Bull Run on Film

25 11 2008

Oh, just for the hell of it.  If you like, we can discuss the accuracy of this clip in the comments section here.  It might be fun!  But let’s limit the discussion to the clip, please.  I don’t want to rehash bad acting, bad screenwriting, bad cinematography, or the whole general badness of this film.

By the way, Ride with the Devil is on AMC tonight.  I think it’s an under rated film, skillfully directed by Ang Lee with some fine, nuanced performances and beautifully filmed.  In my opinion, the writers skillfully and thoughtfully handled the characterization of a free black man who fought alongside his former master, though I’m sure it angered some folks and caused quite a few knees to jerk.  Here’s the raid on Lawrence (look for the Eldridge Hotel):

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19 responses

25 11 2008
caswain01

First off let’s talk about that red carriage and limber. the Ord Manual of 1861 states “a priming of lead color and two coast of olive color are applied t new woodwork, and one coat of lead color and one of black to the ironwork.” That same manual was basically copied for Confederate service.

Second the Federal officer is distinctly heard to day “Counter battery fire, 800 yards, shell, 5 second fuse.” Well these are 10-pdr Parrott Rifles right? A projectile from that gun will travel about 1600 yards. Thus the projectile would be dug well into the ground before exploding.

Look at the background during the firing. That’s a formidable terrain elevation behind the Federal guns. Where was this shot, out along the Blue Ridge?

Jackson appears to be adjusting the focus of his binoculars. Like he was zooming in or something. Darned Bushnells!

Then we have the Confederate 6-pdrs leaping off the ground as if overcharged.

Just before Bee gives the “rally behind the Virginians!” order, we see the effect of those five second fuses. A Yankee shell apparently boring to the earth’s mantle explodes under the feet of some poor Johnnie Reb.

Then, without command, we notice the Confederate artillery shifts from dealing with the galling fire of the Yankee guns to start shelling the Federal infantry. With surprising accuracy on the first shots, I may add.

Later we find, while disobeying the order not to shoot, we find whoever was spotting for the Cornfed Artillery also is pretty handy with a musket, picking off the officer on horse back. They couldn’t have hit an elephant at that range! (they were armed with smoothbores right?)

Now the exchange of volleys. And the cannon bark again. Seems the Confederates also are using those darned five second fuses. Does no one understand the concept of “air burst”? Then again, with the height those 6-pdrs are jumping, they are lucky the carriages haven’t broken to splinters by now.

Now we have Cummings charging Griffins guns. Funny how 12-pdr Bronze Howitzers look a lot like iron 10-pdr Parrotts.

On later observations, seems the rebels have indeed figured out those airburst fuse settings. Or is it perhaps their guns are laying at odd elevations now, having split their carriages?

Is it just me or does it seem like the Yankee Army is advancing, but never gets close. What are they, a couple thousand yards away when these volleys are exchanged?

Then at the climax, who unleashed Mel Gibson? I mean that’s a Braveheart clone without the special effects. Oh the agony…..But don’t get the idea I hated it!

25 11 2008
Robert Moore

Harry,

OK, first of all, since I’m out for Thanksgiving break, I don’t have access to my high-speed I-net link-up and am subjected to the horrors of dial-up from home. Soooo, it would take me a good bit of time to see this clip. I do have the movie, so just tell me which sequence to watch.

OK, that said, I had a feeling that your focus was going to be on a set of video from G&G, but I need to review again to make some comments. Before I even saw Craig’s comment, one of the first things to come to mind (considering I had an idea you were focused on the G&G 1st Manassas sequence) was the post-battle walk over by Jackson… something I think was a bit out of whack… by the end of the battle, his brigade wasn’t even on Henry House Hill was it?

On another note, Craig, I see that you are probably referring to W.N. Pendleton’s guns of the Rockbridge Artillery… the red carriages are actually correct. The four guns (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) of the RA were training pieces for VMI when put into service and at the time of First Manassas still carried the original red! Note that the guns in front of the TJJ statue at VMI STILL have red carriages. I say “still” but actually it wasn’t that way many moons ago when I was a kid aspiring to be a Keydet. They did the olive drab thing and then realized that they made a mistake and the carriages were red.

25 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Craig,

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the movie?

Robert,

I believe Jackson’s brigade was still in the area of Henry House Hill at the end of the battle. Jackson himself was placed in command of the infantry and artillery in the vicinity of Portici. I’m trying to remember where he was when he saw Davis, but am drawing a blank.

