There is a hint of tragic irony that Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Father so celebrated for the revolutionary democratic ideals in the Declaration of Independence, is also responsible for the quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Perhaps Jefferson, a slave-owning Virginian, suspected those words would one day haunt his wobbly young republic, but it would’ve been difficult for him to envision their brutal manifestation on July 4, 1863, on the battlefields near the tiny Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg.
For three days in July, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate armies engaged Union forces led by George Meade in the battle that both sides agreed would determine the outcome of the Civil War, then in its third year. Close to 10,000 soldiers — four times the population of Gettysburg — died in the field during the engagement that culminated with the Union holding its position against a bold — or reckless — Confederate assault on July 3.
The historic battle, which ended Lee’s invasion of the North and helped turn the tide of the war in the Union’s favor, is the subject of a dynamic new documentary that celebrates Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary. Directed by Jake Boritt and narrated by Stephen Lang (Avatar), The Gettysburg Story utilized aerial drone free-fly cameras and motion-control time-lapse shots to showcase the hallowed battlefield and reimagine the conflict like never before.
Lang, who famously starred as two Confederate officers — George Pickett and “Stonewall” Jackson — in two Civil War movies (one based on Michael Shaara’s novel Killer Angels, the other on his son Jeff Shaara’s Gods and Generals), is practically an ambassador for the town and its National Military Park. “When Shaara’s book The Killer Angels came out, I was just about to become a young actor back in the early 70s,” says Lang. “I remember thinking, ‘Boy, the role I really wanted to play was George Pickett.’ In many ways, he did represent this kind of mythic southern ideal. He was anxious for glory. Just one of those lucky times in life that years later I was fortunate to play the role [in Gettysburg].”
In this exclusive video clip from The Gettysburg Story, Lang narrates the climactic action of the battle, Pickett’s Charge, the South’s all-or-nothing attempt to smash the middle of the Union lines on July 3. READ FULL STORY