31 May 2011 by Published in: General musings 61 comments

I suffered through 45 minutes of Gettysburg on the History Channel last night. With brothers Ridley and Tony Scott as directors and producers, I had high hopes for this production. The Scotts are two of my very favorite directors, and they are known for the quality of their productions.

What a staggering disappointment this thing was. I turned it off after 45 minutes because I couldn’t take another moment of it. This thing was shockingly bad. Events were presented horribly out of context, with absolutely no stage setting. The movie begins with the Iron Brigade’s advance to the unfinished railroad cut and without any context for the viewer to understand how they got there or why they were there. It would have confused anyone without a decent working knowledge of the battle.

I counted ten major factual inaccuracies in the first ten minutes of the thing. And it got worse from there. Just a few of the things wrong with this production–and this is FAR from a comprehensive list:

1. The terrain was completely wrong. Since when were segments of the Gettysburg battlefield covered with thick forests of pine trees?

2. The sets were awful–fence lines were wrong, the buildings were wrong, and the depiction of the town itself was completely wrong. The unfinished railroad cut on McPherson’s Ridge was portrayed as being only three or four feet deep when it’s really as deep as thirty feet at its deepest.

3. They had the Iron Brigade digging deep trenches atop Culp’s Hill on the night of July 1–not crude breastworks like those actually built on the night of July 2, but rather the sort of deep, semi-permanent trenches with head logs that one expects to see on the Petersburg battlefield. And they were using brand-new, shiny shovels and pick axes that looked like they still had the Lowe’s or Home Depot price stickers on them, not period tools. They never did mention Greene’s brigade either….

4. The uniforms and many of the weapons were wrong, and few, if any, of the actors looked like the people they were portraying. I just loved the yellow cavalry stripes on the infantrymen. That was my favorite.

5. The history was largely wrong. As just one example, none of John Buford, John Reynolds, Henry Heth, or A. P. Hill were even mentioned at all during the discussion of the first day. Instead, the first day focused on Rufus Dawes–you would think that the 6th Wisconsin alone captured the Confederates in the railroad cut and that no other units were involved.

6. I turned it off just as the second day’s portrayal began. I’m told that the focus was on William Barksdale and that there was no mention of Little Round Top or of Joshua Chamberlain or the 20th Maine’s defense.

I feel badly for Garry Adelman and Prof. Peter Carmichael, who were interspersed as talking heads. They presented the history accurately and correctly, and lent some credibility to this thing, but yikes–now they will be associated with this piece of crap. Pete and Garry are both good guys and very capable and accomplished historians, and I sincerely hope that their association with this terrible program doesn’t sully their reputations.

There’s plenty more, but that will give you a taste. I’m so disappointed in this that it’s shocking. What’s even more concerning to me is that novices will think that this piece of dreck is an accurate depiction of the battle and that they will find out just how terribly wrong it was and lose interest because of it. On the other hand, if it spurs interest, then I guess it’s a good thing, but it nevertheless shows how far the History Channel has fallen.

Awful. Just appallingly, horrifyingly awful. Do yourselves a favor–don’t waste a minute of your time or a brain cell on this piece of crap. It’s not worth either.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Tue 31st May 2011 at 9:48 am

    Well stated. And I too feel bad for the talking heads. I am sure they had no idea at all what a steamer this would be.

    Phil

  2. Chris Evans
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 10:02 am

    I didn’t think it was terrible but I thought there were way too many important omissions critical to understanding the battle. I miss that documentaries now just focus on recreated battles instead of using all the wonderful paintings and drawings done of the battles. Thanks for the review.
    Chris

  3. Jennifer
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 10:06 am

    Well said, Eric. I watched, intending to let minor inaccuracies go with the hope that a decent presentation would generate more interest in Gettysburg. Within five minutes I was disappointed and within ten minutes I was shouting at the TV. Just horrible. I can’t imagine Garry Adelman, Professor Peter Carmichael, or any of the other commentators agreeing to participate if they had any inkling of the historical inaccuracies. I can imagine they’re currently an unhappy group. I agree, don’t waste your time on this…

  4. Tue 31st May 2011 at 10:22 am

    Hmmmm…. Glad I did not waste my time with this one.