I read a small booklet on East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg that referred to four 20 pdrs of the Rockbridge Artillery on Benner’s Hill as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This confused me because A) I knew those four guns were not 20 pdrs and B) I knew Pogue was over by the point of woods. Turns out Pogue was no longer with the RA at that point, and the four 6 pdrs of the battery had been exchanged for 20 pdrs, but the new guns, as far as I can tell, were never known by the apostolic nicknames of their predecessors.

25 11 2008
cenantua

Harry,

I never heard of a transfer of names from the old field pieces to the new field pieces. Between that and the mention of the RA having 4-20lbrs, I think I’d question the accuracy of that little booklet. I do know, off the top of my head, that J.W. Latimer had at least two 20lbrs in his battalion, and he was on Benner’s Hill. I’m going to have to look back at Driver’s history of the RA now to satisfy my curiousity as to ord. of the RA at Gettysburg.

Incidentally, if you have any questions about the ANVa artillery, I have a pretty good chance in coming up with an answer. I think I have darn near close to every book ever printed focusing specifically on the batteries and officers of the ANVa artillery.

25 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Robert,

According to Pogue’s book, the RA had indeed traded in the little 6 pounders for 20 pdr Parrotts rifles. This battery (aka 1st Rockbridge Arty) is seldom visited at G’Burg becasue it sits on the other side of the road from Latimer’s guns. It was commanded by Graham at Gettysburg, Pogue having moved on.

So, the author was right that it was the RA, right that they had 4 20 pdrs, but wrong that the guns were the four apostles. I won’t beat him up too much for that.

26 11 2008
cenantua

Okeedokee then. Did Pogue mention when the swap was made? For some reason, I think one of the 6lbrs ended up as a captured piece, but don’t recall where it was taken (saying this while still meaning to look in the regimental history).

26 11 2008
caswain01

All four guns were captured in 1865 at Richmond. I suppose it was yet another example of the VMI-West Point Ring Knockers Society at work for all four to be sent back to VMI (Georgia and Arkansas had similar Cadet guns from the same source, and theirs were kept by the Yankees).

Robert you may be right about the red carriages. But who in their right mind would want to stand behind a bright red target like that. Oh, wait this was First Manassas!

My secondary sources say the guns were used by both the Rockbridge Artillery and Richmond Howitzers (neither battery specified) “early in the war”, with all four replaced by the time of the Seven Days. Nothing I’ve read is exact on the replacement dates.

Cadet guns were at a serious disadvantage on the field, as they could not take full service charges. However, looking at the clip, this might explain why the guns are bouncing about 10 hands above the ground.

26 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Robert,

It looks like Craig answered the question. For some reason I was thinking that one of the guns was buried in the road at Port Republic, but I think that was probably another gun known by a different name, from a different battery.

And I’ve been spelling Poague’s name wrong. I checked in his book, but it’s not indexed too well so I couldn’t find when the swap was made. I’ll take Craig’s word for it, though.

Poague’s book has a cool picture of him leading the Cadet Battery on parade at VMI in 1913. In line in the photo is his son, a Cadet Captain. I figure that makes him about 21, so born in 1892, when Poague was 56 or 57. Giggity Giggity Giggity!!!

26 11 2008
caswain01

I still have reservations about “red carriages.” For two reasons.

First PGT Beauregard in particular, while serving at Charleston earlier in the war, wrote an admonishment about a gun in seacoast battery which had a red carriage. He preferred the carriages of black, gray, or other natural color as to blend into the background. Remember, the war was indeed fought in color, even though only the black and white photos survive ;-).

Second, while I can find primary sources that state the cadet guns, while at VMI for training, were indeed painted red, I would still want to see a smoking gun (that’s a bad metaphor here)… or should I say definitive document which states the guns retained both their VMI carriages and/or red paint.

My reasoning – The Confederates were short on a lot of things, particularly field ordnance. They were not short, as near as I can tell, on paint. Does it stand to reason that a valuable gun tube, even of limited tactical value, would be deployed with such a manner to highlight its position? Not only does the “red” make the gun stand out on the field, it also allows an adversary to immediately identify the weapons abilities at a distance. If I were a Yankee battery commander and saw those red carriages, the first thoughts in my mind would be “Ok, I have a great advantage here in range and throw weight, maybe these guys are a nuisance at best. Let’s stand off and shell them to dust.”

