Today marks the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863). How much of the movie’s depiction of the battle is historically accurate? I’m joined by Jim Hessler and Eric Lindblade to find out. Jim and Eric are both Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides and are the co-hosts of The Battle of Gettysburg Podcast.
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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:02:18] After the opening credits, the movie sets up the battle of Gettysburg with some voiceover, according to the movie in June of 1863, General Robert E. Lee in the Confederate army of Northern Virginia invade union territory with an army of 70,000 men toward the end of June 80,000 soldiers in the union army, head through Maryland and into Pennsylvania in pursuit of the Confederate army.
Then the movie suggests the Civil War has been raging for two years up until this point. And also that generally knows about a letter offering peace that is planned to be delivered to Abraham Lincoln. The president soon after generally defeats the union army. Can you give us a little more historical context around the way the movie sets up the battle of Gettysburg and the size of these two armies meeting in Pennsylvania?
Eric, let’s start with you.
Eric Lindblade: [00:03:11] Yeah, I think the movie sort of takes a very complex event and trust kind of distill it down as quick as they can. And I think also sort of making Gettysburg seem almost the climactic point of the American civil war. And if you would knew nothing of the war and he just watched the movie, you would think the South is just winning victory after victory, after victory.
And certainly that’s the case in Virginia, but elsewhere, not so much. It’s really by 1863 and unmitigated disaster for the Confederacy in a lot of areas. So Robert Lee’s army and by this one’s kind of become the best hope the Confederacy has. Lee is going to bring with him about 75,000 soldiers. The army of the Potomac is gonna be numbering close to a hundred thousand.
So they do get the numbers a little, but, but for the most part, these are too, for the most part equally matched, you know, it’s not like leads out number two to three to one or anything like that.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:04:08] Anything to add to that, Jim?
Jim Hessler: [00:04:10] Yeah. A couple of things. First of all before I answer a single question, I want to make it clear that I love this movie, like a big sloppy shaggy dog.
So even though it was going to seem to the listeners, you know, they were going to spend the next hour kind of maybe bashing it a little bit. Eric and I love, well, I don’t want to speak for Eric, but I think Eric loves the movie as much as I do. So, yeah. Having said that, you know, to Eric’s point about complexity, Robert E. Lee, and in reality had a number of complex reasons for wanting to engage north, you know, he wanted to take the war out of the south.
He wanted to drop pressure away from threat points. Obviously you wanted to live off the northern economy for the summer. And certainly I do saying Lee was looking to fight, you know, a battle. But the idea that they present in the movie, you know, a letter has been drawn up. Like there’s a letter that somebody got in their pocket and who’s going to walk into Lincoln’s office and put it on his desk.
It’s a very dramatic kind of thing, but there’s no real credible, credible evidence. That was a significant factor in plants. I mean, Eric and I have talked about this for the weeds of no reliable source talks about said letter offering peace. The reasons that we wants to invade the North are more complex than was presented in the movie, but Hey, that’s Hollywood for you.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:05:33] Yeah. That’s, that’s true. That’s true. Now I know a lot of people listening to this may not they’re outside the United States. So can you give a little more geographical context around at this point in the American civil war? Where, where are the armies? I mean, obviously Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania, but is that like right along the lines of the North and South is at this point in the war or had those lines kind of shifted for where those were considered?
Eric Lindblade: [00:06:03] It depends on how you define the South. if you would look at, based on areas that maintain the institutional slavery, then the border would be the Pennsylvania, Maryland border. But Maryland remained loyal to the North, even though they have the institutional slavery. So really you then draw that line down to the border of Maryland and Virginia sort of be the dividing line,
Jim Hessler: [00:06:28] of course,
Eric Lindblade: [00:06:29] by 1861, Northern troops occupied Northern Virginia.
So you draw that line even further South. So really when we look at what is these territorial borders, it really depends on where armies are operating at whim. There’s not really a sort of a defined geographic line that we think of today.
Jim Hessler: [00:06:46] You know, again, I would add to that in terms of Maryland, one of the things Robert Lee Lee is trying to do both one hand when he moves North in 1862.
And then when he comes North again in 1863 is trying to win, you know, so to speak the hearts and minds of the Maryland population.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:07:05] Well, speaking of the movie, we see Jeff Daniel’s character, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and he’s the Colonel of the 20th Maine regiment. He gives a speech to some 120 men who were mutineers from the second main.
And the movie explains that those 120 men thought that they were signing up to fights with the second main only, but they actually signed like a three year contract. One of the men tells Chamberlain that he’s fought in like 11 engagements up to this point. So you can tell it’s not about you. I don’t care what contract I’ve signed, basically.
Like they’re done right there. They’ve done their fair share. They’re done. They’re not going to fight anymore. And so the army doesn’t really know what to do with them. At least according to the way the movie portrays things, but apparently Chamberlain is authorized to use whatever force necessary, including potentially shooting these 120 men.
If they don’t fight. There’s this dramatic, Jeff Daniels does great acting job. I think giving this speech to these men, he offers them the chance at, you know, you don’t have to join in the battle, but if we lose this fight, we’re going to lose the war. So how accurate is this storyline that the movie portrays about the second main and in that speech that Jeff Daniels character gives
Jim Hessler: [00:08:27] in the movie.
Yeah. That essentially did happen. You know, these guys from the second main I needed a new home. It didn’t happen though, right on the Eve of the battle that happens. I forget the exact date, middle of may. I want to say or something like that. And I think after Chancellorsville, if I remember correctly, that notion of having to integrate guys into the second main does happen.
But again, you know, the movie they portrayed is happening, I think literally on the morning of July 1st. And of course, you know, that builds up the drama. How is Chamberlain going to integrate all these, all these hard heads under the, so the timing is definitely compressed, but again, you see that a lot in Hollywood movies.
So, you know, we’ll kind of give them a. what do you think Eric did? Chamberlain,
Eric Lindblade: [00:09:17] maybe he did maybe Chamberlain. After the war, he gave a number of speeches, not only his career in academia, but also in his political career as governor of Maine. So this is the guy that probably could give a good speech now, whether or not he gets everybody together and gives them this, you know, sort of moral sermon, if you will.
We don’t know that. Certainly if anybody could give a speech, Chamberlain was more than capable of it. He was not a, you know, a guy that was known as not being able to give a speech if necessary.
Jim Hessler: [00:09:54] That’s a good point. Whether it actually happened. It’s certainly in character. But again, you know, the other thing too, which we touched on in the, in the opening.
This idea again, we’re fighting the climactic battle, you know, man. Oh man. So now we’re like what, 15 minutes into the movie. And we’ve already heard that two or three times again, trying to set the stage,
whoever wins this one is
Dan LeFebvre: [00:10:23] that’s definitely what I took away from that at that point was the entire war hangs in the balance on this battle. And especially after that speech.
Eric Lindblade: [00:10:31] And I think Lee certainly felt a victory on Northern soil could go a long way into possibly leading to Confederate independence.
Yeah. Now we’re probably not going to have a, you know, George Washington meets Cornwallis at Yorktown type situation where the army surrenders, but there was political pressure on the Lincoln administration. The summer of 1863 to end the war over 200,000 Americans had already died up to this point. And in April, 1863, federal drafts, it had been implemented in the North.
