The Civil War (1990)
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The Universe of Battle (1863) 

In trying to draw Union troops away from the siege of Vicksburg, Robert E. Lee invaded Pennsylvania and over three days 150,000 men would do battle at Gettysburg. Confederate soldiers had ... See full summary »


Ken Burns


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
David McCullough ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Shelby Foote ... Himself - Writer
Barbara Fields Barbara Fields ... Herself - Historian
Daisy Turner Daisy Turner ... Herself - Daugher of Alexander Turner
Ed Bearss Ed Bearss ... Himself - Historian
Stephen B. Oates Stephen B. Oates ... Himself - Historian
James Symington James Symington ... Himself - Former Congressman
Sam Waterston ... President Abraham Lincoln (voice)
Julie Harris ... Mary Chestnut (voice)
Jason Robards ... Ulysses S. Grant (voice)
Morgan Freeman ... Frederick Douglass (voice)
Paul Roebling Paul Roebling ... Joshua L. Chamberlain / Various (voice)
George Black George Black ... Robert E. Lee (voice)
Garrison Keillor ... Walt Whitman / Various (voice)
Arthur Miller ... William Tecumseh Sherman (voice)


In trying to draw Union troops away from the siege of Vicksburg, Robert E. Lee invaded Pennsylvania and over three days 150,000 men would do battle at Gettysburg. Confederate soldiers had gone into Gettysburg as they had heard there was a large supply of shoes available. The town soon became the focus of the battle that would shape the rest of the conflict. On the first day at Gettysburg, the Union forces were pushed back and by mid-afternoon, Confederate soldiers occupied the town. The second day focused on positioning leading to the battle of Little Round Top. an ideal position from which to gain the high ground and battlefield. The Union quickly gained control of the site and repelled several Confederate attempts to oust them. On day three, Lee ordered Gen. George Pickett to lead the charge against the Union forces on Cemetery Hill. Gen. Meade anticipated the attack and the rout of Confederate forces was complete with 6,500 casualties including most of the commanders. The next day,... Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

25 September 1990 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films, WETA See more »
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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Joshua L. Chamberlain: We must attack or retreat. It must not be the latter. But how can it be the former?
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User Reviews

One of the Best of the Series
6 November 2012 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

The Civil War: The Universe of Battle (1990)

**** (out of 4)

The fifth episode in Ken Burns documentary spends a good portion of its running time looking at the battle at Gettysburg but it also covers such topics as: Brandy Station, VA, General Longstreet, the Vicksburg siege, Ulysses S. Grant rising through the ranks, the draft call, the Irish mob riots in New York City, black soldiers being added to the Union and the battle at Chickamauga. This episode is certainly one of the best of the series so far because it's brutal look at the horrors that the war was bringing on is just downright shocking to see today. It's just hard watching all of this stuff today and thinking that there was a time when so much death, disease and agony could be allowed to continue. Some of the harshest moments discuss the South and how they were so poor that they had to resort to eating dogs, horses and mules just to stay alive. There's also some great discussion about the diseases that were killing off most people and how many would even freeze to death from the lack of clothes and blankets. The documentary also has a good sequence taking a look at the draft that was put in and the outrage that for $300 people could buy themselves out of the war. Of course, it was only the rich who could afford to do so. Once again history buffs and film fans are really going to love this documentary as Burns does such a great and detailed job of explaining everything that was going on at the time.

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