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The Gettysburg Address (film)

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The Gettysburg Address
File:"The Gettysburg Address" (2017 film) theatrical poster.jpg
Directed bySean Conant
Produced by
  • Sean Conant
  • Jim Conant
Written bySean Conant
  • David Morse
  • Dermot Mulroney
  • Sam Elliott
  • Cary Elwes
  • David Strathairn
  • Matthew Broderick
  • Michael C. Hall
  • Lili Taylor
  • Aidan Quinn
  • Ed Asner
Music byLuke Richards
CinematographySean Conant
Rising Picture Company
CountryUnited States

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The Gettysburg Address is an unreleased American documentary film written, produced and directed by Sean Conant. The film examines the many influences upon and impacts of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered in the midst of the American Civil War. A soundtrack and companion book to the documentary were released before the film.


Through interviews, period photographs, and archival audio and video, The Gettysburg Address traces the literary, political, and spiritual influences for Abraham Lincoln's historic speech—from Shakespearean cadences and biblical imagery rooted in the King James Bible, to the nationalistic oratory of American statesman Daniel Webster and the ideological stylings of reforming Boston minister Theodore Parker. Civil War soldier sacrifice and Lincoln's personal sufferings are also examined as additional influences for the speech, as well as the Victorian romanticism of death which prompted the rural cemetery movement and provided the inspiration for landscape architect William Saunders' design of the new cemetery in Gettysburg where Lincoln delivered the speech.

The film's wide-ranging themes are cohered by a main narrative centering around Lincoln at Gettysburg, beginning with his invitation to speak at the consecration of the new Soldiers' National Cemetery honoring the fallen heroes of the bloodiest battle in American history. The duress under which the townspeople of Gettysburg survived the battle and assisted in the gruesome aftermath is detailed. The middle of the film chronicles Lincoln's journey to, and footsteps through, Gettysburg—as he interacted with various figures; dined at the home of his host, Gettysburg lawyer David Wills; and continued to work on the speech he would deliver at the Soldiers National Cemetery the following day. The film closely examines the day of November 19, 1863—as Lincoln toured the Gettysburg battlefield, which prompted last-minute alterations of the speech; the procession of all parties from the Gettysburg town center to the cemetery; and the ceremony itself, which featured a main oration by the renowned Massachusetts statesman Edward Everett. The latter half of the film chronicles the legacy of the Gettysburg Address, highlighting historic invocations of the speech by various individuals and groups on their respective paths toward freedom and equality. Interviews with notable proponents of Women's Rights, Civil Rights, and LGBTQ rights are featured.

The documentary utilizes Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address as tools by which to enter into a greater examination and discussion of American democracy and equality.


The film was conceived in the spring of 2013—the sesquicentennial anniversary year of the Gettysburg Address—when Sean Conant and his father embarked on a journey across America to view the five extant copies of the speech. As the Conants traveled to various museums and repositories, speaking with scholars and conservationists they soon recognized that their quest to see the original copies of the speech might serve interestingly as a backdrop for a unique documentary. Sean began the process of requesting permissions to film private viewings of the original manuscripts at the Library of Congress, Cornell University, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and The White House. Each of these institutions granted the Conants rare access for the purpose of filming the fragile documents for their production.[1][2]

The film combines contemporary Civil War era accounts with modern anecdotes and insights from experts. The lengthy periods between the Conants' private filming sessions with the five copies of the speech were spent researching for and filming more than 50 interviews with figures such as Tom Brokaw, Laura Bush and George Takei, historians James M. McPherson, Eric Foner, Henry Louis Gates and Drew Gilpin Faust, authors Jeff Shaara, Brenda Wineapple and Eric Marcus, French ambassador Francois Delattre, US Senators Dick Durbin and Jeanne Shaheen, civil rights leader Andrew Young, and many more.

Contemporary quotes from historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Everett, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass are blended into the film's narrative, along with letters and diaries of soldiers, battlefield nurses, children, and Lincoln's friends and colleagues. Despite working with a very small budget, Conant assembled a large cast of popular actors to voice these and other historical figures from the Civil War era.