So in many ways, 1863 in summer is not that far removed from say 1968 over the Vietnam comes. The war is kind of hanging in the balance a little bit. So if we can win a victory in the North, it certainly would increase the odds possibly of Southern independence, but I wanted them to kind of tamp down the idea of Lee wins and Gettysburg.
This war is over. That’s not the case.
Jim Hessler: [00:11:26] Yeah, exactly what I, you know, what I always tell people on tours is, you know, at the beginning it would more than anything, it would be potentially potentially forcing Lincoln from a political perspective. Again, getting back to the movie, you know, just opening up, we’re going to destroy the army and put a letter on his desk.
You know, isn’t, isn’t practical really in 1863, or really at any other time in the warrant. Oh, wow. You know, you don’t see armies quote on quote steroid. Sure.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:12:00] So it sounds like general Lee was going for a huge moral victory, almost, you know, winning this battle in the North. Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost hoping that this moral victory might help push the North to almost Sue for peace. I mean, not necessarily right away or, or any of that, but get that ball rolling.
If people are already starting to be tired of the war, then maybe this can help further that. Cause does that sound like maybe the storyline there?
Jim Hessler: [00:12:29] I think that’s the best case scenario. I mean, certainly people in the North, as you said, are tired of the war. The Democrats were obviously. Pressuring Lincoln to, you know, to get out of it, which you see in the subsequent election, that’s probably a best case scenario, even in a worst case scenario.
If Lee can. Steal a military victory or defeat the army of the Potomac. Lee can even just disrupt the union Army’s plans for the summer. And then the line Lee says that in a couple of occasions, he says, look, you think I lost Gettysburg. Those people didn’t do anything for the rest of the summer. And even, you know, from, from Lee’s perspective, he’s Matt can be considered.
Eric Lindblade: [00:13:07] I think we have to look at what.
Jim Hessler: [00:13:11] The North
Eric Lindblade: [00:13:11] has
Jim Hessler: [00:13:12] to win the
Eric Lindblade: [00:13:13] South just doesn’t have to lose. So the metrics are different there. You know, the South doesn’t have to go win this thing. They just don’t lose. And I think Lee is certainly looking at that. Keep her mind making 63 Pennsylvania is the second largest state in the union.
Imagine the political impact of losing a battle in the second largest state in your nation. How’s that going to affect Lincoln? Say next November with his election so we can see how this play out. And also, as I tell people on tours, you don’t have to win a war on battlefield. You can just as easily when it politically, and I think that’s really what Lee is looking at by 1863, the odds of winning militarily are down, but the odds of winning politically are certainly up in his favor when he embarks the guys for campaign.
Jim Hessler: [00:14:04] That’s another comment I always make too about the important stuff. Pennsylvania. You know what I always remind people on tours is that, you know, if Lee captures Harrisburg or Maxwell, Pennsylvania in 1863, that’s a big deal. If he captured Harrisburg today, he could keep it. We don’t want it, but in 1863, that was a big
Dan LeFebvre: [00:14:24] Heading back to the movie, Sam Elliott’s character general, John Buford, he’s leading his calorie near the outskirts of Gettysburg. He’s the first to come across the Confederate army as they’re marching. The movie’s dialogue says that with the number of men, they see the Confederate army from afar. They thought that they were headed for Harrisburg, but there’s too many troops to be a raiding party.
So they determined that Lee has turned. And there’s a brief mention from general Buford, where he mentioned taking two brigades of men into town. But then right after this, then there’s some text on screen that puts us about 14 miles from Gettysburg in Taneytown, Maryland as Chamberlain and his men in the union army arrived in that town.
And then we see general Buford and his men arriving in Gettysburg. But they don’t stay in town. Buford leads his men to farmland just outside town, where he surveys what I can only assume. And I don’t remember the movie ever mentioning this, but I’m assuming as he’s surveying this, that he is predicting, this is going to be the site of a battle.
Like this is the side of the battlefield. He’s kind of looking at it ahead of time. So the idea that I get from the movie as I’m watching this here is that the union army basically arrives first and they position themselves around the town of Gettysburg. So they can have a strategic foothold in the area when the Confederate army gets there.
Is that true?
Jim Hessler: [00:15:45] What I can tell people about the movie versus history is I do see like the basics of this movie are accurate and I’m emphasizing basics. Oh, there’s colleagues who would disagree with me and say, my God, no, none of it’s accurate, but that’s not true. The basics are accurate. So what really happened was sort of rise in the Gettysburg area on June 30th.
She sees Confederates approaching from the West. Some guys that Eric might be familiar with, but I’m in Confederacy approaching from the West sides sort of break off. There was no actual combat on the 30th, but what you get is. You referred realized Confederates are massing to the West of Gabby’s and likewise, the Confederates now realize something is going on and Yetis, and that’s kind of what happens.
And that’s going to set the stage for the two sides colliding on. On July 1st in reality, one of my biggest grievances with the movie is really none of that is really explained in the movie. They then sort of then segue into Lee’s half on or Walter Taylor talks about Apple butter and flapjacks and buttermilk and, and all this stuff they don’t like to make the movie makes it seem like the Confederates are going into which again, you know, supplies and all that stuff, I guess.
To the other part of your question. One thing, as I say again, you know, we’ll see what Eric says. I think the movie kind of overplays, we’re fighting for the high ground Trump in his chest and say in the high ground, they’re going to have the high ground. And that that’s a powerful mythology cause that is pervaded itself into other books and literature and people who come to the battle who say the battle was fought for.
All high ground, not any high ground, but
again, I’ll go back to my opening. They get the basics, right. But I think they kind of mess up a whole lot of details. The challenge,
Eric Lindblade: [00:17:49] the movie, Gettysburg, how all over the place, the timeline is, you know, you go from daylight to darkness
Jim Hessler: [00:17:58] combined.
Eric Lindblade: [00:18:00] So it doesn’t really give you a blow by blow accounting. My take with John Buford is, does he probably notice the high ground around Gettysburg?
Absolutely. He’s a professional, but I think Buford’s more concerned with the 10 roads that intersect in around this town networks are critical in a military campaign. He’s also in communications with general John Reynolds, who was the left wing commander of the army of the Potomac. So he’s getting information back.
He’s gathering information as well. I think beer for the understands. There’s probably going to be a confrontation, but I don’t think he’s totally saying we’re going to put our flag in the ground. We’re going to make our stands here. July 1st is a very fluid situation and it’s really not until the mid to late afternoon that really it’s looking like this grand.
Battle’s going to be fought here at Gettysburg. Very well. Could have just been a very sharp engagement Western North of the town. July 1st, the Army’s withdraw. We talk about something else. Of course, that doesn’t
Jim Hessler: [00:19:00] happen. To that point. One of the greatest fallacies I think of this movie is you can come away from this movie thinking John Buford, Winfield, Hancock, and Joshua Chamberlain run the army of the Potomac.
In reality, there’s a guy named George Meade who was commander of the union army. And by June 30th, July 1st, you know, really well into the late afternoon, early evening of July 1st main had not decided where he was going to fight that battle. And there’s, you know, there’s things when we talking about falling back into Maryland, along the line and things of that nature, but Gettysburg is an important crossroads town.