  5. Tom
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 10:40 am

    Eric,
    I tuned in late and missed the early references about Dawes, but in its very clumsy ending, the focus shifted briefly back to Dawes who had hardly been mentioned for two reels and counted the dead of the Iron Brigade…I wondered what that had to do with anything.

    Little Round Top was hardly mentioned except to say Sickles left it unguarded…but since there was no effort by the Rebel forces to take advantage of it…so what? No harm no foul, right.

    I wasn’t as disappointed as most of you, because I had very little expectation of the History Channel. I was just glad to be watching a poorly done CW movie rather than Ice Road Trucker.

    Tom

  6. Alex
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 10:43 am

    Eric,

    For you and me both, that was 45 minutes of our lives we can never get back. I should sue the History Channel. Absolutely horrible.

    Alex

  7. Mike Brown
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 11:07 am

    Eric,

    Killer Angels triggered my interest in the Civil War and today I can see how many fictional and inaccurate themes that book contained. I didn’t know it at the time and fell in love with Gettysburg. Hopefully this will at least trigger interest in the battle that we all study so closely. It was made to entertain the general public, not educate historians.

  8. Tue 31st May 2011 at 11:52 am

    Elly and I have to agree with you on this on sight of a poor historical presentation. It takes away a lot of the credible information that we have learned from over the years.

  9. Tue 31st May 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I won;t comment on the uniforms, etc., as I’m not an expert but I certainly trust the opinions of Eric, JD, etc on that point.

    I’ll give them a slight break on the omission of some personalities and units – everyone has their favorites and everyone will be disappointed in some way, but the leaving out of Buford on Day 1 is inexcusable.

    My own interest and expertise is in medicine and in this regard I think the special was one step forward and two steps back.

    My favorite part of the whole show was the animation of the “Minie ball” pasing through skin and muscle, flattening as it hit bone and then severely fracturing the bone. Personally, I’d buy a DVD of that clip.

    However, they stated “medicine was still in its infancy” which is just an outright exaggeration and falsehood…they did mention the importance of amputation and availability of anesthesia, which is good, but really – not enough.

    I have to say I was disappointed in the appearance of my friend George Wunderlich who I admire very much…like the other experts, I think he added some quality to an otherwise poor program, but they didn;t solicit his opinion on medicine at G’burg and he rolled out the tired brmide about “that would be 6,000,000 dead Americans today.”

    I did not consider the violence as it was portrayed to be “war porn” as some might call it…frankly, I think we could do with some more realistic portrayals of the violence of the war.

    My two cents

  10. Christ Liebegott
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Eric, I agree. And it’s good that you did not watch all two hours….you would have used up all the internet bandwidth for a full critic. On a scale of one to ten, I am somewhere less than .5 in my knowledge of the battle, but even at that this was a poor, poor presentation.

  11. Tue 31st May 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Eric–

    Excellent points. I too was very disappointed, and only made it through one hour. The other hour sits on the DVD drive, unwatched.

    The inaccuracies bothered me greatly, from the poor rendition of the terrain to the faulty depiction of uniforms. It isn’t too hard to find a hard-core reenactor to at least ensure you get insignia right. (Yellow chevrons on infantry?) And the omissions were also troubling–no Buford, no Chamberlain. I don’t recall hearing the name “Longstreet” in connection with July 2.

    The script was trite. Really, was every move one that would have crushed the Army of the Potomac and ended the Civil War right then and there? History should tone down the melodramatics.

    I also note that History appeared to “cut and paste” scenes from that other awful documentary, “America: The Story of Us.” I recall them using the same slave auction portrayal, as well as the CGI of the Minie ball being fired.

    Finally, what ever happened to showing actual photographs? The Civil War was one of the first wars to be documented through a photographer’s lens. It is shame that so many priceless original images were left sitting in the National Archives, unused. Instead we get actors who look nothing like the actual combattants.

    Where have all the real documentaries gone?