Marveling at the feat of a young Hollywood outsider gathering so many talented actors, Dermot Mulroney joked in a June 2015 magazine interview: "Sean contacted everybody in Hollywood. I don't even know how he did that. He's not from L.A. He's from New Hampshire! Those are the people I respect: the ones that can pull all that together with bubblegum and paper clips."[3]


  • Narrated by Matthew Broderick
  • David Morse as Abraham Lincoln
  • Sam Elliott as Ward Hill Lamon
  • Ed Asner as Edward Everett
  • David Strathairn as Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Cary Elwes as Captain John P. Jones
  • Michael C. Hall as Leonard Swett
  • Dermot Mulroney as Andrew Gregg Curtin
  • Keith David as Frederick Douglass
  • Jason Alexander as Noah Brooks
  • Aidan Quinn as Theodore Parker
  • Sean Conant as David Wills
  • Lili Taylor as Emily Souder
  • Kevin Conway as Daniel Webster
  • William Fichtner as John G. Nicolay
  • Victor Garber as William Saunders
  • Bob Gunton as William Herndon
  • Lois Smith as Elizabeth Crawford
  • Neal McDonough as Charles Sumner
  • Zachary Gordon as Daniel Skelly
  • Gary Busey as John C. Calhoun
  • Maxwell Perry Cotton as Albertus McCreery


A companion book of 16 scholarly essays which dig deeper into the film's new themes was published by Oxford University Press in May 2015, entitled The Gettysburg Address: Perspectives on Lincoln's Greatest Speech, was conceived and edited by Sean Conant during the process of filming with numerous Lincoln, Civil War and civil rights scholars, each of whom held a particular niche understanding of the varied themes that were being examined within the film.[4]

The book features offerings from scholars including Harold Holzer, Sean Wilentz, Allen Guelzo, and Raymond Arsenault.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson praised Conant's efforts, commenting that the book's essays "offer fresh and stimulating insights on the origins, meaning, impacts, and continuing relevance of the Address."[4][not in citation given]

On June 30, 2015, Hachette Book Group released the audiobook, read by Stephen Lang, Dermot Mulroney, Neal McDonough and Zachary Gordon, who also appear in the film.[4]


A soundtrack for the film was released by Milan Records in May 2015.[5] The album was produced by Sean Conant and features an orchestral score, contemporary Civil War era music, a new recording by renowned folk musician Jay Ungar, and David Morse's reading of the Gettysburg Address from the film.

Album liner notes written by Conant offer historical context for the Civil War era songs included in the film. A "Note From The Director" is also included, in which Conant describes the long and difficult process of finding musicians possessing the period instruments in which to create an authentic record of the songs for the film. He became impressed by the authenticity of President Lincoln's Own Band—an ensemble specializing in Civil War era music performance—when he heard them perform in Gettysburg at the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Conant asked them to record a collection of Civil War era songs for his film, and the band agreed.[5]

Conant's "Note" also explains the purpose of the hymn How Great Thou Art in the film, the emotive purpose the film required from the song, and the process of reaching out to folk musician Jay Ungar to record it.

Soundtrack Geek called the album "a superb surprise"[6]

1."The Gettysburg Address (Main Title)"Luke Richards3:49
2."Hail, Columbia"President Lincoln's Own Band2:06
3."Conceived in Liberty"Luke Richards3:36
4."Oh Freedom!"The Golden Gospel Singers3:07
5."The Union March"President Lincoln's Own Band2:22
6."Civil War/Emancipation"Luke Richards3:27
7."Bonnie Blue Flag"President Lincoln's Own Band1:10
8."Humble Origins"Luke Richards1:31
9."The Battle Cry of Freedom"President Lincoln's Own Band1:10
10."The Carnage of War"Luke Richards3:28
11."We Are Coming, Father Abraham"President Lincoln's Own Band1:58
12."Writing The Address"Luke Richards4:11
13."The Battle Hymn of the Republic"President Lincoln's Own Band2:33
14."These Honored Dead"Luke Richards4:33
15."Consecration Dirge"President Lincoln's Own Band2:28
16."Dixie"President Lincoln's Own Band1:44
17."Assassination/The Legend Grows"Luke Richards4:09
18."Abide With Me"President Lincoln's Own Band1:04
19."Words For The Ages"Luke Richards2:36
20."How Great Thou Art"Jay Ungar2:33
21."Unfinished Work"Luke Richards3:42
22."The Long Road to Freedom (End Credits)"Luke Richards3:46
23."The Gettysburg Address"David Morse2:03


  1. King, Loren (August 17, 2013). "Four Score and Two Guys from New Hampshire". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  2. Heidig, Lance (August 28, 2013). "Filming the Gettysburg Address". Cornell University. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  3. "Interview with Dermot Mulroney". Red Magazine. June 25, 2015. Retrieved July 3, 2015.[dead link]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "The Gettysburg Address: Perspectives on Lincoln's Greatest Speech". Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The Gettysburg Address (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  6. Tillnes, Jørn (July 1, 2015). "The Gettysburg Address". The Soundtrack Geek. Retrieved March 6, 2017.

External links[edit]

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