Not only start a union army, but frankly for the Confederates too, that’s one of the reasons why they consider it, sir comments and, you know, not necessarily because they’re mooning over Apple jacks, you know, like they seem to be in the movie. But I still want the movie. I’m not throughout that caveat.
Every 10 or 15 minutes, you know, in case somebody turns in weight or something like that. But what
Eric Lindblade: [00:20:01] the Gettysburg is the movie we love to hate and hate the love.
Jim Hessler: [00:20:04] Yeah. Let’s get super fan Lizer and shout out for that. That was exactly. It’s a movie we love to hate and hate the lounge. We love your license.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:20:12] out there. It’s great that you can pick it apart, but still. Love it for what it is like, just knowing that, you know, it’s not going to be entirely accurate by any means, but you know, it’s, it can still be a, a good movie as a movie.
Jim Hessler: [00:20:26] Let’s be clear on something. We didn’t say this is a good movie.
We just said we loved it. We didn’t necessarily say it’s a good.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:20:36] Fair point. Good, good catch. I appreciate that. Good catch. Well, you’re, you’re talking about how the actual battle started and the way that the movie shows this we’re on the Confederate side and we see a messenger deliver a message to Martin Sheen’s version of general Lee. That general hell is going to be taking his men into the town of Gettysburg to get some shoes, generally clarifies that he doesn’t want any conflict until all their troops are consolidated.
And the messenger assures him that don’t worry general Hill doesn’t expect any opposition. That’s just some local militia not going to be a big deal. And then soon after general Longstreet arrives tells generally that he saw Calvary. So it’s not just local militia. And as they’re talking, we can hear some artillery firing in the distance.
Generally asks for general Heath, who they say is the most forward commander. I believe in the camera cuts to Gettysburg where now we have union troops, firing cannons at the Confederate soldiers, general Buford that we talked about earlier. He’s watching from a tall building in town and he smiled as he re remarks thing.
You know, he’s got the best ground positions. You talking about the high ground there again, and that the Confederates are only hitting with one brigade. So as I was watching this. I got the idea that, okay, the Confederates are going into town. They need shoes, they need supplies. You know, they, they, they need these things and then they were not expecting the union soldiers there.
They almost got for lack of a better term ambushed. And that’s, that’s basically how all this started. Is that how the battle of Gettysburg actually started?
Eric Lindblade: [00:22:10] Yes. The battle of Gettysburg typically. Military historians refer to as a meeting engagement, simply put the army run into each other. They collide the idea that the movie kind of creates the Henry.
He’s just sort of Bumble’s into union trips.
Jim Hessler: [00:22:30] Keith was
Eric Lindblade: [00:22:30] aware of a union presence of some kind in the front the day before now what the nature of that is that was to be seen. I always like to tell people that on June 30th, he sends one brigade works Gettysburg on July 1st. He sends the entire 7,000 man division.
So it’s one of those trust, but verifies situations and what we then see, you know, even if the idea of long streets already there with Lee long street, doesn’t arrive on the battlefield at Gettysburg until mid afternoon after the Confederates have already driven union troops back. So that kind of wants to give him the odd little timeline they have, but it does kind of make it seem Confederate ambling into this unbeknownst to them when the reality is they have a better sense of it.
Now they didn’t have a perfect sense, but they are not blind.
Jim Hessler: [00:23:25] The shoe thing is pervasive. You don’t remember the movie. The movie Gettysburg is based on a Pulitzer prize, winning novel, the killer angels, which dates back to the mid 1970s. And although I wasn’t around back then, you know, I think sort of in an earlier era, the idea that battle was fought over shoes.
You know, it was more if that more pervasive than sort of the enlightened era that we live in today. And we kind of understand, you know, all of these other stuff. So it’s not surprising to me that they bring shoes into the movie script. I would almost be surprised if they didn’t do it again. Some of the other basics are generally there was Henry leading the consent or advance.
Yes. You go bumbling into it. No. Was he surprised? Yes. And a lot of that first day, they kind of do a lot of, telescoping, you know, again, things that. Six eight hours to occur in the movie just kind of happened with one or two courier sitting on his horse and two messengers come up and kind of explain the whole thing.
So again, a little bit of little bit of telescoping. the first day in the movie is probably my least favorite part. Cause I don’t think they do justice to. Oh big. The real first day was, but, you know, I guess when you’re already talking, you know, a 460 minute movies, something Scott, and
Eric Lindblade: [00:24:46] that kills me because I am a day guy.
That’s my favorite day of a battle. But, you know, to me, people overlook the first day, you know, casualties and selected by the two armies. If the first day was a battle just on its own, it would rank around the 13th bloodiest battle, the American civil war, just date. And so I think he does get over. Look, it’s not this little skirmish.
I mean, it’s arguably some of the heaviest fighting the battle. Again, these work takes place in the first day.
Jim Hessler: [00:25:23] That’s the one thing the movie I think does do is make a star out of John Buford. Buford was not. Again, if you go back to the literature of the 1970s, the 1960s, 1950s, John Buford was not the quote unquote big star that he is today.
And so influentially this movie. Has really indoctrinated a generation of historians and Gettysburg students and John Buford saves the union in any way, shape or form. Sam Elliott does a great job for training things. Sam Elliot is better Virgil urban tombstone. My point being you’re looking at influence, how does this movie influence people?
And it’s certainly. Given the impression that man, John,
that may be partially true, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:26:21] Was there anybody who was the hero of the day, if not Buford. So what I often
Eric Lindblade: [00:26:26] say is there’s a tendency. To say, this is the hero of the events. There’s multiple euros. The union victory. Gettysburg is a team effort. It’s collaborative and with beer for do I think he did this overwhelmingly heroic job here at Gettysburg.
No, I don’t. It doesn’t mean that he’s not competent. He did his job and sometimes in a critical situation like that, that’s the most important thing. Do your job. Does he really go above and beyond? Not necessarily, but he didn’t have to. He did what he was asked to do and he did it. And about the time needed to give him some trail on the battlefield.
Jim Hessler: [00:27:08] You’re talking about heroes. We could talk about the common enlisted men, the Ben crippen’s of the world, you know, shaking their fists. And so it was approaching rebels, you know, as they’re coming in. Certainly the union victory at Gettysburg is a team effort, but there’s a lot of difficult members of that team.
And not everybody brings their a game to Gettysburg. And you see some examples of that on July 1st with guys like, Francis Carlo, but I think of windshield Scott Hancock’s prominence. and on the, the real afternoon, evening of July 1st is the union forces were rallying on cemetery Hill. It was sand who arrived on the field and helped rally those troops.
And, you know, again, you don’t really see so much. But you do see a lot of Hancock as we go into the subsequent
Dan LeFebvre: [00:27:55] earlier, you were talking about how the Confederate soldiers pushed the union soldiers back initially. And we get that sense in the movie. I think some of the initial reports that generally gets in the movie are that the union soldiers are retreating back into Gettysburg.
And so he orders artillery to fire on the hail. He sends major Taylor to deliver a message to general UL that he wants the general tube. Take the Hill beyond the town if practical, so they can get some higher ground. And give me go back to that same sort of concept of higher ground. And he wants that tail to be captured by nightfall.
Meanwhile, we see general long streets mentioned to general Lee, something along the lines of how their strategy has always been to act defensively to keep the army intact. But now we can see that generally wants to initiate the offensive. You know, you’ve got the enemy on the run. You don’t stop now.
