Stephen Spielberg at Gettysburg

20 11 2012

Here’s Stephen Spielberg’s speech at the Dedication Day ceremony in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg yesterday (crank up the volume.)

My favorite line? “But we are filmmakers; we are not scholars, we are not historians.” It would be nice if everyone could keep that in mind.

As for Mr. Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, I saw it with friends over the weekend. A great flick – two thumbs up. Cool stuff to look for: Kelly Leak; Brother D-Day; Dan’s Appendage; King Arthur’s Son; That Amish Kid.





Soundtrack for “Death and the Civil War”

18 09 2012

Hey folks: if you enjoy the soundtrack to tonight’s PBS American Experience presentation of Death and the Civil War, you can find ordering information here.





Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Theatrical Trailer

13 02 2012

Coming June 22, 2012





Leesten to Dem, Cheeldren of da Night. Vaht Moosic Dey Make!

10 02 2012

Lots of chatter on the web about the Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter film now in production. I reviewed the Seth Grahame-Smith novel before it was released a while back. In fact, I wrote a few articles on the topic. But just for kicks, go here for all my Vampiric posts – they’ll run backwards from this one.





Spin Ain’t Nothin’ New, Just Ask the Carthaginians

18 12 2011

Carthage

If you’re not already familiar with the rumors of Yankee handcuffs at First Bull Run, go here and get caught up (this article will be at the top of the page since it also carries a “handcuffs” tag – scroll down to the first article and read forward, if you get my drift). If you’re already hip, read on.

A little more fuel on the fire comes from Forgotten Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox – thanks to Jim Rosebrock for jarring my memory on this. On page 301, Willcox describes an encounter with the enemy some days after his capture at First Bull Run:

Among our visitors who were numerous & mostly for curiosity, were a few of my old Army friends, generally polite but not one of them did me any good & some were insulting. Almost every stranger inquired, “What di you come down here for? Do you expect to subjugate us?” But, after all, it was from strangers that I experienced the most courtesy & most tangible comfort. Col. Lay, from the U.S. Army but now on Gen. Beauregard’s staff, came to inquire about the handcuff story which [had] created so much noise in the South. The story was that 30,000 handcuffs designed for the rebels were brot by Gen. McDowell & were captured. Both Ricketts & I denied it point-blank, & offered, if they could find them, to be the first to wear them. Lay afterwards came back & expressed Gen. Beauregard as satisfied, but to this day the tale never has been corrected, but has been kept alive to foment the passions of the South.

So, this story of handcuffs seems to be just that, a story, one likely propagated to further demonstrate the dastardly nature of the Northern opponent. It seems unlikely that so many handcuffs could, first, be carried on to the field (they were big, heavy, bulky things and would have required dozens of wagons to transport) and second, have been completely lost to history, physically speaking.

But what is the source of the story? How did “Gossip Zero” come up with the idea in the first place? Well, I may have stumbled across a clue in the book I’m reading right now. I picked up Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization, by Richard Miles, because I had a hankering to learn about the Punic Wars. 142 pages into a 373 page book and the first of the three Punic Wars hasn’t even started yet. The Carthaginians are still going at it with the Hellenic cities of Sicily, mostly Syracuse. Hannibals and Hamilcars abound – what, are there only two names in Punic? It’s all very confusing, and the long string of Scipios haven’t even been introduced by the Romans. Needless to say, I’m learning a lot, but If you’re into ancient history you’re better served by Elektratig.

So, back to the handcuffs. Miles lays out a compelling case that for several millenia, first the Greeks, then the Romans, and then those who followed in the study of classical history have conducted a very effective smear campaign against Carthage. In this case – but for sure not in the case of our Civil War – the history was written by the victors. And as we know, educated men in the 19th century were by and large educated in the classical sense: one attended university to become a gentleman, not an engineer or a journalist, or even an accountant or attorney. So learned folks – the kind of folks who made officers – were typically well schooled in Greeks and Romans. We often run across mentions of folks like Cicero and Cato in their writings. So I wonder how well the following anecdote was known at the time, and if it was perhaps the genesis of the Yankee Handcuffs myth. On the aforementioned page 142:

In [Sicilian Greek historian] Timaeus’ account of the later wars between Carthage and Syracuse, the complex strategic reasons why it was important for Carthage to intervene militarily in Sicily, like those of the Persians in Greece, were reduced to little more than a wish to enslave Hellas [Greece], beautifully articulated in one episode by an apparent discovery of 20,000 pairs of manacles in the Carthaginian camp after a victory [by Agathocles of Syracuse, I'm guessing], or simply a hatred of all Greeks.