  12. Christ Liebegott
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 12:47 pm

    “critique”

  13. David Wilhelm
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 12:51 pm

    This was by far the worst Civil War production I have ever seen. It was so bad that it’s difficult to know where to begin in attempting to describe it. The appearance of the town, the Amos Hummiston scene, the landscape inaccuracies, the factual mistakes, the lack of troop organization, etc. Just a total piece of crap. Didn’t any historians get an opportunity to preview this before it was released? If so, why weren’t necessary changes made? I feel bad for any person who tuned in who might be new to Civil War studies. They gained no understanding of anything by watching this garbage. Extremely disappointing.

  14. Tue 31st May 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Eric – Just to be (somewhat) fair to the Brothers Scott: they did produce the program but they did *not* direct the program (as stated in your post)…it was directed by Adrian Moat.

  15. Mike
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I too thought it was pretty crappy. I can’t believe that Gary Addleman knew what he was getting into. Had he known how bad this was I am sure he would not have decided to be a ‘talking head.” Like some others above have said, maybe this piece of crap will get more people interested and want to learn more of the battle. I started falling asleep when July 2 was over and decided to turn it off. Glad I got that extra bit of sleep last night as it’s been a little busy here at work.

  16. GE Colpitts
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Eric,
    I agree with your comments, although I didn’t see this program (I’ve seen enough other dreck to know how you feel). You don’t have to make historically inaccurate movies to be “entertaining” or to interest the public in the past. Truth is much more interesting (and frequently stranger) than fiction. The way history is portrayed these days is appalling and worse yet, people take it as fact.

  17. Chris
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Not much too add here that hasn’t already been said. I would ask, though: was every single Confederate introduced in this film labeled as a slaveholder? If not, a good majority were. So what was the point?
    And this complaint is coming from one of those self-righteous, anti-slavery, Union sympathizer types. :)

    No mentions, that I recall, of Buford, Reynolds, Longstreet, Hood, Chamberlain, or Hancock. There wasn’t even a depiction of Pickett (of course if there had been, he’d probably have looked like a younger and thinner Santa Claus.)
    I guess they think their audience is too dumb for some historical accuracy and a learning experience. Entertainment and education are NOT necessarily polar opposites. You can have both at the same time.

    Although there were some nice, individual moments, I didn’t even think the battle scenes were all that great either. Let’s hope for some better things from “Lee and Grant” tonight.

  18. DanG
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Glad I came across this blog. I’m no historian…but was very disappointed with the show – glad I’m not alone.

  19. Tue 31st May 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I thought the best thing the whole night was the GEICO commercial. Priceless…

  20. Tue 31st May 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I don’t count myself an expert on the battle, but I found the program disjointed. I tried to tell myself that they were telling of lesser known yet pivotal events during the battle, but everything was so out of context that none of it made sense.

    I did like the focus on individual soldiers’ stories, though.

  21. J David Petruzzi
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I DVR’d it and will (try to) watch it tonight.

    I have my blood pressure pills at the ready, as well as a stiff drink. I’ve told my wife not to be alarmed if she hears screaming emanating from the TV room.

  22. Terry Brasko
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 5:07 pm

    JD keep your bp meds close if you do watch it!! My husband couldn’t watch it after the first half hour or so as he thought it was a waste of time…..I persevered. He had to keep reminding me that yelling at the tv was a fruitless exercise-“They can’t hear you, honey! he kept reminding me. I told him it made me feel better…………

  23. Matt Anderson
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 5:31 pm

    It’s easy to nit-pick a movie and this one didn’t need that with so many obvious flows, the crossed rifles on the hats shown in the publicity photo for one.They definetly missed the Little Round Top story and why they chose Sickle over that I can’t figure. I can only hope that some kids somewhere watched this program which sparks their interest in the civil war.

  24. Kent Dorr
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 5:45 pm

    It is my understanding that the whole production was filmed in South Africa. Those werent American reenactors..whom I would like to think would’ve spoken up about the wrong uniform details and especially about the lack of knowledge about how actual Civil War units moved on the battlefield. Most of the scenes I saw had the troops advancing like armed mobs. Terrible.

