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WTIU Airs Lincoln@Gettysburg on Anniversary of Gettysburg Address

New documentary traces Lincoln’s pioneering use of the telegraph and the address that remade America.

Lincoln writing the Gettysburg address at David Wills house

On the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, WTIU will present the premiere of Lincoln@Gettysburg, a documentary that describes a major turning point in American history: the rebirth of a nation and the dawn of the information age. The program airs Tuesday, November 19, from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m.

President Abraham Lincoln was a master of a new frontier with his “high-tech” command center—the War Department Telegraph Office, America’s first “Situation Room.” The telegraph, the Internet of the 19th century, gave Lincoln the power to re-invent leadership and wield control across distant battlefields and have his finger on the pulse of the nation.

This flow of communication led to some of the most dramatic moments of the Civil War, and shaped the words that Lincoln would use to reunite a shattered country at Gettysburg.

Mr. Lincoln’s “T-Mails”

Narrated by actor David Stratharin (Lincoln, The Bourne Legacy, Good Night, and Good Luck), Lincoln@Gettysburg reveals how Lincoln’s interest in new technologies gave him control never before exercised by a commander-in-chief.

“Abraham Lincoln recognized that he who controls the conduit also controls the content,” said Tom Wheeler, author of Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails.

Lincoln used these innovations to connect himself to the country—receiving dispatches by telegraph from his generals in the field—and, in turn, transmitting his words and strategic plans for the nation with unprecedented clarity and efficiency.

The documentary presents views from historians, political scientists, and Civil War and military experts. These include screenwriter for the motion picture Lincoln, Tony Kushner; former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell; historian and author Eric Foner; author Jeff Shaara; political scientist and TV commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, and others.

First Speech to “Go Viral”

Lincoln@Gettysburg highlights the significance of several elements: the battle and its aftermath; the genesis of America’s new National Cemetery; the last-minute invitation for Lincoln to speak; the president’s daylong “special” train from Washington; the assembly of thousands of spectators from all across the union to the little town in the hills of southern Pennsylvania; and the ceremony itself—crowned by the 272 words with which our 16th president reaffirmed the meaning and purpose of American democracy, and made his case that preserving the union was the only end that could justify the horrors of the war and the slaughter of 10,000 men in the fields and forests surrounding Gettysburg. The address was the opening salvo in a new battle for the fate of the nation.

Peter Schnall, the film’s producer and director, says there’s a reason why the Gettysburg Address was the first political speech to “go viral.”

“‘Of the people, by the people, for the people . . . ’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”

National Challenge

Also on November 19th, PBS and America’s preeminent documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will launch a national engagement initiative challenging everyone in the country, especially students, to video record themselves reading or reciting the Gettysburg Address and upload it on the Web.

Burns’ new feature-length documentary The Address tells the story of a tiny school in Putney Vermont, the Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to memorize, practice and recite the Gettysburg Address as a learning tool. The Address will air on WTIU April 15, 2014. Learn more here.

Indiana Public Media is a producer and distributor of public media from WFIU Public Radio and WTIU Public Television at Indiana University including your favorite programming from NPR and PBS.


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