different dreams. So very sad." - Col. Arthur Freemantle


A 1993 Ted Turner-financed movie about the titular battle of The American Civil War. Based on a novel, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.

The movie focuses on four main actors in the battle: Generals Robert E. Lee (Martin Sheen) and James Longstreet (Tom Berenger) on the Confederate side and Gen. John Buford (Sam Elliot) and Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) on the Union side, though Buford's part ended about a third of the way through the movie. All of the characters in the movie are (based on) real-life people with the exception of Sgt. Buster Kilrain.

The Blu-ray release restored all the deleted scenes, including some that had been in the trailer but had not made the cut for the theatrical release.

Particularly known for its extremely long Pickett's Charge Sequence. And just being extremely long period (FOUR HOURS!)

Gettysburg was followed up in 2003 with a prequel film, Gods and Generals, which detailed the Backstory of many of the characters.

This film includes examples of:


 Kemper: I gotta hand it to you George, you sure do have a talent for trivializing the momentous and complicating the obvious.

    • Both the book and the film have Freemantle going on about how the Southerners are so like the English and being descended from them due to their names, and bringing up Longstreet as an example. Turns out Longstreet is actually Dutch and Longstreet then reminds him that the US beat the British, twice.
  • And This Is For: The Union soldiers chant "Fredericksburg" as the Confederates retreat after Pickett's Charge.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Tom, for Col. Chamberlain (even though they're adults).
  • As the Good Book Says...: Lee's "teaches my fingers to fight" narration is from The Bible, Psalm 144.
  • Beard of Evil: Completely averted. Every male has luxuriant facial hair, as it was the style at the time.
  • Blood Brothers: Armistead and Hancock, although both sides would have officers in the same predicament. They both reflect on the tragedy of having raised their hands in anger against each other.

  Hancock (to Chamberlain): Tell me, Professor. In your studies have you come across a story from antiquity of two men who are like brothers facing each other on the field of battle? ...Lewis Armistead was my closest friend before the war. I'd like to see him again: but not here, not like this. What do you say, Colonel, what do the books tell you?

  • Blood Knight: Rebel units charge without or against orders a few times, most impotantly in the first engagement of the battle.
  • Book Dumb: Pickett, who considers "All this book-learnin' unbecoming of a soldier." and graduated in last place - dead last - from West Point.
  • The Cassandra: General Hood; Longstreet believes him but can't do anything about it.
    • Longstreet himself is this when he predicts to Harrison, who wishes to join Pickett's Charge, exactly what will (and in fact did) happen.
    • Buford almost becomes this, realizing on the first day that if the rebels get the high ground, it'll become another Fredericksburg. He subverts it by fighting and holding that high ground for the Union.
  • The Cavalry: On the first day, Reynold's Corps shows up to save Buford's division (ironically the actual cavalry)
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Col. Chamberlain, by the last three holdouts of the 2nd Maine. They later join the fight and save his brother Tom.
  • Colonel Badass: (Lieutenant) Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The Badass comes out when he thinks he's been shot (the shot really bounced off his sword, but it clearly left him in shock and he has a limp for the rest of the movie) and as they're dragging him back he sits up and shoots a charging guy with his revolver. Just... wow. The historical Chamberlain was also a badass in that he was wounded six times during the war and survived in an era when just one was usually enough to kill you. He started the war as a college professor, not an army officer. Which also qualifies him for Badass Bookworm. He later became Governor of Maine and Ambassador to France.
  • Courtly Love: Armistead has an interesting relationship with Hancock's - his best friend's - wife Almira ("Mira", in the novel). Armistead never pursued her romantically and it never got in the way of their friendship, but he does give her his family Bible (an intensely personal possession) before joining the Virginia forces. Also, part of Armistead's Heroic BSOD breakdown in the novel during his own death is that he fears Mira receiving the terrible news of her husband's (Hancock had been wounded in the battle, but survived) condition.
  • Creator Cameo: Ted Turner appears as a Confederate colonel named Patton (distant relative of THAT Patton).
  • Cultured Warrior: Several of the officers are portrayed as learned men, probably Col. Chamberlain most prominently (a professor of rhetoric). Others include Pettigrew (scholar of the University of North Carolina) and Col. Vincent (from Harvard).
  • Dare to Be Badass: Armistead when his brigade sees the wreck that Pickett's Charge has turned into and halts. "Virginians! Virginians! With me! Who will come with me?"
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Longstreet, who became somber after scarlet fever swept through his family in 1862, killing several of his children (note: the novel says it killed his wife and children, but in fact at least one of his children survived and his wife lived until 1889).
  • Disorganized Outline Speech: Chamberlain, who "didn't mean to preach".
  • Dead Presidents:
    • Abraham Lincoln: Is mentioned as probably hounding Meade to attack Lee's army. Freemantle also brings him up that he and the South share a common history and bloodline and how sad it is that they should be fighting.
    • Ulysses S Grant: Is mentioned as being an old buddy of Longstreet's.
  • Death Seeker: Longstreet temporarily becomes one after watching Pickett's Charge fail. He recklessly races to the front, determined to meet the expected Union counterattack in person while artillery falls all around him. He snaps out of it when one of his aids is thrown off his horse by Union guns and tells him, "There's no use trying to get yourself killed, General. The Lord will come for you in his own good time."
  • Dramatic Irony: The 20th Maine is being moved to the center of the Union line after its beating on Little Round Top because the Union thinks that it's the safest place on the line. In the last scene, Lee and Longstreet were planning an all out assault on that very spot. This actually represents the biggest difference from the real battle, as the 20th Maine was stationed on Big Round Top at the time and did not participate in repelling Picket at all.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave:
    • When Sgt. Owens returns from trying to get ammunition, he can't really report much because none of the commanding officers on Little Round Top are in commission anymore:

 Sgt. Owens: Colonel Vincent is badly wounded, (nods) yes sir, got hit a few minutes after the fight started. We've been reinforced at the top of the hill by Weed's brigade up front, this is what they tell me, but Weed is dead. And so they moved Hazlet's battery of artillery up there, but Hazlet's dead....

    • This exchange:

 General Lee: General Pickett, sir. You must look to your division.

General Pickett: General Lee. I have no division.

  • Epic Movie: Four hours long, plenty of familiar faces, lots of action, epic score by Randy Edelman, it's got the components.
  • Fake American: George Lazenby as General Pettigrew.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Lee, but also to a lesser extent by Col. Chamberlain.
  • Foregone Conclusion: It does not end well for the Confederates, as Gen. Longstreet predicted beforehand as he describes the withering firepower the soldiers of Pickett's Charge would face.
  • Foreshadowing

 Chamberlain: (after three of the last deserters decide to fight) Give these men some muskets.

Sgt. Owens: There are no muskets, sir.

Chamberlain: (to the deserters) Wait here. There'll be guns available in a little while.

  • Friendly Enemy: Several of the opposing generals are well acquainted, having served together before the war. The friendship of Armistead and Hancock is given the most weight.
  • Funny Foreigner: Col. Freemantle. He's not meant to be funny, but the filmmakers accentuated his Englishness by having him wear a bright red dress uniform (which the historical character certainly did not do) and, in one scene, walk around the Confederate camp drinking tea from a china cup and saucer. Apparently the real Freemantle was so impressed by Pickett's Charge he wrote a book predicting that the South would win the war. It was published a few months before the South surrendered.
  • Gallows Humor: Intentionally by Chamberlain, accidentally by Freemantle.

 Chamberlain: Tom, stay away from me. Another one of those [shells] a bit closer and it could be a hard day for mother.

Freemantle: (In the morning, as the Confederates prepare to attack.) I slept like the dead, sir - a baby. Slept like a newborn baby, sir.