Keep going. And long street reminds Lee. I know that may have pushed back to core, but we got five more calming. So was it common for the Confederate army to. Operate with more of a defensive mindset. Like we, I get that idea here in the movie and then it was changed. Generally decided we got them on the run.
We’re going to keep pushing how much of that actually happened
Eric Lindblade: [00:29:10] by Gettysburg. Lee has been in command around the year of the army and all the Virginia. If we look at his campaign, his first campaign with the army, the seven days around Richmond.
Jim Hessler: [00:29:21] It’s
Eric Lindblade: [00:29:21] primarily offensive. So the Confederates hurling their forces at George McClellan’s army to drive them from the Gates of Richmond.
After success, seven days, he begins to move into Northern Virginia. We have a initially will start as a tactical fence, but really strategic offensive at second Minneapolis Lee then bills that victory goes into Maryland. Once again, offensive actions he’ll fight. Primarily defensive battle at Antietam, more out of necessity than any desire on his part.
There is the great defense of Fredericksburg. Then Lee turns around a few months later and is on the offensive again at Chancellorsville. So Lee is an offensive minded, general. Lee is not a guy to sit back and give the enemy the initiative. He’s going to take it to his opponent. And that’s what he does.
Jim Hessler: [00:30:19] So Dan, where a lot of this comes from is, again, going back to the novels, the killer angels, one of the primary sources that Michael Sherry used was James Long streets, memoirs from Manasseh staff. Now, maybe some folks are familiar with the long street story. The long street was a very controversial individual in the South after the war.
Primarily for political reasons, but also because long, straight after the fact when on record is criticizing, we daddy’s. And so one of the things long street says in his writings is that prior to beginning this, you know, this great raid and the Pennsylvania long street alleges that he and Lee essentially agreed on, you know, we would only fight defensive battles and things of that nature.
It’s because of that assertion by long street in his memoirs that carries over then into sheriffs novel. And then ultimately rod Maxwell’s Maxwell that we sort of really position the grades dramatic conflict as a Confederate army at Gettysburg is this suppose long street. We wanting to attack long street, wanting to.
Fight on the defense. I’m not saying that didn’t happen. I think there’s some internal historical evidence to suggest it did. But what I think is a problem with the movie in that regard, is it really sort of portray, and again, the novel too, I should add, but it really sort of portrays Robert Lee is almost on his obsession to attack, you know, the wise, all knowing long street, he knows where all the Yankee core are.
And he knows when a high ground is, but you know, Lee is just kind of. You know, in a lot of ways almost comes off as office rocker and just obsessed. I’m making these suicidal attacks. And again, that is now very personal may serve in the Gettysburg mythology. You know, we get people here who say, geez, why was Lee so crazy?
Why didn’t any listen to long? Great. you know, and that’s sort of again, become one of these things and sort of the de mythologizing of Robert Lee. You know, the guy who used to be the marble man and beyond reproach. Now it’s very fashionable to knock and the killer angels and the movie Gettysburg played a role in that, for sure.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:32:39] Yeah. That’s a very different narrative than I expect than I thought. When I saw the movie, it was just expected that they were being more defensive, like, because they did stumble upon each other the way the movie goes. They’re like, they weren’t expecting this. And so it was, Oh, well now we just got to survive.
Jim Hessler: [00:32:52] Yeah. And before we go on with that, I just want to call out internet trolls have accused me in the past of being a lost cause guy. Well, you know, for quote unquote, defending Lee I’m from New York, I’m not a lost cause guy. I’m not defending Lee, but what’s the truth is the truth that I like long street.
But again, you know, I think three things, I think take three things away from this movie and elevates the role of John Buford and elevates the role of Joshua Chamberlain in the movie really serves to rehabilitate.
Okay. This sense of genius long street itself at a number of battles. Very strong, you know, watch the fight.
Eric Lindblade: [00:33:32] Lee is not unhinged to Gettysburg, but I think Lee in the last year, while he has been successful, there’s a lot of caveats. Those victors. You know, he dropped. Yes. He drives with clown from around Richmond, but he doesn’t destroy.
McClellan’s army had a number of opportunities possibly to do that. At times during the seven days, I’m going to ask this, the union army escapes back to Washington, Fredericksburg, they get back cross wrap a hand. You can’t crush them. And at Chancellorsville. They cross back the river again, does it get to deliver that decisive blow he’s looking for?
So that’s what Lee is really looking for is that decisive blow Lee is lays going big here. He’s not looking for just another tactical Victor. He’s looking for a decisive strategic picture. And that’s what I think drives a lot of this
Jim Hessler: [00:34:19] thinking. You
Dan LeFebvre: [00:34:21] want to just take a step back from some of the strategy side of it and almost get kind of put it in the context of what this battle was like, because it’s very different from, I think, you know, a lot of people today will, you know, see movies and a lot of movies are going to be like world war II movies or something like that.
And battles are just going all the time. Right. And at the end of the first day in this, in the movie, we see. Everybody stops fighting like it’s okay. End of the first day, the fights over. We’re going to figure out what we’re going to do the next day as soldiers are gathered around the campfire, is that kind of the way that the battle, this battle wins, that they would take a break at night and then let’s start back up at nine in the morning, maybe a little exaggeration there on my part, but.
Jim Hessler: [00:35:01] What I often find is the general public that I deal with often thinks that fighting, you know, the fighting ends at nightfall because of a gentleman’s agreement. You know, these old fashioned gentlemen kind of shake hands and agreed to agree, to fight, not fight until until morning. And then of course that’s not accurate.
What you do see in general is diminished combat at sundown because they don’t have the technology to fight it for the most part the fighting does. And when it gets dark, because you can no longer see, you can no longer see your formations and things of that nature. Now, again, there are examples of nighttime fighting during the civil war, and even if the battle of Gettysburg, because you said they don’t really show that.
Eric Lindblade: [00:35:47] Yeah. And I think at times the civil war has been, it always kind of glosses over the brutality of the war. We know the numbers, but we don’t think about just how brutal it was. And I often tell people on tours, what the civil war needs is a scene similar to the opening scene of saving private Ryan.
Warren, just unvarnished, ugly nature, guys, brains, getting splattered, hearing bones, cracking limbs, getting blown off. That’s the battle of Gettysburg. It’s not just this. You get shot and you get to say something profound before you die. You’re getting hit in the arm by 58 caliber musket ball, especially porn or shoulder pieces that doesn’t get portrayed.
And really Gettysburg for the most part is relatively bloodless as a movie. It’s kind of the sanitized version. I think that really sticks in people’s mind is how they view the civil war, civil war combat it’s every bit as ugly as modern combat, if not ugly, frankly.
Jim Hessler: [00:36:51] That’s a great point. And you know, the problem is, and I’m even thinking this, as we record this, you know, the history channel just ended last night.
There’s a three part series on grant. The other, the other side of that coin is often when Hollywood, whether it be a movie or even documentaries, and frankly, documentary makers should know better, too many of these civil war battles and movies though. Also often look like, you know, the WWE. I always tell people in a movie it’s in a movie, every civil war battle in a movie will end with a fist fight, you know, forget about the Napoleonic linear tactics and, and formations every single.
