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Civil War 1864: A Virtual Reality Experience

Experience Civil War warfare, as never before, with the American Battlefield Trust’s new virtual reality series. This immersive storytelling approach will put you back in time as you navigate in 360 degrees how it may have looked, felt and sounded to be soldier.

Watch the Videos

In the Trenches: The Confederate Line, 1864

Part 1 of 4: Confederate soldiers are in a late-war trench. One sticks a hat on a bayonet above the trench’s top log to draw enemy fire. Another uses binoculars to sight from whence the shot came  while a third — the crack shot — shoots back… and celebrates another hit! Other soldiers talk of a home in the South destroyed by Yankees. They pick lice off one another and prepare for the next fight. Digitally animated shots strike the trench logs throughout. (Runtime 2:22)

Tip: For the most immersive experience, view this video with your virtual reality headset or cardboard viewer. To get started, launch the video with the YouTube app. Select the VR headset icon Virtual Reality Headset on the lower right part of the screen and put your smartphone into the cardboard viewer (not needed for headsets). 

American Battlefield Trust & Wide Awake Films

 

The Attack! The Union Line, 1864

Part 2 of 4: A scant line of Union soldiers man a trench. Confederate cannonballs explode on the trench’s edge while one whizzes by the viewer’s head. The Rebel Yell is heard and the men prepare to repulse a coming attack. Smoke fills the scene. Men check on their wounded comrades as the enemy flag appears atop the trench. Who will prevail? (Runtime 1:56)

Using a VR Headset or cardboard viewer? Launch video here with the YouTube app.

American Battlefield Trust & Wide Awake Films

 

On Patrol 

Part 3 of 4: The opposing forces crave information on one another and both sides send troops from the relative safety of their trenches out between the lines to gain information, capture prisoners or exact revenge. The men from the previous scenes are ordered to leave their trenches to perform these dangerous assignments. One kicks over his coffee pot in anger. The men meet in the nearby woods with deadly consequences and amidst screaming artillery rounds. (Runtime 5:41)

Using a VR Headset or cardboard viewer? Launch video here with the YouTube app.

American Battlefield Trust & Wide Awake Films

 

The Hospital: Union Hospital, 1864 

Part 4 of 4: A wounded soldier is carried into a terrible field hospital. A young Confederate prisoner is with them. Amidst the terrible screams and cries emerging from the operating room in the nearby barn, nurses tend to and scurry about the wounded, men talk and banter as a wheelbarrow of arms and legs, and another dead soldier, move past. Our wounded solider gets bad news from the surgeon — his leg must be amputated — and he pleas for another option as he’s deliriously carried into the operating room. (Runtime 3:33)

Using a VR Headset or cardboard viewer? Launch video here with the YouTube app.

American Battlefield Trust & Wide Awake Filmscan

Tips

Get ready to be transported back to 1864, where you’ll hunker down in the trenches, evade gunfire on patrol, visit a field hospital and more! You can watch this series of four videos on desktop, mobile or — for the most immersive experience — with your Virtual Reality headset. 

No matter where you watch:

  • Connect to WiFi to avoid data charges.
  • If possible, wear headphones. If you do not have headphones, turn up the volume on your device.
  • There’s something to see in every direction; but a prompt sound will alert you to where there is the most action or a fact appearing.
  • Watch all four videos strung together in a single, long-running video here.

Desktop:

  • Use your cursor to pan the scene in 360 degrees, moving when you hear a prompt sound to locate the main action

Mobile:

  • Use your finger to move and swipe the scene in 360 degrees, moving when you hear a prompt sound to locate the main action
  • Pinch-and-zoom to get a closer look

 Virtual Reality Headset or Cardboard Viewer:

  • Using a virtual reality headset allows you to simply turn your head to move around the scene
  • Not only are the VR videos viewed on a headset immersive, but they use the full potential of the directional sound — the audio adjusts to the way you are facing.
  • There’s a viewer for every budget! You can purchase a viewer at Knox Labs.

About This Project

The American Battlefield Trust has long worked to educate people in a variety of ways in hopes of opening up windows of understanding and potentially transformative experiences. Through battlefield tours and events, videos, media stories, on-site interpretation, 3D photography and standard articles, we have done well.  But most of these approaches lack the same potential to put people back in time as does virtual reality (VR).  The VR experience is a different form of storytelling that puts the viewer in the scene.

To employ this still-new technology, we partnered with Wide Awake Films from Kanas City and Robert Cloutier (for additional 360 animation—in this case flying cannonballs) to produce four short films that would give an idea of what "regular" experiences might be for Civil War soldiers and civilians. Wide Awake used professional actors and created the sets (including the trenches) on a Kansas City-area farm.

Watch our Behind-the-Scenes Video for more on how we made this:

Credits

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War.

Wide Awake Films is a creative media group focused on innovative, efficient execution of historical, commercial and corporate video and film production. The production company excels in producing compelling and powerful corporate messages, as well as Emmy award-winning historical content for museums, documentaries and television programming.