Tag Archives: Gettysburg
I see I’m not the only one who was less than impressed with The History Channel’s Gettysburg documentary. Check out the reactions from Eric Wittenberg and Kevin Levin, and then read the comments at Brooks Simpson’s blog.
I wasn’t really sure what the producers were trying to accomplish here. The promotional material seemed to indicate that the program would give us some type of insight into the common soldier’s experience of the battle in order to demonstrate that Civil War combat wasn’t a romantic or glorious affair. That’s not a bad idea for a documentary, and indeed the program did zero in on a few individuals and followed them through the course of some of the action. But those individuals included high-ranking officers like William Barksdale and Dan Sickles, which effectively turned these sequences into conventional battle narrative. At the same time, many important aspects of the battle just got skipped over entirely. The program was therefore neither fish nor fowl—not comprehensive enough to be a good overview of the general flow of the battle as a whole, but not focused enough to provide a good discussion of what was going on among the rank and file.
As a stylistic matter, the gritty, modern war approach to filming the reenacted sequences just didn’t work for me. With all the handheld shots, dramatic slow-motion, and running through the streets and over terrain hither and yon, I felt like I was watching Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan. The combination of nineteenth-century gear and modern-day combat camera work was a little too jarring. Furthermore, it didn’t seem that the high-speed zooming along the pathways of bullets and through the CG maps really added anything to the explanation of what was happening.
As a final note, while I’m no expert in the kind of minute details that make up a good reenacting impression, it appeared to me that an unhealthy amount of farbiness managed to make it in onto the screen. What was with all the long-haired Confederates?
Somebody associated with
The History Channel has asked me to inform you of an upcoming program which premieres at the end of this month. Since it’s a show about honest-to-goodness history, I think it deserves your attention:
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.
The Scott brothers are both exceptional filmmakers, and this looks like it’s going to be a high-end production. Have a peek.
Gettysburg premieres May 30 at 9:00 EST. It should be well worth watching, so check it out.
They also offered me some t-shirts, notebooks, and messenger bags to either keep or pass along to you guys as reader giveaways, but I did the virtuous thing and said no. Given all the snark-ridden vitriol I’ve written here about
The History Channel, it just didn’t seem right to take their stuff. I do have some scruples.
Fantastic news from Pennsylvania—the state’s gaming control board rejected the proposal to open a casino near the battlefield at Gettysburg. Hopefully we won’t have to go through round three in another few years.
This article has a few additional details. The third paragraph—probably inadvertently—seems to frame the controversy as a straightforward battle between local residents on the one hand and “preservationists and historians” on the other. That wasn’t the case, but I expect that message boards and comboxes will be filled to bursting with remarks of that sort in the coming days.
Anyway, it’s welcome news. Hats off to everybody who helped make it happen.
…before we find out who gets the new gaming license in Pennsylvania, and thus whether or not the proposed Gettysburg casino goes through, according to this report. Part of the delay is due to the presence of new members on the gaming board, who have to get up to speed on the whole thing.
An encouraging word from one member regarding opposition to a casino near the battlefield: “Out of hand you just can’t discount their concerns. We all know it and love it as hallowed ground so it certainly will weigh on the decision making process.” Here’s hoping.
…are colliding in the news. Here’s an update on HistoriQuest, the outfit behind the Civil War Augmented Reality Project, which is a fascinating and worthy undertaking I’ve posted about before.
This is one of the most thoughtful and innovative attempts to integrate technology into historical interpretation that I’ve ever seen. Check it out.
Wal-Mart has decided to back off from its plan to build a new superstore near the Wilderness battlefield. Not only that, but the company is going to reimburse Orange County for the legal costs incurred in going to court over their decision to approve the project. Hats off to the preservationists who kept this cause going in the face of discouraging obstacles, and to Wal-Mart for doing the right thing.
Speaking of battlefield preservation, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board met today, but without a decision on the proposed Gettysburg casino. The folks from No Casino Gettysburg were there anyway, in order to stay on top of things. They have their own blog, which I didn’t know about until today; I recommend you make it one of your regular online stops so you can keep up with what’s going on with this threat to America’s most famous battlefield. I’ve added it to my blogroll here.
Drop a line to the PGCB and let them know you stand with those who don’t think Gettysburg is an appropriate place for a casino. Hopefully when the time comes for them to make the call, we can celebrate another victory to go alongside today’s.
…but, contrary to expectation, didn’t vote on who would be getting a new resort casino license. One of the contenders, of course, is hoping to open a casino in Gettysburg, something a lot of us think is a bad idea.
The next meeting is scheduled for January 26, so maybe this whole thing will be resolved then. Keep an eye on the PGCB’s website for the agenda to be posted. In the meantime, if you think Gettysburg isn’t the best place for a casino, drop them a line and let them know.