Flag Day at Fort Abercrombie

Last Saturday, several members of the Fort Abercrombie Garrison and I assisted the site in celebrating Flag Day. It was a fun day of educating visitors on the fort, the frontier army, and the Civil War (yes, Fort Abercrombie is a Civil War site in North Dakota). We set up a small display of tents and equipment used by soldiers and engaged the visitors when possible. In addition, we assisted in retiring several flags through burning, including one of the site’s old flags. We raised that flag one last time and saluted it, folded it, and retired it. It was truly an honor to take part in this.

One of the cool parts of the day occurred earlier, when WDAY came out and filmed us practicing folding the flag. Also, yours truly was interviewed and the segments appeared on the six o’clock and ten o’clock newscasts that Saturday night, so potentially 200,000 people got to see what we did and our passion for history.

Click here to catch the videos (there are two segments)

Here are some pictures from the day as well.

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Photos from Fort Sisseton

Here are some pictures from this past weekend. Thanks to Scott Allan and Robin O’Neill for taking the pictures.

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An awesome weekend at Fort Sisseton

This weekend, I participated in the Fort Sisseton Historical Festival, which is held annually at Fort Sisseton in South Dakota. It was the most unique and wonderful experience I have had reenacting. My friend Stuart and I arrived at the post late Saturday morning and quickly set our camp up and got acquainted with those camping next to us. We attended as part of the Fifth Minnesota Infantry, Company D, but by the end of the weekend, we were members of another unit as well (more on that later).

After we set up and donned our uniforms, we joined fellow reenactors Den Bolda and Mike Larson in interpreting pay call in the north barracks, with the non-commissioned officers’ quarters being a temporary adjutants’ office. Den portrayed the Regimental Adjutant, Mike portrayed the clerk (dressed as a Sergeant with the United States Sharpshooters), and Stuart and I were two privates serving as the armed guard, given that it was pay-day. It was a fun time, as we discussed the payment process in the army, the creation of greenbacks, and uniforms of the army in the Civil War. After this, Mike and I were part of a Gatling Gun crew, with Mike firing the weapon, while I served as the ammunition bearer. It was a lot of fun and the crowd appreciated the display.

Later that evening, we participated in an event that really set this event apart from others, as a grand march on the parade ground took place, followed by a ball. We were decked out in our best uniforms available and escorted lovely ladies dressed in fine evening gowns. The ball lasted until almost midnight, with many chances to dance period dances (Stuart enjoyed the Virginia reel). After the ball, we retired to the camp and socialized for a bit more before turning in.

The next morning, I drilled with the 13th US Infantry Regiment and participated in the flag raising on the post. The 13th Regiment has a place in my life, as my dad was assigned to it when I was young and we were stationed in Baumholder, Germany. The motto of the 13th was “First at Vicksburg”, so it was a pleasure to drill with them. In the afternoon, I first interpreted in the post hospital, portraying an injured soldier. Stuart also played an injured soldier, suffering a head wound, and laid down on the hospital bed. It worked quite well, as he actually fell sound asleep for a few minutes and was still, which caused one couple to ask if he was real (I am not kidding, either). We played off the story that he was kicked in the head by a horse, and I injured my arm trying to catch said horse.

After that impression, I had the distinct pleasure and honor of serving on the Gatling Gun crew again, this time firing the weapon. It was an awesome experience and those who showed up were pleased. After this, I returned to camp for some socializing as the event wound down. The event ended and we returned to scenic Grand Forks that night.

Overall, I met a lot of great people at this event and will join yet another unit, the First US Volunteers, Company F, Galvanized, which is part of the Frontier Army of the Dakota. They are a great group that have a very family atmosphere and do events at state parks around the area. This weekend was great (I even met a guy portraying Custer, which was interesting) and I’ll be at Fort Abercrombie this coming Saturday for programming dedicated to Flag Day. I will post some pictures from this weekend in the next day or two, but will give you the link to the event program. On a side note, I hope you all like the new look of the blog.

Thank you everyone!

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.

Review of the film “Gettysburg” that premiered on History tonight

Well, my attempt at live blogging was interrupted by the weather, but I wanted to try to sum up my feelings on the movie, some of which were covered here and here.

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.

My thoughts on the History film “Gettysburg”-Part II

Continued from Part I

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.

9:00 PM

*** Live blogging interrupted by tornado warning, will update soon.

9:40 PM

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.

My thoughts on the History film “Gettysburg”-Part I

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.

8:15 PM

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.

8:30 PM

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.

8:45 PM

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.