    • Chamberlain's actually happened in Real Life, only there were actually three brothers present. The third, a medic who didn't get mentioned in the book or movie, was sent to a different part of the line than Tom, for the same reason.
  • Geo Effects: Capturing and holding the high ground is a major point of the tension.
    • Day 1: Buford rails against Meade, predicting the cautious commander will delay, allowing the Confederates to simply march onto the high ground if he doesn't deploy his brigade to stop the enemy vanguard. In real life, Meade moved his units much faster than was expected.
    • Day 2: The Confederates attack the Union left flank, including Little Round Top and Devil's Den. Hood describes it as the "worst ground I ever saw," and sarcastically notes that the Union force could defeat their charge simply by rolling rocks down the hill.
    • Day 3: The Confederates are forced to divert some of their artillery fire on the Union cannons placed on the high ground. Pickett's Charge, uphill, over open ground, into the teeth of the reinforced Union centre is brutally shattered.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Longstreet. Left unsaid by the movie; scarlet fever devastated his family and he knowingly ordered Pickett's division to make an attack he knew was suicidal.
  • Heroic BSOD: Pickett after his eponymous charge. See Everybody's Dead, Dave, above.
    • Armistead, when he hears during his own dying moments that his best friend Hancock is also wounded.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Pickett's Charge, in an unfortunate case of Truth in Television. The original strategy was to have the artillery break up the Union units on the ridge, but as Confederate artillery was outnumbered, of inferior quality, and short on ammunition, this failed. They also overshot the bulk of the union forces, aiming for an area behind the ridge where they thought the union was staging, when in fact most their men were tight to the line on along the ridge.
  • Honor Before Reason: Garnett. This is also discussed by Freemantle as being something the South and Britain have in common, which also serves as Foreshadowing considering that Britain lost the American Revolution (as Longstreet points out).
    • In the book, the reason for Garnett's determination on going into battle with a hurt leg is explained. While under Stonewall Jackson's command, Garnett withdrew his troops from an impossible position and was branded a coward by the general. Everyone who discusses the matter knows that the only way for Garnett to clear his name is to die in battle. Which is perhaps why his death in the movie almost appears that he is riding directly towards the cannon that kills him.
  • Hope Spot: An in-universe one for the Confederates, when Armistead's forces finally reach the Union line and almost manage to break it. Then Union reinforcements arrive...
  • Intermission: At least when it was shown in a theater. But then, it was planned as a four hour, two day TV Mini Series before they decided to show it in theaters.
  • Ironic Echo: General Stuart offers to resign after failing to do his job properly, and Lee refuses as he still needs him and doesn't think it will happen again. Not in the movie, but the same thing happened to Lee himself when he offered his resignation to Jefferson Davis after the battle.
  • Irony: Early in the movie Buford rages quietly to his subordinate that Meade will move too slow to take the hills, requiring a desperate charge across open ground in an attempt to dislodge the rebels. He goes on that he can see it "clear as day" that it would surely fail and with high casualties and there would be nothing he could do about it except "help it fail". This happens exactly as he predicts. Except it happens to the Confederates as a direct result of Buford acting quickly to change the starting conditions and prevent it. Also, General Meade moved his troops faster than anyone expected, which was why Lee was surprised to find the Army of the Potomac so close.
  • It's All My Fault: Lee, after Pickett's Charge
  • It Has Been an Honor: Sgt. Kilrain to Col. Chamberlain after being severely wounded at Little Round Top. Doubles as a Tear Jerker.

 Kilrain: "Colonel, I've never served under a finer man. The Army was blessed. Blessed! I wanted to tell you (pauses and nods at his wounded arm), you know, in case."


  Longstreet: You know what's gonna happen? I'll tell you what's gonna happen. [Our] troops are now forming behind the line of trees. When they come out, they'll be under enemy long-range artillery fire. Solid shot. Percussion. Every gun they have. Troops will come out under fire with more than a mile to walk. And still, within the open field, among the range of aimed muskets. They'll be slowed by that fence out there, and the formation - what's left of it - will begin to come apart. When they cross that road, they'll be under short-range artillery. Canister fire. Thousands of little bits of shrapnel wiping the holes in the lines. If they get to the wall without breaking up, there won't be many left. A mathematical equation. [...] If they get to that road, or beyond it, we'll suffer over fifty percent casualties. But, Harrison, I don't believe my boys will reach that wall.

