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I chose to do a report on the events portrayed in the movie Gettysburg and how these events agree with the actual history of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most important battles of the Civil War, it was fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1-3, 1863. For nearly two months after the battle of Chancellorsville, early in May, the Union and Confederate armies in Virginia maneuvered for position, with the Confederate General Lee concentrating his forces for a thrust into the north.

By the end of June, he had swung his three army corps, commanded by Generals James Longstreet, R. S. Ewell, and A. P. Hill into Pennsylvania. Union General Joseph Hooker followed the advance, moving his armies parallel to the Confederate line of march, and keeping between Lee’s army and the city of Washington. On June 27, President Lincoln then removed General Joseph Hooker from command and replaced him with General George G. Meade. Lee was hampered by the absence of his cavalry, for General J. E. B. Stuart had gone around the Federal Army on a raid and did not return until too late to be of service.

Without knowing the position of the enemy, Lee converged the three columns of his army on Gettysburg, 7 miles (11 km) above the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary. Advance forces of Confederates clashed with Union troops outside Gettysburg on July 1, and the Federal commander, General J. F. Reynolds, lost his life attempting to hold the field against superior numbers of Confederates. The main body of Meade’s army arrived during the night and took position on Cemetery Ridge, south of Gettysburg. Lee occupied the western part of the valley on Seminary Ridge.

On the afternoon of July 2, the battle was resumed with Confederate attempts to dislodge the Union forces from two low hills, Round Top and Little Round Top. By a momentarily successful effort the Confederates were able to take Culp’s Hill on the

Union right flank, but the next morning the Federal artillery drove the Confederates from Culp’s Hill. In the afternoon, Lee massed his cannon against the Union center, and the Union guns replied. Confederate ammunition ran low, and Lee ordered an infantry attack. General George E. Pickett led 15,000 men across the open plain between the two armies, meeting deadly artillery and musketry fire. His troops reached into the Union lines, the “high water mark of the Confederacy,” but were expelled for lack of adequate support. The shattered Confederate detachment retreated and awaited a countercharge which never came.

The next day, the two armies remained in position, facing each other, but neither making any move to resume the battle. On July 5, Lee began to withdraw his troops toward the Potomac, which he crossed on July 13. Meade was charged with having failed to take advantage of Lee’s weakened position to deal a crushing blow. In the three days at Gettysburg, the Confederates lost 28,000 of the 75,000 men Lee had led into the north, while Meade lost 23,000 of his 88,000 troops. The defeat at Gettysburg on July 3, and that at Vicksburg on the Mississippi on July 4, marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

The movie Gettysburg is based on the novel Killer Angels, thus making the movie historical fiction rather than actual history. The book and the movie, are based mainly on the memoirs of James Longstreet for the Confederacy and Chamberlain for the Union. Both men give one-sided accounts that obviously serve to further their own reputations. This is particularly true of Longstreet, whose behavior at the battle came under intense criticism. The movie fails to adequately portray Longstreet s opposition to the battle to the point that he all but openly refused direct orders. For example, the attack on the second day at the Union s left flank did not commence until almost four o clock in the afternoon, even though Lee had ordered it at dawn. Longstreet dragged his feet in the hopes of not attacking as he favored a defensive battle.

General Lee is portrayed by Martin Sheen in the movie as a man bordering on religious fanaticism. While most men were religious then, and Lee certainly was, there is no evidence that indicated he relied upon God to help him. The movie does Lee little justice. Most consider him to have been perhaps the greatest military mind our country has ever produced.

The movie was filmed using hundreds of reinactors. This helped make the uniforms more realistic, but the physical condition of the men, especially the Confederates, is not very accurate. The reinactors tend too be muck older than the typical soldier of the time. The Confederates were desperate for shoes and their rations were none too good. Neither of these conditions are depicted accurately.

In conclusion, the Battle of Gettysburg was depicted in the movie so that it would appeal to an audience and sell tickets. I feel that it was not created to give the viewer an idea of what happened in actuality, but to give the viewer a good show. This tends to be the case in Hollywood a director may decide to change history just to make his movie more dramatic, or entertaining.

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