And you see it here in Gettysburg, at least, you know, little round, top and Pickett’s charge, but every civil war movie. And with guys, you know, just running into each other and screaming and punching and club in each other with the mosque. And so that, and of course they did have that in the movies. They didn’t have that in real life, but I would love to see a movie where for God’s sakes for once we just do tactics because that’s what the civil war, and you can blaze away at each other with the rifle muskets for.
20 minutes on film as you want. But again, every battle doesn’t end with guys just running and jumping on top of each other and kicking each other in the groin and all of that stuff. And again, you know, you see a couple unfortunate eddies in the movie.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:38:16] Now that you say it. Yeah. It is like you, you see them charging and Oh, okay.
Now, now it’s the phase of the battle where we put on the bayonets and get close combat. And okay. Now it’s the phase of the battle where, you know, you’re beyond the band at all right now. I guess let’s. Let’s go at it, you know, and I hadn’t thought about that until you mentioned it,
Eric Lindblade: [00:38:34] and I’m glad you mentioned the bayonet because that’s often what people think of is how you would fight 1% of all battlefield casualties and flick it during civil war.
1% was inflicted by bayonets.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:38:47] Oh wow. I would imagine that’d be a lot more,
Eric Lindblade: [00:38:51] they never close. You know, usually you didn’t get close enough or in the middle, if you do have hand to hand combat, frankly, cracking a guy’s skull open for butter, your rifles, a lot easier to establish. And I think that’s, once again, we go back to this point, the civil war people want to be the sort of warm and cuddly war.
It’s not, yeah, it’s ugly. It’s brutal. And how we want the war to be, as opposed to what it actually was.
Jim Hessler: [00:39:20] And again, you see examples of this in the movie, Gettysburg, a part of that too permeates from the, I think the whole brother against brother thing, being overplayed. and again, the movie Gettysburg, although there’s some great scenes, you know, the notion of Hancock and Armistead, you know, Did these guys know each other?
Yes. Were they friends? Yes. Did they spend the entire battle of Gettysburg and mooning over each other and crying over each other like they do in the movie? No. but again, you know, when you sort of set up a novel and then the movie scrapped of, you know, The guys on each side, they’re almost like brothers and they’re crying over each other.
And, you know, screw the fighting. I’m going to go over there under a flag of truce just to see him, you know, kind of saying, and, and things like that. And again, it all sort of perpetuates this idea that they would say, quote, unquote gentleman’s or he fought by guys who, if they weren’t brothers no gone didn’t they, they could have been close enough.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:40:16] that’s something that I think from the civil war as a whole, it’s a lot of people see that as it was, you know, Friends fighting against friends and family against family. And so I wonder, I’m thinking out loud here, if, you know, they’re kind of trying to in the movie portray almost that overall civil war aspect of a lot of these people knew each other on both sides.
And so if they weren’t fighting against each other, that we’ll be friends. And so they’re trying to find characters in there in the movie to portray that aspect of overall.
Jim Hessler: [00:40:46] A lot of that is true. And they did know each other. They did serve together in Mexico. They did go to West point together, but two and a half years into the war, you know, are they really saying, Hey, is that Eric over on the other side?
You know, I’m thinking their planning, tactics and strategy and stuff like that. Again, we got it. It’s not a documentary it’s Hollywood, it’s got two establishing characters and, you know, from a character point of view, what does that, I’m going to say something nice about.
Eric Lindblade: [00:41:17] And I think the movie reinforces the idea that the civil war in many ways is the grand heroic ethics in American history.
And I think it’s something that, you know, almost you could have had written by the Greeks climactic moment. So you’re trying to find, think about Greek Epic. There’s these little lessons that are trying to be totally great. Issues at play. And that’s, I think what we do sort of subconsciously with Gettysburg and civil war, and certainly the movie Gettysburg just reinforces that.
Do I think Hancock is thinking about Armistead during this battle? Absolutely not. And Hancock would do everything in his power to absolutely annihilated arms that and his troops, they come to us from there’s no quarter going to be given here and we we’ll do the same to Hancock. You know, friendship went out the window.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:13] Continuing on with the battle. As far as the movie is concerned, we got onto day two, which would be Thursday, July 2nd, 1863. And this is where we see general Lee is ordering his troops at the beginning of the day. And that’s when they start to realize, you know, there’s this Ridge that runs around.
Gettysburg. Right. And we’re starting to get this idea that, okay, here’s going to be another big part of the battle. And at the end of the Ridge, there’s two large Hills, little round, top, and big round top, according to the movie, there’s no union troops on those. And so Lee decides to order his men to attack those two Hills.
And there’s a line of dialogue in the movie where Lee tells long street that he wants this to be the final battle of the war. Yeah, exactly. You know, so he half expected general meat and the bulk of the union army to be gone by the time they woke up in the morning that this was not going to be a big conflict after all Lee doesn’t know this in the movie, but as viewers, we get to see.
Chamberlain and his men are given orders to defend the Hills. And they’re told that you’re the last line of defense. So similar type of storyline that we had earlier, where okay. This, the entire war rests on. And okay, well, if the entire war rest on this battle, you guys are the last line of defense on these Hills.
So therefore it just adds those stakes to defending these two Hills. So. How much of that strategy that we see where the Confederates are trying to take. The two Hills, essentially trying to, as the movie, explained it, get around the union positions and, and defeat them from that angle. How much of that strategy was actually at play?
Eric Lindblade: [00:43:58] Lee is trying to drive union troops off of a Hill. It’s just not little round top it’s cemetery Hills center of the union line, the movie. Compresses and greatly simplifies the Confederate plan on July 2nd. There’s a lot that’s left out that I think, you know, once again, you got to cut things out and it’s not a documentary, but you know, I think this idea that Lee is looking to July 2nd to be the day that he’s so tired of war and violence, that the only way to end it by inflicting immense amounts of carnage on your opponent.
Yeah, there’s a lot that goes on. There’s a guy we adorn
Jim Hessler: [00:44:39] and Dan Sickles,
Eric Lindblade: [00:44:40] that’s never really talked about the plays a role in July. Second long shirt gets to lay in and get into position. There’s an attack on the Northern end of the union line or on Calypso on cemetery Hill that doesn’t really get talked about.
So it is a very simplified view, but Lee’s objective on July. Second is cemetery Hill and cemetery rich. He says himself in his report
Jim Hessler: [00:45:03] would agree on that. W we does, which again, the movie kind of sorta gets, right. What Lee does is he does direct long streets to basically attack the union, laugh with an idea of basically driving up and just lodging the union forces from cemetery Hill and cemetery Ridge.
So little round, top by itself is never specified as an, as an objective. What happens though? The guy that Eric mentioned, union general, Dan Stickles from New York without orders from general Meade moves forward and kind of reshapes and takes the whole union last blank out of the position so that when long streets attack, those begin at about four o’clock in the afternoon, the union last slide doesn’t look really the way we expected it to look or the way George well, and so long street goes into action, really with a lot of.
Chaos and confusion surrounding what’s going on on the union last, which again, you know, is going to happen in warfare anyways. But while all this is going on, chamberlains commanding, officer’s strong Vincent, who we see briefly in the movie. Vincent’s decides he is going to occupy a little round top and put the 20th Maine in the position as the Confederates are now moving around the union left and coming or little round top.
