29 August 2011 by Published in: General musings 13 comments

Readers of this blog will remember that I had very little good to say about History’s Gettysburg film when it aired back in May. I wasn’t alone in this assessment. I was concerned that old friend Garry Adelman, who was one of the talking heads in the program, might have his reputation sullied by being involved in such a God-awful project.

Garry has been silent about it to date. However, Garry has penned a guest post on Kevin Levin’s excellent Civil War Memory blog today that addresses his role in the project. Garry points out that the film, even with its almost countless inaccuracies, has spurred new interest in the battle, and for that reason it was worthwhile. I can’t really disagree with that, although I still hate the almost innumerable inaccuracies in it.

Here’s what Garry says about those inaccuracies:

Just before the scripts got under way, the Gettysburg National Military Park’s Supervisory Historian, Scott Hartwig, came on board. Scott and I served as the primary historical consultants thereafter. We reviewed three versions of the script and watched rough cuts of the production as it emerged. Together, we made no fewer than 400 specific comments and requests for changes, and, to History’s great credit, almost every single one of these comments was addressed in the final show. Scott and I have both worked with other production companies before and we agree that none were so dedicated to trying to get it right as was History and Herzog & Co. In the first scripts, there were scores of significant errors and I mean significant.

He points out that there was nothing that could have been done about many of the wrong sets, uniforms, etc., as all of those were filmed before he and Scott Hartwig got involved, so they focused on what they could fix. That makes good sense to me, and I certainly can appreciate it.

The film will air again on Wednesday night. I will do all in my power to avoid it, as I still think it’s just atrocious. However, I do appreciate Garry’s insight, and I also understand completely where he’s coming from on this. And if it does manage to spur new interest in the Civil War, then I suppose I can live with it. Thanks for setting the record straight, Garry.

Scridb filter


  1. Bill
    Mon 29th Aug 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Seems to be a constant with the History Channel, make it sort of like history. I hope this is not the quality we can expect from Documentaries in the future. But, then again, you can graduate from high school in Florida without taking any history. GIGO seems to be the norm!

  2. Gary Dombrowski
    Tue 30th Aug 2011 at 8:17 am

    So basically he would continue to contribute to such productions as they help foster interest? I too will avoid this program like the plague. It makes you wonder to what degree these folks just enjoy hearing and seeing themselves on TV?

  3. Chris Evans
    Tue 30th Aug 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I don’t think fostering interest is enough when the documentary is riddled with errors like that documentary was.

    It could have been much better and I shudder to think how bad it must have been in the beginning. Even after their corrections not much could be salvaged from the program.

    The ‘Battlefield Detectives’ episodes on the Civil War and the ‘Civil War Combat’ were much superior to the Scotts’ production.


  4. Todd Berkoff
    Tue 30th Aug 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Any way you spin it, that program was atrocious. I have been impressed with Scott Hartwig and Garry Adelman as historians for many years and don’t necessarily blame them for the horrible TV program on Gettysburg – I place the blame with the History Channel. But I don’t see the point now in trying to put lipstick on a pig by citing uninformed kudos like this:

    “The film was tremendous and awe-inspiring, and even managed to get this old school academic on the edge of his seat.”

    Please, that’s a bit much.

    Like Chris Evans said, stick with Civil War Combat.

    Todd Berkoff
    Arlington, Va

  5. Dennis
    Thu 01st Sep 2011 at 5:25 am

    I started watching it for the first time yesterday, but soon moved on to more interesting things….like studying the inside of my eyelids.

    One can generate interest and be accurate at the same time.


  6. Thu 08th Sep 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Well, I am glad to learn that History was, at least, serious about making the changes they suggested. That’s perhaps the first thing that I’ve found to like about that awful documentary. I don’t know the first thing about the filming business, but it makes me wonder…at what point did they actually bring in historians? Seems they asked for help too late. One historian or reenactor on set during filming (or just prior) could have corrected so many problems!

  7. GE Colpitts
    Thu 08th Sep 2011 at 7:08 pm

    In a day and age when fact and fiction are frequently confused, when directors “interpret” history to serve their own visions and ends, and when “memoirs” are produced with an eye to sales and not to truth, is it any wonder the History Channel has become a (seemingly willing) victim of its own time?

    GE Colpitts

  8. Deb
    Fri 16th Sep 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I’m glad to see I ‘m not the only one who thought that show was a farce.

  9. Sat 17th Sep 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I could not watch this atrocity for more than 20 minutes. What a disappointment. I am not sure if it will spur more interest in the Civil War — I hope it does. But an historically accurate and well made documentary on Gettysburg would also spur interest and get the facts right. So sad…

  10. Chris Evans
    Thu 22nd Sep 2011 at 10:54 am

    Here’s another review of the documentary that really accurately rips into it:



  11. Colonel Sanders
    Thu 29th Sep 2011 at 3:13 am

    Thank you for the funny website, Chris.

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