  25. Vicki Rourke
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 6:49 pm

    This production was horrendous. I grew up around G’burg and immediately said “this terrain is all wrong”. I didn’t know where it was shot, but i could recognize neither the terrain nor the vegetation. As mentioned above the program starts in the railroad bed and gives the impression that this is were the the battle begins. Incorrect.
    The errors were many and the production too sparse looking. I think they were trying to portray the “fog of war” or confusion. Instead they made an unintelligable muck up of the whole thing.
    BOO!

  26. Tue 31st May 2011 at 6:53 pm

    It seemed that they deliberately went away from the traditional Gettysburg stories. Perhaps because those are too well known. There might have been a thought that if they stayed away from the well known stories, then it might be more difficult for the audience to poke holes in the production.

    Wrong.

    It’s too bad that the people interviewed didn’t know what was going to be shown.

    I agree with one poster in that I did like the computer graphics, for the most part.

  27. Tue 31st May 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I went to see Pirates this weekend and was surprised to see a short trailer for this during the movie previews. The History Channel seems to have put some serious $$ into promoting this …

    I actually made it through about half-an-hour before I turned it off. I simply could not get interested in the program at all. I found the sepia-toned, slow-motion, gratuitously violent reenacting scenes to be very jarring and distracting. I didn’t even recognize the town of Gettysburg … I thought the CGI in general was pretty awful.

    It made me wonder what sort of audience they were targeting. I can only imagine the person with a casual interest in the Civil War or Gettysburg feeling totally lost watching this show due to the disjointed nature and the complete lack of context. As far as hitting people who do have a serious interest specifically in the War or the battle of Gettysburg in particular, well, it seems to have totally missed the mark there too.

    Seems like an expensive failure all around.

  28. David Frey
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 8:02 pm

    I suspected we were in for disappointment when the narrative began at 10:00 am on Day One, thus totally overlooking the important contributions of Buford and his cavalry of earlier that morning. Essentially the documentary [sic] allowed too many trees to obscure the forest with just too many gaps in movements and in sequences. The casting and make up were ludicrous. A terrible disappointment.

  29. BillF
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Everyone on this site knows enough to pick out all of the flaws. I want to know what the general public, with little or no knowledge of Gettysburg, thought of it. Did they find it interesting? Did it spur the desire for more information? If so, then it was a success. There is so little about the Civil War on TV, or even taught in schools, that I’m willing to put up with some inaccuracies if it gets people interested in this important period in our history.

  30. Matt Anderson
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Well said BillF

  31. ripped
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I almost threw up. What worries me is that people watch these sort of productions and don’t realize they are being fed misinformation. Mentioning that Gen Meade was a West Pointer as was General Lee as if R E Lee was just another cadet in the long grey line from the USMA. The expressions of the faces on the Confederate soldiers (close-ups) made them look sub-human. I was extremely disappointed as was my neighbor who is a W and L grad. I could not watch the entire show. I got threw more than 45 minutes, though, albeit very painfully.

  32. ripped
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I got “through” more than 45 minutes, though, albeit very painfully.

  33. Todd Berkoff
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 9:33 pm

    It was awful. It was almost as if there was no on-site historical consultant for the battle scenes. Everything about the battle scenes were wrong — the uniforms (cowboy hats on the officers, yellow trim for infantry, etc.), the terrain, the way the soldiers carried their muskets, soldiers moving like mobs of men, the accountrements, etc. Given all these issues, I am not surprised it was filmed in South Africa.

    As for the writing, there was ZERO new analysis — just a regurgitation of well established information — and yet the script missed out on telling the stories of the key events and personalities of the battle. I’m still scratching my head why the program focused on Joseph R. Davis?? I learned nothing new. It was indeed “war porn,” that tried to impress the viewer by showing bullets and cannon balls moving in slow motion–the History Channel loves showing bullets in slow motion for some reason—rather than new incisive analysis or illustrative maps of the combat.

