Wow, what a last couple days this site has had. I managed to publish four posts yesterday and the buzz caused us to break the record for the busiest day on this site, which was set on April 12, the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter. Yesterday, this site recorded 379 hits, which was awesome, even considering that my attempt to live blog was disrupted by stormy weather. To my surprise and delight, we have so far tied yesterday’s mark of 379 and there is still a bit of time to break the mark. I want to extend a deep thank you to all of you who support this site and visit both the site and follow it on Twitter and Facebook. I will do my best to keep you coming back with new content.
Overall, I felt that the program was quite interesting and a stark departure from recent Civil War films of the silver screen. Naturally, the best comparison for this film is Gettysburg (1993). In this History special, there is no Sam Elliott, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, or Jeff Daniels. It does not discuss Buford’s cavalry, the death of John Reynolds, or Chamberlain’s defense of Little Round Top. While the elements chosen for this film were not as much a focus of the theatrical movie, I was looking forward to see how the Scott brothers would cover those parts of the battle. There is less rich drama, mostly gritty emotional turmoil that illustrates the sheer horror of the battle and the larger war. It has some solid educational qualities to it, though.
The coverage of the first day centered around the story of the Iron Brigade’s role in the battle and the fighting inside the town. The coverage of the second day revolved around the Wheat Field and Culp’s Hill, while the third day focused on Pickett’s Charge, but lacking the sweeping dramatic panoramic shots of Confederate troops marching out, or Union forces behind the stone wall. The main difference was showing the horrors of the weaponry used against the troops on the charge. The scenes showing the charge lacked some of the power due to a lack of numbers used, but the idea the producers attempted to show seemed to be met.
The film pulled back to cover broader subjects of medicine, civilian involvement, and African Americans as they all related to the battle and war, which was a nice touch. Personal stories relating to soldiers involved did an excellent job of providing an intimate view of the battle, making the viewer feel as if they are next to the person. The live action scenes were one of the most detailed features of the film and truly gripping, with some fairly violent scenes demonstrating the carnage of the Civil War battlefield.
In addition, the film utilized computer generated graphics and images to discuss the technology used in the battle, specifically weapons and the effects on the soldiers, as well as illustrate the lay of the land in and around Gettysburg. This effective blending of graphics and live action adds to the films’ educational qualities.
One thing that separates this production from the theatrical version is a lack of focus on the major players (Generals Lee, Longstreet, Hancock, Buford, and Meade), except for Dan Sickles. Most of the characters focused on in the film are common soldiers, or brigade commanders, placing the battle around the actions involving their own individual units.
The Scott brothers created a production that illustrated a gruesome war, deviating from a largely romanticized and glorified portrayal of the war, even on History. While I hoped to see their portrayal of Joshua Chamberlain, I was generally pleased with the effort. I do hope that this is the beginning of more productions of this nature on other major battles of the war, especially from the Western Theater.
This film is part of a week-long series of programs on History on the war, including a program Tuesday evening called Grant and Lee. In addition, special episodes of Pawn Stars and American Pickers will deal with Civil War items, so be sure to check them out. Finally, thank you all for making today our busiest day with over 350 hits.
Thus far the first hour of the Tony and Ridley Scott film Gettysburg airing on History has been interesting and insightful. The second hour is beginning with the attack against Dan Sickles’ corp on the late afternoon of July 2, 1863.
*** Live blogging interrupted by tornado warning, will update soon.
Well, we’re still under a tornado warning, but since I live in a basement apartment, I will continue what I started, though I missed the second day coverage, so I’ll assess that later. This section is dealing with the climactic part of the battle, Pickett’s Charge (the lightning outside adds a nice effect, especially with the gruesome detail of the effects of the artillery barrage on the human body). The scenes are gripping, with solid live-action scenes that mix in CGI of solid shot cannon rounds and canister shot.