Is this where the Confederates got the idea? Makes sense to me. It wouldn’t be the first time history was plagiarized in an attempt to stir up support. P. G. T. Beauregard had borrowed liberally from the rhetoric of the defense of New Orleans some 45 years earlier in his “Beauty and Booty” proclamation (the word then was that Sir Edward Pakenham had promised both to his men if they would take the city). Proving it, on the other hand, is problematic.





PCN TV Programming for Gettysburg Anniversary Battlewalks

23 06 2011

I received this from Rick Cochran at PCN-TV. Good news for non-Pennsylvania residents with a Gettysburg fetish. Paying $24.99 for three days of tours and recording them is a lot cheaper than buying individual DVDs for each tour. Follow the link to see the schedule.

CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELD TOURS TO BE AVAILABLE ONLINE OVER JULY 1, 2, and 3

Each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) teams up with the Gettysburg Military Park to present televised “Battlewalks” led by Rangers and Licensed Guides. These walking tours, airing since 1996, delve into the tactics and influences of the battles as our cameras follow tour guides around the various Gettysburg areas.

In the past, these Battlewalks have only been available to television viewers in Pennsylvania through PCN. This year, for the first time, the network will offer each day’s programming through a pay streaming site partner – www.livesportsvideo.com – so that those who cannot get PCN can enjoy the programs. For just $9.99 per day (or $24.99 for the three-day package) viewers will enjoy encore presentations leading up to new programs each evening at 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). These new Battlewalks will hit the internet and PCN just hours after they take place and you will be one of the first people to see them.

PCN’s Gettysburg Battlewalks are geared toward viewers with a deep interest in the Civil War. They are extremely popular with enthusiasts all over the world who have added the DVDs to their collections. A full selection is available at www.pcnstore.com. To learn more about our Civil War coverage, visit www.pcntv.com/shows_gettysburg.html. PCN is a non-profit television network that receives no state or federal funding. Revenue generated from DVD or streaming sales helps to fund additional education programs like the Gettysburg Battlewalks.





Middle School Movie Makers

13 05 2011

Another WaPo article, this time about some sixth-graders at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Manassas and their film project on First Bull Run. Nice photo gallery, too.





New Gettysburg Movie on “History”

5 05 2011

Gettysburg is a 2-hour History special that kicks off a week of programming commemorating the 150th 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, Lee¹s 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.

This program is set to air Monday, May 30th at 9 PM. For more info, see here.

OK, I’m a little concerned about those crossed muskets on the Hardee hat. But I’m willing to put up with little things like that if it’s a good flick. I’ve seen two too many movies  Stitch Nazis love that were just horrible cinematic experiences. The Scotts are Oscar winners. And I love the use of this song in the trailer – always thought it would fit an ACW soundtrack.





Civil War Programs on National Geographic Channel

8 04 2011

I received an email from National Geographic with links to overviews and video previews of several Civil War programs they have scheduled. Check ‘em out.

Civil Warriors – 3 hours beginning at 8 PM on April 11.

And on April 12 at 9 PM, The Conspirator





Is A Puzzlement

4 02 2011

I admit it – I’m a sucker for The King and I. In 1977 I actually got to see a revival of the musical at the Uris Theater on Broadway. Orchestra seats. Yul Freakin’ Brynner. Close enough to see all the gears and stuff and the line where his face panel met his robot head.  OK, just kidding about that last bit, but he was awesome in Westworld, too. But yes, we were close to the stage, and Brynner in his late fifties looked like he could still kick ass, even while doing the polka.  And I love the film, though my wife gets very annoyed when I correct her on occasions when she inadvertently allows her head to be higher than King’s…er, mine.  But why am I talking about this?  The Civil War Trust has a Primary Sources entry up on their website about Abraham Lincoln’s rejection of the offer of Siam’s King Rama IV (aka Mongut at left as portrayed by The Man) of war elephants to help defeat the Confederacy.  Check it out.

And now for a little singin’ ‘n dancin':








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