    I have no problem with the program not mentioning Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. Chamberlain has received WAY too much attention over the years. Instead, lets highlight the role of other regiments like the 157th New York that lost 307/400 men on July 1, the 19th Maine for stopping Lang’s Florida Brigade on July 2 (the 1st Minn gets all the attention for stopping Wilcox’s brigade), or the stand of the 154th New York on Coster Avenue.

    I’m still waiting for one TV program about the Battle of Gettysburg to mention the exploits of Ambrose Wright’s brigade on the evening of July 2. This brigade–by itself–was able to penetrate the Federal line deeper than Longstreet’s assault would do the following day.

    History Channel — what a waste of millions of dollars!!

  34. Todd Berkoff
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Oh, and don’t get me started on all the ground explosions. It looked more like WWI combat in France than a Civil War battle. Sure, there were percussion fuses used during the battle, but no where near the scale that the TV program showed. Hollywood ALWAYS gets this point wrong. Ugh.

  35. Elizabeth
    Tue 31st May 2011 at 11:13 pm

    The best part was the Geico reenactor commercial. The rest was pretty bad.

  36. Tue 31st May 2011 at 11:51 pm

    I only could stand this mess for 19 minutes. Aside the historical and other inaccuracies mentioned above, the “production value” of this was more than I could bear. It was far too claustrophobic and disjointed. Many of the scenes, with slow motion “blood and guts” Wild Bunch editing seemed more akin to a video game (ie: Grand Theft Auto) than a cohesive movie. Two thumbs down, way down!

  37. Wayne Lowery
    Wed 01st Jun 2011 at 12:03 am

    My vote goes to the Geico!

  38. Steve Basic
    Wed 01st Jun 2011 at 1:18 am

    All good points, and best I not even get started on the “Lee & Grant” documentary that aired tonight. 1 hour and 55 minutes to get to Vicksburg and Gettysburg, and barely 5 minutes on when they actually faced each other on the Battlefields of Virginia.

  39. Colonel Sanders
    Wed 01st Jun 2011 at 9:06 am

    I appreciate your thoughts, Eric. I had actually lasted seventy minutes through this claptrap, just hoping it would get better. General Barksdale looked like Wolvernine from X-Men. What in Sam Snead was going on in the segment about the rebel yell??!! Why did the director find it important to do a closeup of a nasty Confederate mouth (i.e. crooked teeth, wagging tongue, etc.)??!! I was then expecting Jeff Foxworthy to do a redneck joke.

  40. Wed 01st Jun 2011 at 9:17 am

    While I am glad that this “production” stayed away from the over-told, over-emphasised ( not over glorified ) “Little Round Top” ( Does anyone really believe Oat’s exhausted men could have “rolled-up” the entire Union Army with the VI Corps close at hand? Really??)
    I sensed what the directors/writer were going for: “Smaller” stories that, like lighting flashing in the distance at night….illuminate the larger story….especially to historians/reenactors who have viewed 2, 345 “Gettysburg” documnnetaries. I give them an A for effort and a C for execution. You cannot make actors/stunt men into historians/weapons experts…and you can’t turn 50 year old, fat, grey and gimpy reenactors into 20 year old actors/historians.. There lies the problem. Add to this the fact that they spent far more on advertizing this thing ( hyping it to get $ponsor$ on board) than they did hiring enough men to do adequate CGI or hire/train enough reenactors with weight limits of 180 lbs. Why do they keep getting this wrong?

  41. Les Braze
    Wed 01st Jun 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I was very disappointed that they appeared to get about everything wrong. The show dropped into the battle with no explanation of the preliminary circumstances while ignoring truly heroic men in tide turning dramatic moments. A show about Gettysburg that doesn’t mention Buford, Hancock and Longstreet? A disappointing mess, not worthy of the History Channel.

  42. Thu 02nd Jun 2011 at 2:55 pm

    It’s astonishing that neither the author nor any of the commenters have any appreciation for aspects of the production beyond historical accuracy. This film was a visual feast, and the Scott brothers succeeded in bringing their artistic flair to this production. Gorgeous photography, excellent makeup, realistic gore, compelling visual effects and pyrotechnics. The battle scenes were tense, chaotic, and thrilling. What a far cry from the stilted, bloodless, yawn-inducing affair of Maxwell’s “Gettysburg.”