    • Buford, for the Union:

  Buford: You know whats going to happen here in the morning? The whole damn reb army is going to be here. They'll move through this town, occupy these hills on the other side and when our people get here Lee will have the high ground. There'll be the devil to pay! The high ground! [...] Devin, I've led a soldier's life, and I've never seen anything as brutally clear as this.

  • Power Trio: Pickett's brigade commanders; Armistead is the ego, Kemper is id, and Garnett superego.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Characters main and minor are seen praying or quoting the Bible throughout the movie. Hancock even rides up to Fr. Corby gave absolution to the entire Irish Brigade.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Pretty much everyone.
  • Rated "M" for Manly
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Chamberlain, to the 2nd Maine, and again later to the officers of the 20th Maine.
    • Armistead to his brigade the morning of Pickett's Charge, both in the movie and in Real Life.
  • Sedgwick Speech: Reynolds has an abridged form. Ironically, the actual General Sedgwick was sort of involved in the battle, though he is not portrayed in the film. Sedgwick's VI Corps was held in reserve.

 Reynolds: "Forward Iron Brigade!.... Clear those guns out of that wood!.... Forward! For God's sake, FORWARD!" -bang-

    • Hancock suffers a non-fatal (he is seriously wounded, but survives) version of this during Pickett's Charge.

 Hancock: "Bring your men forward and we'll flank these bastards. By God we'll flank 'em" -bang-

  • Self-Destructive Charge: AKA Pickett's Charge.
  • Shout-Out/To Shakespeare:
    • Harrison is portrayed as a former actor and quotes Romeo and Juliet.
    • Chamberlain quotes Hamlet in the "Killer Angels" discussion with Kilrain (in the novel it is the Title Drop scene).
  • Single-Issue Wonk: Several of the Rebels view the common Northern focus on slavery as a reason for the war this way. Many of them say they honestly don't care about it either way, and see themselves as fighting for their "rahts". Longstreet muses that they would have won their independence already if they had freed the slaves before firing on Fort Sumter, taking it away as a motivation for the other side and keeping in Britain and France's good graces.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Fife and Gun," a catchy and energetic theme played over scenes of men being slaughtered by rifle and cannon fire.
  • Take a Third Option: "We can't run away. If we stay here, we can't shoot." Given the choice between holding and retreating, Chamberlain decides to charge.
  • Tempting Fate: At the beginning of Pickett's Charge one of Hancock's aides asks him to get off his horse (so he'll be a less obvious target), to which he replies "There are times when a Corps commander's life does not count." Later during the battle, still riding his horse, he is shot and badly wounded (though he survives).
  • The Quiet One: Longstreet. Buford in the novel; the adaptation to the screen makes it necessary for him to turn his pre-battle presentiment into dialogue, rather than thought.
  • Tear Jerker: in-universe example, Longstreet is so certain that Pickett's Charge will fail that he is too choked up to order the assault. When Pickett asks him if he should begin the attack, the best the heartbroken Longstreet can manage is a nod. Made worse by how eager and elated Pickett is to carry out the order.
    • Armistead's reaction to learning that Hancock has also been wounded.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "BAYONETS!"
  • Truth in Television: Since it's mostly historically accurate, some lines are actual quotes.
  • Wham! Line:

  Col. Chamberlain: "We can't run away. If we stay here we can't shoot. So let's fix bayonets. (Everyone stares at him.) We'll have the advantage of moving down the hill."


  Armistead: He got it off a dead Frenchman.

  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: A particularly nice example of the trope with the actors faces morphing into the actual historic figures.
    • Which is a nice reverse of the opening credits, where photos of the historical figures morphed into the actors.
  • World of Cardboard Speech: Armistead, to Freemantle before Pickett's Charge.
  • Worthy Opponent: From the North, the Chamberlain brothers admit they admire their Southern counterparts. From the South, the fact that they are going up against Hancock is enough to cause Longstreet and Armistead apprehension.

  Amistead (about Hancock): The Lord don't make 'em any better, and that's a fact!"