And yes, they try to dislodge it 20th. So again, that part is accurate to, you know, to that extent. But again, the idea that anybody’s really looking at little round top it’s okay. You know, if you roll up to 20th name, a whole slime is going to cave in and the whole army is going to be on the run that wasn’t happening.
And frankly, it would have been totally unrealistic and impressed. But again, you know, it’s one of the highlights in the movie. For many years, people came here and they wanted to see where Chamberlain saw. They wanted to see where the corniest name slot, and they’d greatly elevated the status of the 20th pane.
So from a, you know, from a cinematic perspective, it’s very effective. It’s just not all that accurate. And I’m going to throw out another caveat before somebody bashes me there. We are not trashing Chamberlain. I like Joshua Chamberlain. I like to 20th Maine. Is it Chamberlain story is he is told to hold his ground and he holds his ground.
And that’s a good story. He’s a hero. Let me say that again. Joshua Chamberlain is a hero. He just doesn’t win the battle of Gettysburg and single handed kinda sorta come away from it.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:47:40] You mentioned Sickles moved the left flank. Was that something that he did because he knew about the Confederate positions and, and kind of anticipated that?
Or was that almost like a, just a pure coincidence just happened upon that?
Jim Hessler: [00:47:52] Well, they’ve been arguing that for 156, whatever year we’re up to. Yeah. So long story short is simple spot. A peach orchard, which again is an important position at the Gettysburg battlefield, which doesn’t really play into the movie at all.
But each orchard along the Yemens for grown Sickles thought that would be a better position for his troops in artillery. He also did think Confederates were going to attack and swine, and because of that, he moves forward. There’s some, you know, in some merits to the Sickles argument, but he does it without orders from general general defense, which again, I’m tying this back to the movie, you know, that’s a big, dramatic reason why strong Vincent, the 20th Maine ended up going a little round shot and you don’t get any of that drama in the movie.
You know, that would be kind of a big deal. I mean, they mentioned it in the basil. That’d be kind of interesting on screen. Oh man. Sickles screwed up. We gotta, we gotta get there and they really don’t do that. And love just
Eric Lindblade: [00:48:54] echoing what Jim said about the 20th Maine and Chamberlain. What they did was incredibly heroic on July 2nd, but over time, they’ve almost been mythologized.
There was DFI. It’s not just winning the battle by. Making their stand and making their charge. They win the battle of Gettysburg by doing so. The union wins the civil war. Therefore we are able to become the nation. We are, you know, basically you can draw the line out from little round, top, all the way to, you know, if it wasn’t for Chamberlain, we all be speaking German right now that of course leads to a blow back as well.
There’s an entire cottage industry of people now that just bash Chamberlain all the time, you know, which is unfair. Never said he was the great heroes battle. He never asked for that. Others have made him that, but he never did it
Jim Hessler: [00:49:47] himself. And even if he did embellish a little bit in his postwar memoirs, guess what?
Every civil war guy who wrote a post postwar memoir embellishes records, that’s what human beings do. And so, yeah, as Eric said, there’s a cottage industry that likes to bash Chamberlain and you know what, you’re not going to get that from us.
Eric Lindblade: [00:50:08] But we all, we all want to be hero of the story we all do. And I think what happens with Chamberlain of all the characters’ in the movie, Chamberlain, I think is the most relatable to the average film goer.
You know, I don’t know what it’s like to be Robert Lee. I didn’t graduate second of my class at West point. I don’t know what that’s like. I can relate to a college professor. Yeah. I can relate to a teacher. And I think what Chamberlain symbolizes for people is the hope that if you were in a desperate situation, that you could rise to the occasion and make a difference.
And so that’s, I think why people identify so much with Chamberlain more so than I think other characters in the movie, but. And it’s a great story. You know, I mean, a year before the battle Chamberlain’s teaching philosophy and religion at Boden college in Maine, Shane was not the only citizen soldier we have in this battlefield.
In fact, the majority of them were, but Chamberlain just finds himself historically at the right place, right time that people are drawn to.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:51:14] Wow. You mentioned earlier not to get too far outside this movie in particular, but when you mentioned saving private Ryan and the mention of Chamberlain being a teacher, while the hero in saving private Ryan, Tom Hanks, his character, he’s also a teacher and it makes him very, very relatable.
Eric Lindblade: [00:51:29] It reinforces the idea of I’m doing a job. I’m not looking to be a hero. I’m just doing the best I can with the hand that was dealt to me. And sometimes that’s all we can do in life. What happens on a battlefield? Sometimes you get a good position, other times you don’t. And sometimes it’s just a very critical difference between the two
Dan LeFebvre: [00:51:50] very well said.
Moving on to the last day of the battle. As far as the movie is concerned, July 3rd, of course they wouldn’t have known when the sun went up. That that was going to be the last day. At least as far as the movie is concerned, it doesn’t seem like they have any idea that this is going to be the last day of the battle,
Jim Hessler: [00:52:07] not to interrupt you, but somebody does say that does Garnette or somebody say this is going to be the last day.
So move you guys are kind of.
Eric Lindblade: [00:52:15] All the soldiers news could be the final day early in the morning. The second ominous music was piped in over the battlefield to let them know this is a serious day. They need to get their heads in the game.
Jim Hessler: [00:52:25] That’s my favorite part of the movie, this, the Lee and long street planning on July 3rd is my favorite part of the movie.
Is it a hundred percent accurate? Again? Probably not, but it’s since my favorite part of the movie. So don’t be just some of the ominous music. I like that part.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:52:39] Well, as the movie explained things at seminary rage, generally orders general long street to take general pickets and lead a charge to the Heights in the center.
And the plan is to split the federal line long street says there are three federal Corps up there. They’re well entrenched and his men are going to sustain like 50% casualties. A little later, he flat out tells Lee that he believes this attack is going to fail. He says this mostly because the men will have to walk a mile over open field.
They’re going to be under constant enemy fire the entire time. But Lee doesn’t agree. He says he’s never left the field in command of the enemy. Retreats, not an option. We’re going to win this. They have command of the high grounds, but in the long slope in the center, They’re going to break. That’s what Lee insists, right?
He insists that general pickets core they’re fresh. They haven’t engaged in battle yet. So he’s confident that they’re going to prevail. And the movie takes us to the union side where Chamberlain’s men are relieved by Colonel Rice’s men. And the movie explains this as an order to give Chamberlain’s men the well-needed rest from the previous days fighting.
Of course. They’re asked to move right to the center, which from a moment ago in the movie, it’s exactly where general pits pick is going to attack. And as I was watching this, I was like, okay, this has to be a Hollywood moment where this is just too coincidental that for this to be real, right. That Chamberlain’s men were ordered to rest by moving exactly where the Confederates plan to attack.
Was that a Hollywood moment or is that actually how it happened?
Jim Hessler: [00:54:19] No, you got it. It’s a Hollywood moment. Now, again, it’s spent a long time since I’ve read the novel, but I’m pretty sure they more or less three played out in the novel. And again, I just point that out because people like to blame the movie.
The movie is following the playbook of the novel, you know, fairly closely, but now you’re right. It, it, Chamberlain is moved on the morning of July 3rd. He’s not on little round, top. He is moved closer to the center of the union line, but he’s not w you know, when the movie they got to put chef Daniel’s reaction, you know, he’s not anywhere near that in reality.