    This film had many inaccuracies and omissions, and that’s unfortunate. But “historical accuracy” is just one of many factors that contribute to a good film. I know you folks are history buffs above all else, but come on. Let’s recognize the strengths of this film and it will lend credibility to your critiques.

  43. Thu 02nd Jun 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Kurt – we all do agree (and I post as such as my blog) that much of the production value was compelling. I enjoyed the CGI and the in-your-face reality of much of the program.
    However, the show did INDEED get just about EVERYTHING wrong. There were so many historical inaccuracies, it would be much easier and quicker to state what they got right. And the difference here is that this is History Channel – not Starz, not HBO, not Showtime. History. They are held to a higher standard. This show was billed as being a dramatic documentary (docudrama) of the battle of Gettysburg, but it was anything but that. British and South African actors were used on a South African set, and consultants who apparently knew next to nothing about the facts of the battle, campaign, or the CW in general wrote the narration. The actors looked nothing like the folks they were portraying. Hat emblems not used by the Army until 1875 were seen on nearly every Union soldier. Gen. Meade was said to have spent the entire battle 3 miles behind the lines. I could go on and on, but the fact remains that History channel is to be held to a higher standard, but they failed.
    What would be said if a program on the channel said Hitler died in 1946 by eating bad sauerkraut? Or if Charles Lindberg flew a B-52? Should we change the history books, or do we discuss it?

  44. Gayle
    Thu 02nd Jun 2011 at 8:18 pm

    This is in response to BillF-

    Bill, you asked for responses from the general public, those who do not carry the knowledge that some here have. I’d like to think my family falls into that category, to a degree. To preface, my husband and I watched “Gettysburg” with our 12 year old son.

    The show spurred an enormous amount of interest for my son-(and for his dad and I)-in the true history of the Civil War and of Gettysburg. He plans on looking for books at our local library and he is already asking to search for Civil War related sites and reenactments where we live. I do want to say that my oldest son was recently diagnosed with high functioning autism. He is also gifted, and has a keen interest in history. My husband and I have tried to foster his thirst for knowledge, and his love of history by helping him find accurate information on whatever part of history has interest at the time.

    The show itself was interesting, and the visual effects were stunning. But, my husband and I went into it with the expectation that there would be inaccuracies. We typically don’t have high hopes for historical documentaries when big name Hollywood types are involved, save for a few. We’ve spent the days since it’s airing reading through various blogs and websites with our son, and have since learned about the inaccuracies within the show.

    Our son wants to visit Gettysburg, and we hope to take him there someday, for now though, we will foster his love of history as we always have. We will also do our best to make sure he learns the factual details. So yes, while the inaccuracies were glaring for those who know the facts; the show succeeded at helping to garner interest in a very important period of our history for a 12 year old.

  45. Todd Berkoff
    Thu 02nd Jun 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Kurt/Gayle —
    I would echo Mr. Petruzzi’s comments. The program had no real strengths and the CGI was not that impressive. If you want impressive combat scenes watch Savings Private Ryan or Band of Brothers — that is how it is done. This was amateur hour. Putting a minie ball in slow motion does not make it “compelling special effects.”

    The History Channel series from about 5-6 years ago called Civil War Combat was 1000 times better and probably had 1/16 the budget of this Ridley Scott production. In Civil War Combat, the history was accurate, the casting was EXCELLENT, and one actually learned something. This Gettysburg program was complete garbage. Again, how does one produce a film on Gettysburg on not even mention John Buford, Little Round Top, Winfield S. Hancock, or Lewis Armistead??

