The toothless old man who greets Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as they enter Fredericksburg with the line "Yankees evawhere, evawhere!" is a wink to the film's predecessor, Gettysburg (1993), which was produced ten years earlier. In it, there is a scene where Buford rides into Gettysburg and is greeted by a similarly toothless old man who shouts, "Johnny Rebs evawhere, evawhere!" The scene was deleted from the final print and is only available on TV broadcasts and the expanded director's edition.
The majority of the Civil War re-enactors in the movie volunteered to be in the movie without pay. In return, the production company agreed to donate at least $500,000 to preservation of a Civil War battlefield.
During filming, a large portion of the re-enactors and military advisors were recalled to their military units in the weeks following the terrorist attacks on the USA of 11 September 2001 and the later invasion of Afghanistan.
Kevin Conway often refers to reprising his Gettysburg (1993)character of Sgt. Buster Kilrain in this film as being part of the reason he turned down a supporting role in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which would have prevented him from shooting this film.
Martin Sheen was in the D.C. area the week of September 11th filming scenes for The West Wing. He was prepared to fly the Tuesday morning Dulles to LAX flight if Warner Brothers agreed to his demand for one million dollars to reprise his role of Robert E. Lee from "Gettysburg". It was only because Warner Brothers passed that Sheen was not on Flight 77 the morning of September 11th.
The film mostly omits a few of General Jackson's eccentricities, but makes sly reference to them. The real Stonewall Jackson rode with a hand raised at all times, as he felt it was necessary to balance his bodily humors. In the film, Jackson suffers a wound to one hand, and spends a scene riding in that manner, ostensibly to staunch the bleeding. In addition, the real Jackson - according to legend - sucked on lemons incessantly in the belief that it was essential to his health. In the film, he presents lemons as a gift to the fiancée of his junior officer, and enjoys the resultant lemonade for its tartness.
The wide shots (or "reveal shots") of the Union infantry advancing towards the stone wall during the Battle of Fredericksburg were not set up or filmed as special effects shots. However, due to the terrorist attacks on the US of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent travel concerns and military-reserve call-ups, the film's re-enacting unit had drastically shrunk in number. This was not fully evident until the wide shots were viewed in post-production. Visual effects supervisor Thomas G. Smith had to digitally create over 17,000 low-resolution CGI-3D soldiers, and then map out individual speeds for them: running, walking, or crawling wounded. He then added 3,000 dead soldiers to scatter around the shot.
Originally given an R rating by the MPAA for extended battlefield violence and gore. Director Ron Maxwell either shortened or cut out entirely the most objectionable scenes in order to get the film down to a PG-13 rating.
In the opening credits, the appearance of the flags indicates a special significance for some cast and crew. For example, Jeff Daniels (as Lt. Col Chamberlain of Maine) appears over a banner for the 20th Maine, Robert Duvall (Gen. Robert E. Lee of Virginia) appears over a Virginia banner, and Ted Turner (a longtime resident of Atlanta, Georgia) appears over a Georgia flag.
The first choice to play Stonewall Jackson was Russell Crowe. Crowe expressed initial interest but eventually declined, citing a need to return to Australia and take a break from movie making. Jackson's role was then offered to Stephen Lang, who was already signed and rehearsing to reprise his Gettysburg (1993) character of General George Pickett. Billy Campbell then took over the Pickett role.
An entire subplot involving John Wilkes Booth and his actor friend Henry T. Harrison (from Gettysburg (1993)) had to be cut from the film in order to get a wide release. The entire battle of Antietam was also deleted. In all, nearly 2-1/2 hours of the film never made it to final print.
Although Robert E. Lee was a highly regarded officer in the American army, his dislike of slavery and rather lukewarm approach to the issue of secession combined with some early reverses while in command of the Virginia militia caused him to not be considered for field command in the Confederate army. He was instead made an advisor to Jefferson Davis. He was named to command the Confederate army outside of Richmond in 1862 when General Joseph Johnston was wounded, because Davis disliked General Pierre Beauregard and did not want him in command.
Mira Sorvino was one of the first members of the cast to sign onto the project. Director Ron Maxwell, a huge fan of hers, had originally cast her as the lead in "Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior." When that film was halted in pre-production and postponed (and has not been realized as of 2014), he felt obliged to offer her a role in his next film to be greenlit, "Gods and Generals".
The last scene of the movie was Jackson's casket laying in his classroom at VMI, as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal his wife, child and students. This scene was actually filmed but deleted from the theatrical cut, as well as the DVD.
Portions of the movie were filmed on location at the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Modern fixtures (such as the window air conditioners on Washington and Lee buildings) were digitally edited out.
Randy Edelman was one of the first crew members to be hired by Ron Maxwell, nearly two years before the film's release. Because of this delay he had to back out due to a mounting schedule, but had already composed some themes. It was Edelman who recommended John Frizzell take over. Frizzell, in addition to writing the majority of the film's music, also was given the task of orchestrating and recording Edelman's portion of the score.
While we know Jackson by his nickname "Stonewall", his men usually referred to him as "Old Jack". His students at VMI referred to him as "Tom Fool" because of his stiff necked and pedantic style of teaching.
Stephen Lang also appeared in Gettysburg (1993). However, he does not reprise his original role from "Gettysburg", that of Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett. Instead, he plays Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who died two months prior to the momentous clash in Gettysburg. Billy Campbell took over the role of Pickett.
Contains some cameo appearances by American politicians. According to a report on CNN.com, Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and George Allen (R-VA), Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), as well as former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), all make small appearances in this film. "Wet plate" photographs of these politicians in full Civil War attire are available online.
The 1993, the motion picture Gettysburg (1993) was released, which was based on author Jeff Shaara's father's classic novel, The Killer Angels. After the critical and commercial success of the film, Jeff was approached about the possibility of continuing the story, finding someone to write a prequel and sequel to The Killer Angels. Because of this, Jeff Shaara has also used his father's historical fiction approach to the American Revolution, the Mexican-American War, another Civil War Trilogy in the West and both World Wars.
William Sanderson, portraying Gen. A. P. Hill, was 58 years old at the time of filming. Ambrose Powell Hill was 38 years old at Chancellorsville, and was killed only 2 years later in Petersburg, Virginia just before the end of the war.
Jeff Shaara: the author of the book "Gods and Generals," on which the movie is loosely based, appears in The Bonnie Blue Flag musical number, very briefly as a mustachioed officer in the audience, with no lines.
Damon Kirsche: as minstrel Harry Macarthy, singing "The Bonnie Blue Flag" for the Northern Virginia high command in the USO-type performance. Macarthy wrote these verses to the tune of "The Irish Jaunting Car," a vaudeville song from his native country. The Bonnie Blue Flag was popular enough to become one of the unofficial Confederate national anthems, alongside "Dixie" and "God Save the South".