Eric Lindblade: [00:54:53] notice too, you don’t see the 20th Maine siding and you don’t see
Jim Hessler: [00:54:56] Chamberlain
Eric Lindblade: [00:54:57] and his brother are fighting. They’re just kinda like hanging out the whole time. This is going on. So I think from a literary means you have to tie all these people together. You can’t have this great hero, Chamberlain just watching from afar.
So it’s a way to kind of put a bow on it, but you know, they’re on some Ridge. They’re just not really close to the angle where they’re at. So that you have a little bit of license taken there, but, but you know, I mean, as, Hey, I’ve never written a Pulitzer prize winning novel. So who am I to criticize Michael Shara for that?
Dan LeFebvre: [00:55:31] Well, that’s a great point that it is following the, the novel side and not as much the historical. So you think from each iteration, it’s going to get a little bit further from what actually happened.
Jim Hessler: [00:55:42] Yeah. You know what gets right to some of it, you know, some of your, kind of your introduction to this segment, to what I think they get right.
Is I do think long street was skeptical about Lee’s plants that day. What I chills thinks they get right, is, you know, again, in the movie. We’ll go from ominous music to kind of mystical music. You know, mystical music kind of plays is Lee’s stares off into space. And then just kind of absentmindedly says in the center will break.
No, you know, Robert Lee thought this what works and what they don’t convey is how much he relied on his artillery. He thought his artillery to break up the union defenses and therefore make it possible for a lot of long streets. Infantry. To, you know, to reach cemetery ranch, tele, we know it didn’t happen.
We know that union won. So save all the cards and letters for the folks who think I’m going lost. Cause again, because I’m not. But the point being that the movie just does, it does a disservice, I think property lead again, as I said earlier, this is a great moment where they kind of make him seem on here.
It might be a bad idea, but the real Rob really thought. With coordination between infantry will read that I could work. And I do think long street. So as I said, I think that part, you know, the more we get scribes and I think there’s sort of dialogue between the two, like I said, it’s my personal favorite part of the movie.
Eric Lindblade: [00:57:08] we view.
With the genius of hindsight, we know it’s going to fail. So therefore, because it failed, it’s a bad idea. Well, no, I actually argue, I think Lee is actually thinking somewhat logically on July 3rd with the options that he’s given doesn’t mean they’re good options, but I don’t think it’s just this let’s attack the centers and they’ll break.
I just know God’s will, as Lee would say. I think it it’s, it doesn’t just service delay because I think Lee does think through it logically we did an entire episode on July 3rd. What was Lee thinking? Why does he make the attack? He does. And I think, you know, it’s a lot more complex. It makes it out to be.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:57:56] I recall is the way the movie is describing it. Basically he thinks that the forces at the center are going to be much, much less. You mentioned the artillery. I think the movie does mention that as well that they want to do the barrage of artillery fire. And then they’re going to send, it’s called Pickett’s charge, but there’s a long streets, Trimble pedigree, and pick it in the movie and his ideas that they’re going to be able to break through.
I think the movie listed like 15,000 men and so. From that perspective, thinking of, if he’s assuming that there’s, you know, 5,000, you’re sending 15,000 men, the logic there, at least in my mind, you know, it’s like, okay, well this might actually work.
Jim Hessler: [00:58:36] Yeah. And you know, I don’t know if Sherry used this as a source, but Lee’s military secretary wrote after the war.
That, that was basically what they were trying to do that. You know, initially they were looking at maybe attacking the slang. So again, because a lot of things happened in the morning of July 3rd and Lee calls that off and then they started to look for another weak point and where they stopped cemetery Ridge, kind of the center of cemetery Ridge may saw legitimately might be a weak point in this, you through and us man at it again, supported by artillery.
It could potentially break. So again, they don’t get the, I might take is they don’t get the details really right in the movie. But I think the big picture for me is close enough to be an accurate, and I think you can come away from the movie with a general sense of what was going on with charge. Just have Tommy Lee Jones playing something like that.
I think Lee would come off a whole lot better. Right.
Eric Lindblade: [00:59:32] I kind of equate your pickets charge. It’s sort of like last seconds of a football game and a team for the hail Mary pass. If everybody does their job, there’s a chance it could work, but it’s nobody blocks and the quarterback gets sacked. It’s a failure.
And I think that’s kind of what Lee is looking at. People assume. Well, we’ll do solo salts ever work well, there they work. Otherwise people would not do them. Enough times where they were successful. And Lee is actually position this attack to what was on July 3rd, probably the weakest part of the union line.
At that point, it just wasn’t enough overwhelming to carry the position and the artillery doesn’t work. The artillery works. He’s got a fighting chance. If it doesn’t work, he’s got no
Jim Hessler: [01:00:21] chance. And
Dan LeFebvre: [01:00:22] the way that the movie shows it. Obviously it doesn’t work, but there’s, it doesn’t mention how many people die.
You see a lot of people dying horse, the fighting turns to bayonets and close range. Very, very quick.
I have to go frame by frame for that one. I don’t remember that. Well, after the battle, Martin Sheen’s version of generally takes responsibility for this. He says, it’s my fault. General pickets there. He’s like, Oh, you must look to your division and pick. It’s got tears in his eyes. And he States I generally, I have no division.
And so that’s how the battle of Gettysburg officially comes to an end. As far as the movie is concerned. How well did the movie do showing how the battle actually ended there after the failure of Pickett’s charge?
Jim Hessler: [01:01:15] I think the movie does a decent job showing how pic it’s charged. You know, the li the li moment of it’s all my fault.
It’s all my fault. And as you said, encouraging picketer that that stuff did happen. You know, I think if I had directed that mosey, I might have directed those scenes a little bit differently because I still don’t think Robert Lee comes off strong enough or forceful enough at that moment in the movie, you know, people who witnessed this in real life said this was a hell of an inspiring moment.
You know, the Confederate army is thinking, you know, this could be lights out. It’s a union Yankees counter attack. We’re not going to be in, you have robbery Lee coming out and saying, boys, it’s all my fault reform reform with me and we’ll be ready. And again, I don’t, I don’t think the movie does a great job with that, but I think again, they get, they get kind of at least the basic idea, right?
As far as the end of the bat or, you know, it was a little bit of a different story. I think, you know, the last time we see Lee and lone street, they’re sitting around a campfire, both of them, very much looking the worst for wear and the total disintegration of Robert Lee that we have now seen on screen for the last four hours, I think just becomes lead as you know, he almost burst out into tears.
I am so very tired. Lee and his lieutenants, Jeb Stewart. We didn’t talk about Jeff Stewart or the movie gives a bad rap to Lee in his lieutenants. Do a heck of a job stage managing their exit and the retreat from Gettysburg. So if Lee was allowing himself to feel disappointed and defeated for a couple of moments on the evening of July 3rd, 1863, he turned that around pretty quickly on that retreat.
And, you know, as history tells us, you know, ultimately held off the Yankees for a while, the army,
Eric Lindblade: [01:03:06] even the way, if you look at the end,
Daughter and old man there where it’s long string, you pull, bring up the guns, get aligned, organized Lee and Longstreet are both doing that. Other individuals are doing that. And what gets lost this idea of it’s all my fault, what Lee will then say now I need all my good soldiers helped me get out of this.