    For Gayle and others who do not have the background on the history, believe me when I tell you that there are MANY other TV programs out there that do a better job. Go netflix or buy Civil War Combat – an truly excellent series. Kurt, I’m beginning to think you work for the production company…

  46. Thu 02nd Jun 2011 at 11:14 pm

    I am a bit late coming to this, having been away from the computer for a few days. Eric, you are so right about the viewing. I looked forward to it coming, “Finally to tell it right.”, but much like you found myself commenting throughout…” what about…?” I noticed the shovels, the weapons, the uniforms and the land, but I really missed the cavalry. How do you not mention Buford and Reynolds? And having had an ancestor that fought with the 76th NYVI, the lead regiment in Reynold’s march into Gettysburg and fought on the right flank just beyond the railroad trace, I felt a little empty that so much that set up the battle wasn’t even mentioned. I realize they may have been going for that “other than the usual players” effect, but at least get the timeline of events right. I too eventually had to turn it off and hope for the day when History (channel) returns to actually showing accurate history.

  47. Chris Evans
    Fri 03rd Jun 2011 at 1:55 am

    The production values were decent but errors overwhelmed them. The battles never felt like thousands were involved. The Pickett charge sequence focused on Joe Davis! Why? Union troops were depicted shooting Confederates just after crossing the Emmittsburg Fence in a scene that was completely wrong.

    I mean no mention of Winfield Scott Hancock? Come on, thats a couple of points deducted right there.

    None of the pretty stuff matters if you are thrown into the battle without any context.

    ‘Gettysburg’ by Maxwell is not a good comparison. At least there the Little Round Top scenes looked like they were filmed in Pennsylvania. There you could also see depicted the tension between Longstreet and Lee that was completely glossed over on the History channel documentary. And there you could see Buford portrayed and given full credit for his valiant stand. Also, in Maxwell’s ‘Gettysburg’ Barksdale actually sort of resembled Barksdale.

    On the History documentary you see none of this and get visuals of cinematic slow motion killing that Sam Peckinpah mastered forty years ago with his classics ‘The Wild Bunch’ and ‘Cross of Iron’.

    Chris

  48. Keith Toney
    Fri 03rd Jun 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Gayle,
    It’s good to hear your take on it, since I posed the question on another board whether the program would draw first time visitors to Gettysburg. If so, then it will have served a positive purpose. I’ve said in other places I don’t get heartburn over inaccuracies in uniforms, weaponry, etc. What bothered me about the production was how inaccurate the story of the Battle of Gettysburg was told. Hopefully you will have the chance to take your sons to the field and if so, it would be interesting to know what their reaction is to how different the actual terrain looks and how different the actual fighting was compared to what was portrayed. The program gave no sense of literally thousands of men lined up marching and fighting in lines shoulder to shoulder, which in my experience has been the most jarring fact to first time visitors to a CW battlefield.

  49. Steve
    Fri 03rd Jun 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I wish I had read this BEFORE bringing it up on my DVR. I was excited about it for days, and bummed when I saw it. Brutally awful.

  50. Fri 03rd Jun 2011 at 6:24 pm

    David Petruzzi — I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Maybe folks aside from us appreciate the production values of the film, but if they do, they’re not saying so here. I’m just looking for slightly more nuanced critiques than “the historical accuracy was poor; therefore, it sucked”. Thank you for providing one.

    Todd Berkoff — I think “the program had no real strengths” is a bit unfair. Clearly historical accuracy was a weakness, but the photography, visual flair, and excitement in the battle sequences seemed above average for Civil War films. I agree that Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers have impressive combat sequences, but they’re not Civil War films. Aside from maybe Cold Mountain and Glory, Civil War films tend to be pretty visually unexciting and the battle sequences, surprisingly tame (compare the 1993 Gettysburg to Saving Private Ryan, if you dare). This film was a nice change of pace in that department.

    I also think your argument that “they didn’t mention X; therefore, it sucked” misses the point of the film. It’s not meant to be an all-encompassing epic; that’s already been done to death. Instead, it’s a series of anecdotes about a handful of individuals involved in the battle. That necessarily leaves out a lot of important names, places, and events.

    I appreciate your recommendation of Civil War Combat and will check it out. And I promise that I don’t work for any production company. Just a grad student in Atlanta with a love of Gettysburg and Civil War films.

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