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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on my post immediately below, shortly after Ol’ Robbo updated it mid-day Saturday, the heat-exhaustion did indeed set it.  (I’m something of a martyr to it.)  My muscles cramped up, my head split, my ears started ringing, and my chest got all froggy.  I consequently spent the next 36 hours pretty much flat on my back sucking down water and Gatorade.

“Maybe it’s time you hired somebody to mow!” said Mrs. R in her most quarter-century-plus wifely voice.

Damme if I do.

Anyhoo, between my extended rest and the fact that it has been cooler and drier the past 48 hours, Ol’ Robbo is back to normal enough to say a thing or two about the Battle of Gettysburg which began this day in 1863.

Or rather, not so much about the battle itself, but about its most famous recent cinematic depiction, which I may or may not re-watch for the eleventy-millionth time again in the course of the next few days.  We’ll see.

Ol’ Robbo has some beefs about this film, some major, some minor.***   But my biggest has always been this:  Michael Shaara, who wrote The Killer Angels, the novel on which the movie is based, was very careful to state explicitly in his introduction that the book was not a story about the Battle of Gettysburg itself.  Instead, he said, it was the story of some of the men who fought in that battle.

Fair enough.

But the movie, in taking the title “Gettysburg”, by implication spools the story back out to encompass the entire battle.  And even though that may not be it’s intent, the average movie-goer, assuming they haven’t read up their history independently, and aren’t completely pedantic nuts like me, come away thinking that the story presented in the movie is pretty much the whole story of the Battle.*****

What irks me about this is that so much which ought to be celebrated (at least if you’re a Unionist) or at least acknowledged, gets swept aside. (Yes, I know it’s a drama and not a history. Make that clearer, is all I’m saying.)

Doubleday: “By the way, what the hell is this ‘designated hitter'” rule? Find out who called for it and have them shot immediately!”

Which brings me to the portrayal of the action on July 1.   The movie faithfully follows the book’s description of the initial clash between Federal and Confederate forces through the eyes of Buford, Heth, Reynolds, and, farther back, Lee.  But once Reynolds is killed, you get about five minutes of Heth telling Lee the Confederate forces are coming down in flank from the north, a bunch of Yankee soldiers panicking and running away, and then another officer telling Lee the Yankees have fallen back through Gettysburg and are reforming on the hills behind.  The fact of the matter is that Abner Doubleday, taking over the 1st Corp in place of the fallen Reynolds, and Oliver O. Howard, with his much-maligned 11th Corp, spent the rest of the First Day putting up a hell of a spirited defense against the overwhelming numbers and flanking movements of the Confederates.  Without additional support they had no chance of actually winning, but they were able to hold their forces together, give the Rebs several local bloody noses, and withdraw without going completely to pieces (although it wasn’t pretty).

Oliver O. Howard: “Yeah, I know Stonewall got the jump on us at Chancellorsville, but that wasn’t really our fault. We stopped him in the end, didn’t we?”

The Second Day could not have been fought at all without their (and their Corps’) gallant efforts on the First.

So when Sam Elliot leans against the caisson wheel at the close of the First Day in the movie and says, “Well, General Reynolds, we held the high ground,” Ol’ Robbo gets a bit miffed on the part of those others who helped make it happen.

Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

(Okay, maybe I’m not quite completely over the effects of the heat.)

 

***I’ll give you an example of a minor one.  When C. Thomas Howell, as Tom Chamberlain, stops to chat with a trio of Confederate prisoners, the staging of the scene is lifted straight from Winslow Homer’s painting, “Prisoners From The Front”.  In the movie, Howell (in an ungodly accent that wouldn’t have been heard within a thousand miles of Maine), talks with the Reb on the left, who in the painting is a slack-mouthed bumpkin.  Were the scene faithful to the painting, he more likely would have exchanged courtesies with the cavalier officer on the right.

Another egregious borrowing is the scene in which Reynolds dies.  It ends with a blatant nod to “The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West.  Ol’ Robbo will be generous and assume that this is tribute and not plagiarism.

*****People often say, when I argue this sort of thing, “You may be right, Tom, but the movie will encourage people to read further and become more informed.”  I’ve yet to see any real evidence that this is the case except far out on the margins.

 

 

 

 

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