Lee is immediately thinking what the next step is. And Lee is, I think expecting there could be some union troops or across cemetery Ridge very soon. And he was going to be prepared
Dan LeFebvre: [01:03:42] for that. Yeah. That’s a great point that you can’t, I mean, you can’t just give up, you got to be able to get out of it.
Eric Lindblade: [01:03:48] Right. And I would argue, I’ll go on record as saying this. I think Lee’s find this moment ever as commander of the army of Northern Virginia is the retreat from Gettysburg. Getting his army back into Virginia, relatively intact with all the supplies with most of your wounded, it allows Confederacy and fight on for almost two more years.
Anybody can invade. It’s a lot harder to get 50, 60 miles out of enemy territory. Safely history is full of examples. Think of Napoleon leaving Russia of how just absolutely devastated his army. That doesn’t happen with army Northern Virginia. They’re beaten.
Jim Hessler: [01:04:31] That’s
Dan LeFebvre: [01:04:31] a great point. And I know we’ve talked about quite a few different misconceptions that people might have from this movie, but are there any other major myths or misconceptions that you get on your tours from people who have seen this movie that we haven’t talked about yet?
Jim Hessler: [01:04:48] Yeah. I just thought, you know, I touched on Jen Stewart a moment ago. Cause I think that’s a, that’s a blatant one. You know, the idea that John Stewart was no longer riding around getting his name in the papers, you know, kind of saying that’s the perception you got from the general public a lot. Oh yeah.
Stuart wasn’t they even used the phrase, joy riding, like, you know, they don’t remember anything else from the movie, but then on some joy riding will kind of pop out on you. So, yeah, jumps, steward, joy riding look, you know, I’m not saying stewards movements in Pennsylvania were the highlights of his career.
They were not, the store was given discretionary orders on how he was supposed to get into and to Pennsylvania. And, he’s trying to reconnect with the army of Northern Virginia. He’s not out of joy riding what’d you got, that’s a really, really common. The only other thing I’ll add too. You know, when we were talking about a little round top, somebody will ding us.
If we don’t mention that there’s no called sale on the movie, you know, you have a less lines, you gotta have a ride flying, heavy fighting going on at called sale. And there are students in the battles and things. The union rights plank is even strategically more important than little rounds. So, you know, we should, we should mention that for the folks at home.
Eric Lindblade: [01:06:03] me in terms of myths. I mean, we kind of cover for one there’s two real big ones for me. One, I think is the, the portrayal day one, which we already talked about. But I think the other ideas that. All the Confederates had to do, which is move around the union army. That’s the simple movement that if long street was
Jim Hessler: [01:06:24] just listened to,
Eric Lindblade: [01:06:26] and what’s interesting is Lee actually addresses long streets proposal
Jim Hessler: [01:06:31] in his official report.
Eric Lindblade: [01:06:32] What he basically says is we don’t have the Calvary to screen it. We don’t have the logistical ability to move our entire logistical line back. And also we have to assume that the union army is just going to let us do
Jim Hessler: [01:06:44] it.
Eric Lindblade: [01:06:45] And so I think Lisa is, it’s just not feasible. And I’ve had people vehemently argue with me on tours.
It could have been done. There’s a difference between what you want to do and what you can do on a battlefield. And I think Lee realized it’s just not practicable to do that.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:07:06] Well, it sounds like between that and the charge, like a lot of the decisions, especially towards the end of the battle that Lee made, where.
I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Here’s what I can do. Try to make the best decision you can in less than ideal situation by any means.
Jim Hessler: [01:07:23] It’s Lee
Eric Lindblade: [01:07:23] grasping for the initiative. Once again, Lee has the initiative in that campaign up until June 28th. A lot of things happened that changed that. And Lee’s attempting to regain the initiative that he never gets again.
And you’re driving the action, begins reacting to the union army.
Jim Hessler: [01:07:44] Yeah, that’s right. I mean, as you go from the 30th to the first and the second to the third, you can literally see Lee’s options being removed from the table for longer than he’s in Pennsylvania. And I would echo Eric’s point. You know, the idea of moving around as a Confederate ride is not nearly as easy or even possible.
They make it in the movie, but again, they want to give us long street, the, the all knowing and just say, I think Tom Berenger’s performance along street is totally underrated. I think it’s the best performance in the movie, but he gets lost under that bad beer. Everybody just remembers the beer. And I think along long street does a great job.
I think Berenger does a great job.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:08:25] Thank you so much for coming on to chat about Gettysburg, for anyone wanting to learn more about the real history. There is your podcast called the battle of Gettysburg podcast, and you’ve also got tours of the battlefield as well. So my final question is kind of a two parter.
The first part is for someone listening to this who wants to walk through history by visiting the battlefield itself, can you share a little bit of information about your tours, how someone can plan a visit. And then the second part is someone who listening. The, but can’t visit Gettysburg. So they want to hear more from your podcast.
Can you give an overview of your podcast and where someone can listen? Yeah.
Jim Hessler: [01:09:00] So we’re just trying to find our
Eric Lindblade: [01:09:01] podcasts. We are found wherever podcasts are found on numerous platforms, you just type in even just Gettysburg. You’ll find us the battle of Gettysburg podcasts. We’d recommend follow us on our social media as well.
We have a lot of great discussions there and interactions for fans. Yeah. If you can’t get to Gettysburg, I think we’re the next best thing. Listening to us. Talk about it.
Jim Hessler: [01:09:23] If you’re coming to Gettysburg, there’s a couple of ways that you can get tours. That’s through the Gettysburg visitor center, which is typically open in the non COVID world.
the Gettysburg heritage center look up the association of licensed battlefield guides. These contacts through the association of license battle scene guides, or is you’re following Eric and my podcast on Facebook. You can message us directly and maybe we could hook you up. Lots of different ways to do it.
But the important thing is we want to get people to Gettysburg. And although I know we spent like the last hour trying to bashing the movie. What I think the movie Gettysburg does well is I think it creates a spirit spirit of Gettysburg spirit of why Gettysburg is important, the spirit of why it’s endured.
And you know, in the mid 1990s, that movie did get a lot of people to come visit us in Gabby’s I would love to see her as I’m sure, Eric, what I’d love to see a resurgence in that. And, you know, how’s that, that’s what we should do. Thanks either one, you know, we’re bashing a new patient details.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:10:27] Sure. If nothing else that hopefully it raises awareness.
When I started this podcast was one of the reasons why I started it was being able to connect with, with folks like you that know that information and being able to. Get that deep dive of information that you, I mean, you could never get from, you know, an hour long conversation is great as the information’s been so far, there’s so much more information out there.
Eric Lindblade: [01:10:48] And I would recommend if you are coming to Gettysburg, whether you’ve been here hundreds of times, or it’s your first time you’re well served, getting a licensed battlefield guide. We’ve been here since 1915. We are truly the best in the world at what we do and helping people connect. Too and understand those battles.
So if you’re coming here, without a guide,
Jim Hessler: [01:11:12] And we can tailor the tour to almost any special interests. I have specialty topics. Eric has specialty topics, our colleagues. Do you know if there’s an aspect of the battles you want to deep dive on, or if you just want a general overview, we can do, we can do both of those scenarios.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:11:29] That’s fantastic. I’ll make sure to add all those links into the show notes for this episode as well. Thank you again so much for your time.