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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Corps Goes To Eleven

Watched the History Channel's much ballyhoo'd Gettysburg special last night, and all I can say is, meh. The battle scenes were well done, I thought, capturing the horror of mid 19th century infantry action. The "human interest" stories woven into the narrative were also compelling. However, there were just too many inaccuracies for me to take it seriously.

For one, it was obvious that many of the actors had never held a musket or rifle before. Many scenes had actors thrusting the weapon out in front of them before pulling the trigger, rather than bringing the piece to the shoulder. Secondly, the Federal infantry insignia was wrong. Union troops were shown with crossed rifles on their headgear, rather than infantry bugles. Crossed rifles weren't used until the 1870's. Also, both Confederate and Federal infantry NCO's were depicted with yellow chevrons. Infantry of the time would have had blue chevrons, yellow was for cavalry, and red artillery. Pretty bad job on some of the miscellaneous gear too, Federal troops were shown with plain white haversacks, while the norm would have been black canvas. Some of the straps on the odd looking knapsacks reminded me of horse tack.

The production depicted the poor dental hygiene of the 19th century in loving detail. You'd think if you're going for that level of realism, you'd get the other details right as well. During the battles, the spacing between individual soldiers was too tight for a skirmish line, and too loose for a line of battle. Several times, Confederate troops were shown advancing towards the battle as a disorganized mob, when they would have been moving either in column of fours, as skirmishers or in a line of battle.

By far the worst error was identifying Richard Ewell's II Corps as the eleventh corps. Its as if the narrator didn't know how Roman numerals work. I'm also pretty sure I saw a black Confederate infantryman attacking a Federal battery during the Pickett's Charge scene. Pretty damn sure THAT never happened!

All in all, I give it a C. Not worth staying up late for.

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