The scene depicting the Federal position, or “High Water Mark of the Confederacy” is much more brutal than what is shown in Gettysburg (1993). The carnage displayed in the movie is quite graphic and achieves the goals alluded to in the information provided in the earlier post of showing the war as a gritty hard thing, not glamorous at all. The ending of the film details the aftermath on July 4, contextualizing the battle with the rest of the war, and, explored the post battle lives of several figures focused on in the film. It also noted the horrors that befell the town after the battle, including the wounded and the destruction, as well as the dedication of the national cemetery.
I will post a longer review than I initially planned, but weather has a way of altering your plans. Good thing I am recording it with a DVR, so I can catch what I missed later. This film is part of larger Civil War themed programming on History this week, including Lee and Grant and American Pickers, so check your cable listings to see what is airing.
This will be a live blog as the film progresses through the first hour. I will post another posting over the second hour, followed by a brief review after the film. One piece of information about the film is that the executive producers are the brothers Ridley and Tony Scott, whose credits include such films as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down.
Live blog: 8:05PM
After the first five minutes or so, I am so far impressed with the effects used that detail the horrors of war. In addition are the inclusion of quotes from veterans of the battle. In addition, graphics of maps and CGI of the battlefield provide useful visual aids and serve to contextualize the battle within the larger war. As of the first commercial break, I am pleased, though parts of it are making me think of the movie 300.
With the second segment, the focus on the fighting inside Gettysburg, with gripping brutality that goes beyond some of the battle scenes in movies like Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. The film discusses the situation of civilians in the town, including the plight of African Americans. In addition, the medical situation and the Confederate troops roaming through town provide a realism left out of many films. So far, the first half hour has yet to really disappoint me, except for the lack of mention of John Buford’s force and the death of General John Reynolds.
The coverage of the end of the first day deals with the unique subject that can become a dominant concept in counter-factual history, the failure of General Ewell to follow Lee’s order and seize the high ground. There is a wonderful segment on the role of technology, especially how rifled muskets and conical minie balls made the war deadlier. One wonders if they read Earl Hess’s solid book on the subject of rifled muskets in combat.
This section uses animated battle maps and covers the actions of the second day of the battle. The controversy of the failure of Stuart’s cavalry is highlighted and how it influenced the course of the battle. Further, the role of the telegraph and wig-wag signal flags (shout out to Rene Tyree and her blog named Wig-Wags). Daniel Sickles movement of his corp is shown and how dangerous it was for the Union position that day. The brief discussion of the rebel yell is unique, if a bit much.
So far, the first hour of the film has been good and hopefully the second hour will be as good.
Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868
I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.
By command of:
JOHN A. LOGAN,
N. P. CHIPMAN,
As noted in the Alert Box at the top of the latest posts, a new film on the iconic battle, called “Gettysburg” will premiere on History at 9PM ET/8PM CT on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. I encourage you all to watch and I will offer a review soon after the film shows. Here is more information and the trailer.
Summary: Gettysburg is a 2-hour HISTORY special that kicks off a week of History programming commemorating the 150’th anniversary of the Civil War.
Executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, this special strips away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War. It presents the pivotal battle of Gettysburg in a new light: as a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men with everything on the line. Compelling CGI and powerful action footage place viewers in the midst of the fighting, delivering both an emotional cinematic experience and an information packed look at the turning points, strategic decisions, technology and little known facts surrounding the greatest engagement ever fought on American soil.
The special begins in the high stakes summer of 1863, as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crosses into Pennsylvania. Trailed by the Union’s Army of the Potomac, Lee’s 75,000 strong army heads towards Harrisburg, converging instead near a quiet farm town, Gettysburg. Known then only as a crossroads where ten roads running in all directions converge like a wagon wheel, this small town would become site of an epic battle between North and South. For three days, each side fought there for their vision of what America should be.
In collaboration with highly esteemed Civil War historians, HISTORY combed through hundreds of individual accounts of the battle to find the unique voices of struggle, defeat and triumph that tell the larger story of a bitterly conflicted nation.
With the many changes that have gone on in Facebook, I created a new group for the blog, where you can go to discuss and the like and interact with other readers of this blog.
I will also place this in the sidebar as well.