(NOTE: originally published earlier in the summer of 2013)
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the close of the Battle of Gettysburg - one of the most important battles in the United States Civil War. Despite so many critical fights over the course of the three days in early July 1863, one of the most famous occurred 150 years ago today as Major General George Pickett and others led Confederate troops against the Union positions on Cemetery Ridge. To be known as Pickett's charge, it was a decisive victory from the Union and it forced the Confederate troops to retreat out of Pennsylvania. With so many of the great stories of American history, we find that they were recreated on the Radio in the 1940s and 1950s.
As you may know, I have gotten very interested in Old Time Radio programs thanks to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel on SiriusXM #82. I have also discovered that many of these are freely available thanks to The Old Time Radio section on the Internet Archive. As we recognize the 150th anniversary of this great battle, I want to share some of the old time radio programs that talk about Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg (from You Are There) - Broadcast February 22, 1948. From You Are There, a CBS radio program that ran from 1947 to 1950. The program envisions what would have happened had the CBS news been in place and reporting from the event. Among the many programs that were in this series were the Alamo, Assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Julius Caesar, the signing of the Magna Carta, and many others. This is very well done - and they can be a bit campy - but all in all - an interesting and creative way to recreate great moments in history. This episode as it relates to Gettysburg focuses on the last day of the battle when Pickett's Charge ended the Confederate hopes for victory in that battle.
Gettysburg (from Cavalcade of America) - Broadcast September 13, 1948. From DuPont's Cavalcade of America, one of the longest running programs in radio history. Presented by DuPont Company ("Maker of better things for better living through chemistry"), this program portrayed many aspects of American history. These featured not only political and military events, but also covered an amazingly diverse group of portraits that counted lighthouse keepers and baseball players among the stories presented. They also featured great star talent, and on September 13, 1948, they were able to have actor Dick Powell (most famously of Richard Diamond and Rogues Gallery fame).
The Battle of Gettysburg (from the CBS Radio Workshop) - Broadcast June 30, 1957. From the CBS Radio Workshop, a great program in the long tradition that the network had to exploring the boundaries for Radio. This followed the Columbia Workshop as one of the places where truly amazing stories could be told. The CBS Radio Workshop ran from 1956 to 1957 and told a variety of stories in this experimental anthology series. This episode on Gettysburg covers the full battle and (like everyone else in this program) simply fantastic. Featured in the acting crew is John Dehner (as narrator), Raymond Burr, and Davis Butler (among others). Additional links worth following to learn more about Gettysburg:
- Battle of Gettysburg (from the United States Army)
- History & Culture (from the Gettysburg National Miltary Park)
- Gettysburg (from the History Channel)
- Gettysburg Foundation Website
- LibriVox audio book of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg by Abner Doubleday (1882)