Honor, Sacrifice, Discipline, Rage…

and then you get there and realize it’s just a bunch of guys dressed up as soldiers.

21 thoughts on “Honor, Sacrifice, Discipline, Rage…

  1. Ken Noe

    Some grad student in Music really could write a thesis on how the pseudo-Wagnerian choral soundtrack of “Glory” shifted the paradigm on what style of music must now always underscore filmed battle scenes.

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    1. Kevin Levin

      I've been trying to focus on something other than black Confederates over the past few days. At the suggestion of a friend I am making my way through Harry Turtledove's “Guns of the South” and what do ya' know, but that I come across a story of a black Confederate. There is no escape.

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  2. margaretdblough

    The scene where they march to the assembly point to the accompaniment of the Harlem Boys Choir on the soundtrack is a perfect match of music & subject that is haunting.

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  3. heidic

    Thats pretty interesting to see that re-enacting has become such a popular form of “entertainment” in popular culture that it is advertised like a movie.

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  4. mariannedavis

    No kidding, can anyone tell me what spectators might do at these events? Would we cheer for one side or the other? Can we expect to pay more for seats near the Mule Shoe? Bottom line, don't we sort of know what happened?

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    1. Kevin Levin

      Let me be clear that I don't have a problem with groups putting on reenactments, I just find it funny that it seems we are to think of this one as something fundamentally different. It's definitely not my idea of what the sesquicentennial is about.

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  5. CSbeercanJohn

    In short, Marianne, spectators do what they should do, which is just watch and enjoy, no matter their knowlege or how accurate their equipment may be. Even being a student of history, I still watch these reenactments like I did when I was younger. Even if I know what is going to happen, it still entertains me. But, then again, in a way I am still that young boy watching those men re-enact the battle, thinking that would be more fun than using nerf guns or water guns to “shoot” the invisible bad guys.

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    1. mariannedavis

      Thanks, CS beercanJohn, I am so curious. Can spectators actually see the big sweep of the battle, or do they sort of concentrate on one part of a defensive line? If they're close enough to watch something like the Mule Shoe, how do they stay out of the way of the action? Are these done in “real time?”

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      1. CSbeercanJohn

        I'm not sure. as I haven't been to this particular re-enactment, but I have been to many others, and it all depends on where you stand/sit. For the most part, yes you can see most of the battle, as the spectators are usually up hill from the battle. “Real time”, that all depends on your definition. If you mean in terms of the actual timing of events during the “origional” battle then most offten no. But its not in some kind of slow motion action.

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  6. rangeropie

    That snippet is actually the trailer for a Wide Awake Productions documentary on the Battle of Spotsylvania that was filmed in 2003, I believe, during the 140th Anniversary. I was at this re-enactment, and it was what it was, a re-enactment where the battle scenarios didn't follow what actually happened (I mean, the Confederates came out of their trenches to counter attack!), there was a small select group that even looked half the part of Civil War soldiers. I will say though, the trenches were well reconstructed and documentary was well done. Full of primary source quotations, and all the close-up scenes were done with guys who actually look the part of an ACW soldier.

    If I'm not mistaken, the documentary has done quite well on the market.

    Marrianne, the company that filmed this doc. was partly owned by Rob Hodge (Confederates in the Attic) he's since moved on to other things now and has no part of the filming company.

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    1. falcontaylor

      I enjoyed Confederates in the Attic very much. Rob Hodge was the definition of hard core. Do you know what he's moved on to?
      Here in Fla. the reenactments are set up in a long field with the spectators alongside. Usually along a fence or a border of some sort. Some places actually have bleacher seating. I find it difficult to interact with spectators who are cheering & laughing & eating popcorn like it's just a nice show. To me it's like an historical play & very emotional & serious…

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      1. rangeropie

        When I last talked to him, he was self-employed in the documentary business.
        All in all, re-enactments suck… period. I think they give the spectator a twisted view of history, and leave them with more questions than answers. Living Histories on the other hand can be much more beneficial in that they allow the”spectator” to get up close and personal with smaller group of guys who, most of the time, can interpret the life of a Civil War soldier. No matter how hard people try to make a battle re-enactment look authentic, they fail miserably. And sometimes, the harder they try the harder they fall. Just remember, LEAD AIN'T FLYIN and if it were, let's see how many guys will stand in the middle of a field for 30 minutes at 20 yards apart blasting away at each other!!

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        1. falcontaylor

          Yes, but spectators can walk through the reenactors camps & talk to them. They see the period dress, implements for cooking, sewing, communications, etc. Its a family atmosphere & a very good way to get kids interested in history…

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          1. Kevin Levin

            I've come across a few living historians who are knowledgeable about their craft, but the vast majority are not qualified to address public gatherings. I think we too easily fall into the trap of assuming that because an individual has made the effort to dress in period outfit that they are qualified to discuss it in a meaningful/educational way. I say this based on my own experience.

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          2. rangeropie

            OK, I guess I was a bit bold when I said that re-enactments suck…period. I'll just omit “period.”

            This isn't a personal attack against you falcontaylor, but here are my thoughts. Re-enactments can have a positive note, they do possess the power to get the general public interested in history, specifically the Civil War in this case. Here are the drawbacks to them, in my humble opinion.

            -Would you have seen massive A-frame tent camps during the Maryland/Gettysburg/Vicksburg Campaigns?
            -Do a large majority of re-enactors present an image with the correct physical attributes of a soldier? (how many times have we heard,”I have a friend who does re-enacting and looks just like johnny reb! He has a big white beard…)
            -See point about standing in a field and blasting away at each other above.
            -Are the uniforms and equipment of 90% of re-enactors cut, made of proper 19th Century materials, sewn and worn correctly?
            -How many times have we heard that the Civil War was fought over “States Rights” at a re-enactment?

            The list can go on and on. When looking at a re-enactment, in one of the tent cities, it seems as though it's more of a family camping trip in archaic clothing (which is fine if that's what you enjoy). I just think that re-enactments perpetuate myths about 19th Century life, culture and warfare As Kevin has stated, just because someone in a Civil War uniform is speaking to you doesn't mean they are qualified to do so.

            With all this being said, re-enactments can be fun. I mean heck, who doesn't like a carnival?

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  7. John_Walter

    In general reenactments are ok by me as long as the government(s) does not dole out taxpayer funding to support them. I have no plans to go to any but do not begrudge those that do. Secondly they should not take place on ground where real soldiers sacrificed their lives. I agree with Kevin and do not think these activities represent the 150th Commemoration for many reasons. First and foremost (to me) is that the 150th is not a celebration of the war, it is a commemoration and a chance for Americans to reflect on the amazing resiliency of the Constitution of the United States.

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