For America, the Civil War remains by far the bloodiest conflict
Over 600,000 Americans died, more than in all other wars with US-soldiers
involved combined. During the Civil War, the battle that cost most lives
was the one near Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863): about 165,000 troops from
both sides were involved. The Confederacy lost about 20,000 and the Union
about 23,000 men. Thousands were wounded. The Unionist troops under the
command of General George Meade were victorious, but missed the chance
to pursue the Conferates in order to make the battle decisive. Still, Gettysburg
was a preliminary decision in the Civil War that ended two years later.
After the election of Abraham Lincoln as 16th President of the United
States in 1860, the leader of the Southern Democrats, Jefferson Davis,
was at the forefront of a movement that lead to the division of America.
The Southern States elected him as their president in reaction to Lincoln's
program that foresaw the end of slavery. "Honest Abe's" political agenda
would have meant the end of the Southern plantation system as it had existed
up to then, relying heavily on the workforce of negro slaves.
The military leader of the Northern States, General Ulysses S. Grant,
had been a pupil at West Point (against his will) and taken part in the
Mexican war. He later became President of the United States (1869-77).
The military leader of the Southern States, General Robert E. Lee had pursued
a military career like his father and was after the Civil War one of the
few leaders to serve a two years prison sentence.
The two capitals, Washington and Richmond, were only separated by 200
miles. In that region, most of the fighting took place. In 1862, the Southern
armies had won several battles. The final decision in favour of the Unionists
came only with victories by the Generals Grant and Sherman in 1865. It
was due to the Northern superiority in resources and soldiers.
The 1993-movie Gettysburg was based on the 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning
book The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The movie stars
Daniels (Col. Joshua Chamberlain), Martin
Sheen (Gen Robert E. Lee), Tom Berenger (Lt. Gen. James Longstreet), Kevin Conway (Sgt. "Buster"
C. Thomas Howell (Lt. Thomas D. Chamberlain), Richard Jordan (Brig. Gen.
Lewis A. Armistead), Royce D. Applegate (Brig. Gen. James L. Kemper), Maxwell
Caulfield (Col. Strong Vincent), Stephen Lang (Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett),
Sam Elliott (Brig. Gen. John Buford), Richard Anderson (Gen. George Gordon
Meade), Ted Turner (Lt. Col. W.T. Patton) and many more. All in all, there
are over one hundred speaking parts. The film was shot at the original
scenes with more than 13,000 extras. Gettysburg tries to follow
the historical events, shows the horrors of war as well as for instance
the conflicts of strategy the Southerners should follow. No great movie
but a four-hour film that tries to be fair to both camps, avoiding a black
and white picture of the historical drama.