Tag Archives: Gettysburg

Gettysburg: The Movie

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed the movie Gettysburg yet. It was only the thing that got this whole historical obsession started in the first place. Fair warning – this is much less of a formal review and much more of an opinion piece since I am certain I have lost the ability to review this movie objectively.


… cuz stuff like this happens when I’m around …

Backstory: Back in 9th grade, the culmination of the unit on the American Civil War involved hiding in a darkened classroom for three days watching this film as a dramatic interpretation of everything we had just studied.

Afterwards, a classmate made an offhand comment about how it compared to the book, which got everyone’s attention because we hadn’t known the film was based on a book. So I had to read the book (Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara). Then it looked like Killer Angels was part of a trilogy, so I read those other two books (prequel Gods and Generals, after which the film was named, and sequel The Last Full Measure, both written by Jeff Shaara.) All three books gave a human voice to these players like nothing I had seen before. So I had to start reading biographies of everyone to see how their fictional selves compared to their real life selves.

And … it just kind of snowballed from there.

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Here There Be Dragoons

Last weekend I achieved a small personal milestone that has been several years in the making. Namely, I participated in a living history event at Gettysburg.

[ pause for applause ]

This will probably surprise exactly no one that my historical interests were tending towards this, but I myself only became aware I was going in this direction about a year ago. Almost exactly a year ago, to be specific, when history friend Mel and I went to the Eisenhower Farm for their annual WW2 day. I wrote about that in one of my very first blog entries. And the rest, as they say, is history.

[ Get it? Get it??? History!!! Like this blog! … okay … ]

I joined my friends the Polish Army at Eisenhower Farm on the participant side, specifically the 10th Dragoon Regiment, 2nd Squadron. Once I know exactly what that means, I’ll let you know. I must also regretfully inform you that no actual dragons are present in this group, much like how the Union Jack recently got jipped out of including the Welsh Dragon

And so to the weekend:

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Memorial Day Parade

Happy Memorial Day!

(Not to be confused with Veterans Day, Armistice Day, ANZAC day, or Remembrance Day.)

Today is the day to recall the men and women who died in the service of the country, which is not to be confused with Veterans Day, which honors all those who served. (I had to look this one up.)

The origins of this holiday are debatable. Why? Because apparently everyone wants to take credit for the holiday that is the official kickoff to summer? Because it was such a good idea that everyone wants to prove they thought of it first? I don’t really know.

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The Big One … Part 2

As previously stated, the events commemorating the 150th of Gettysburg spanned several weeks.  The first week was full of events for the reenactors themselves and the second week was full of ticketed events for the public.  On the first day of the ticketed events, the 4th of July, I went up with my friend Mel, who normally does history things with me, and it was hot but we had a blast.

We were unable to attend the second day of events.  The 5th of July was that awkward Friday between a holiday and the weekend, and Mel hadn’t been able to take off work.  I didn’t want to go up by myself so I stayed home and did homework all day.  This was actually serendipitous because it turns out I needed that time to complete the assignments in a satisfactory manner.  Getting a master’s is hard work. Uff-dah.

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The Big One

Among my goals for December: write a post on the 150th of Gettysburg.  I’ve been putting it off for a while but December is coming to a close.  And so, it is time that I, the Domer in DC, climb the apex of bloggery.

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As you may have been aware, this year, 2013, marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  There have been anniversary notices and articles for a few years now because the 150th anniversary actually spans 2011 to 2015, but could go even earlier than that, if you want to get into Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Bleeding Kansas and cover all the related things.  I won’t get into that because I’ve never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and I’m not in Kansas anymore, Toto.  And honestly, all the related things get discussed ad nauseum at history nerd events anyway and I’m not sure I could distill the arguments into something blogworthy.

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Event staff: you had one job.

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World War 2 Weekend 2013

Over the weekend of September 21-22, there was a Living History event at the Eisenhower farm, which happens to be at Gettysburg.  During WW2, the battlefield was owned by the Department of Something, so Eisenhower and Patton and those guys brought tanks up to practice shooting them.

A brief history of the farm, according to the NPS pamphlet:

The Eisenhowers bought the house and farmland in 1950 from a fellow named Allen Redding, planning to retire.  They had to structurally restore the building, and the finished product had eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and an extensive kitchen, among other rooms.  The land itself is at least 189 acres.  However, two years later he was elected President and served two terms in office before they finally retired to the farm.  According to the literature, their favorite spot was the glassed in porch, where they could watch the sunrise over the rolling Pennsylvania mountains.  I bet it was glorious.  The front drive to the main property is lined with trees, one from every state.  Mamie would ask him how far he’d walked, and he would reply with, “Minnesota” or “Oregon” and she would know how far he had gone.

Ok, now to the weekend.

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In 9th grade, we had to watch the movie Gettysburg for class.  We were all enthralled – a group of upper middle class girls who had probably never known there were experiences like that out there – and a lot of the girls cried at the end when the violins came sweeping in after a victorious conclusion.  One classmate mentioned she had been reading the book it was based off of, Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.  Always a book purist, I had to go read it.  Then I found out that it was part of a trilogy, bookended by two novels written by  Shaara’s son Jeff, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure.  

The events in these three novels, while being tactically accurate, were nonetheless still fictional.  That is, the dialogue, the thought processes, and much of the characterization came from the authors.  So I had to start reading biographies, to get the facts.  And I never stopped.  Except recently, when I started school again and lost my discretionary time.  But my focus has been very narrow so I must go read ALL THE BOOKS to catch up.

On our senior trip to DC in high school, our first stop was Gettysburg.  After trying to sleep all night, the last thing anyone wanted to do was get off the bus and look around.  In their defense, it was only 8 in the morning.  The particularly obstinate kept sleeping on the bus. No one understood why I was practically jumping up and down in excitement.  They gave me funny looks.  I gave them funny looks.  We were standing with the statue of Father Corby himself and nobody cared.  Still not sure what was wrong with them.

After graduating, DC was the only location I considered, for the history.  It’s easy distance to almost anywhere on the Atlantic coast and it’s chock full of Revolutionary and Civil War things.  In the DC/VA/MD area, you can’t spit without hitting an historical marker.  Only after I arrived did I consider important things like a job, which isn’t related to history at all but supports the hobby, sort of, because the hobby is about to get more expensive.

So that’s how it started.  That’s how I got here.  Add a parental fascination with old, Victorian graveyards and history things and the philosophical need to back every statement up with evidence.

But really, I do it because it’s fun and I can learn stuff.  What more do I need?

Stay tuned for the discussion group, the crazy reenactor guy, the time-traveling chaplain and a serious lack of timely updates.

History nerds are the best kind of nerds.

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