I’ve got some analog files back at the house regarding the “cadet guns” that I need to refresh. Mostly stuff about their construction, however. As interesting as the “four apostles” might be, the Georgia counterparts were much more active. And consider this, both batches came from the same manufacturer. And both batches would end up being used against forces commanded by W.T. Sherman. However by the time the Georgia guns were firing at Uncle Billy’s men, Sherman was commanding an army at Atlanta.

26 11 2008
cenantua

Harry, For some reason, I thought I was mispelling Poague last night!

Craig, I could swear I saw something that documented the carriages as being red, even while in use during the war. I just can’t find it. That said, one of the things about the battery at Manassas at First Manassas that can’t be ignored is that nobody, to my knowledge, mentioned a battery with red carriages on the field. Certainly, one would think somebody would mention it somewhere. Speaking of the guns, this site provides some interesting information… http://artillerymanmagazine.com/Archives/2001/vmi_sp01.htm.

Also, I noticed that Bradley Schmehl was careful in his portrayal of the battery in action on June 8, 1862 (http://www.oldgloryprints.com/Jackson%20and%20His%20Disciples.htm). It looks like the carriages are neither olive or red. I’d be curious to know what he discovered in researching the color of the carriages.

26 11 2008
cenantua

Just looked in Driver’s history of the RA. Before August 1861, the battery was “rearmed with two of the ten-pounder Parrott guns from Rickett’s battery and two other U.S. six-pounders, and turning in the two light six-pounders belonging to VMI.” They later lost one of the captured 6-pounders at Kernstown.

Looking back to the organization of the battery, the governor had given permission for Pendleton to take two of the VMI guns, but the other two he secured elsewhere.

Just a quick scan, but by April 62, the battery had two ten-pounders, two six-pounder brass field pieces, one twelve-pounder brass howitzer, and one iron eight-pounder.

Oh, and I see that at Second Winchester, the battery had two twenty-pound Parrotts and two “new” English Blakeley guns. Not long after the battle, the Blakeley guns were replaced by two captured 20-pounder Parrotts. So, this indeed was what they had to work with by making it to Gettysburg.

26 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Still bugging me that I can’t remember the gun burried in the Valley. I think it was in Krick’s book. Guess I could get off my duff and look it up.

Nahhh.

26 11 2008
Robert Moore

Out of the 27 batteries that I covered in the Virginia Regimental Histories Series, I think I ran across maybe a half-dozen instances where unit members recounted burying a gun. Different spots outside Lynchburg were mentione, and I also know that one of Pelham’s pieces used at Hamilton’s Crossing during the Battle of Fredericksburg is buried somewhere near Chancellorsville.

26 11 2008
cenantua

On an unrelated topic… is anyone else noticing that the wiki is under attack? I had Brian block one IP address the other day, but it looks like two more are involved now. Much of the content being put on looks like it is spam-generated.

26 11 2008
Craig

There’s probably enough still buried artillery pieces across Virginia to re-equip the ANV should we need to. My personal favorite would be a gun from Battery F, 1st Penn which burst at the Battle of the Wilderness. It was a 3inch Ord Rifle, and would be the only case I am aware of where such type failed. The piece was buried around Todd’s Tavern.

BTW, I have it on authority that the four 20-pdrs used by RA at Gettysburg were indeed named. They were “John, Paul, George, and Ringo” collectively known as the “Beatles.” Reports of a fifth piece are unconfirmed.

26 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Robert, I saw that. I see that our names (yours and mine) are favorites for the spammer to use. I deleted some of the stuff.

26 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Craig,

That’d be Stewart Sutcliffe, the fifth gun. It could be worse – the new guns could have been named for the Bay City Rollers.

Thinking back on Bee and his exclamation, why would he resolve “to die here”, and then say “rally behind the Virginians”? That would take them away from the action. That bit never made sense to me. I’m going to find and post the original aricle (Charleston Mercury?), which was reprinted in the Richmond papers. I’m thinking the movie combined two different versions of what Bee said.

Ooops…looks like I already posted it:

https://bullrunnings.wordpress.com/2007/02/06/bee-redux/

26 11 2008
Mike Peters

Harry,

I thought the 5th gun was “Pete Best.” :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mike

26 11 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Now that I think of it, it was Brian Epstein who was known as the “Fifth Beatle”. But Sutcliffe was literally a fifth Beatle, faking his way with a bass and his back turned to the audience.

Pete Best was a Beatle, but not the fifth.

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