Primary Source

Gettysburg was born out of an increased interest in Civil War history following the production of Ken Burns’ documentary, The Civil War, in 1990.[1] Civil War reenactment was also a popular hobby during this time. What Gettysburg says about the 1990’s is that historians largely wanted to represent the Civil War without creating animosity amongst viewers with differing viewpoints of its causes and ramifications. Each side of the conflict was to be given equal credence.

The film’s dedication to historical accuracy and careful detailing during production reflects the desire to make history more real on screen. It reveals that Lost Cause ideology was, and is, still a prevalent understanding of the war. When compared to other Civil War films that preceded it, such as Glory (1989), it reveals that entertainment value was a much more important focus.

“Those characters, that place, those events grabbed me viscerally the way that a filmmaker must be grabbed if you are going to commit yourself to what could be years – in this case decades – of your life to get it made. If you don’t have a deep commitment to a subject, you can’t survive all of the rejections that come in this business” -Ronald Maxwell, Director of Gettysburg [2]

[1] Thomas A. Desjardin and NetLibrary, Inc., These Honored Dead: How the Story of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003), 184.

[2] Peter Collier, “Interview with Ron Maxwell,” The Washington Times, February 22, 2003.