What We Want to See Vol. 1: Realistic Reenactors and a Level of Violence

After reading through countless forums and discussion boards involving the To Appomattox series project, the one thing I notice being said with some repetition is to the effect of, “Please don’t mess this up!”. While I can assure you that this series is going to do everything in its power to bring a historic representation down to the buttons on the uniforms, Civil War buffs and film fans alike do have justification for their concerns, because no matter which previously made film that you take, despite the accuracy, there are still complaints. Below are two items that I would like to see addressed, and the first one, at least, I think we can all agree on. Keep in mind that this is not a knock on any other films, because there is a reason for everything, but I just wanted to bring attention to it.

1. Realistic looking reenactors: The majority of complaints have been around those portraying the actual soldiers as being too fat, too old, or both. In many Civil War films, this is the case. The average human was a lot shorter back then, and of course, if you were a soldier on the march constantly with few rations to eat, chances are, you were not weighing in at nearly 300 pounds. Most of the soldiers were also quite young, from those that snuck in under age 18, and into their thirties and forties. Very few would have had grey hair, especially in the Union Army. What we want to see here are realistic looking reenactors, as in people who look the age and are to the physically gaunt side. Because of this, entire units of reenactors who apply to take part in To Appomattox would not be automatically accepted, but the individual soldiers hand-picked. This could be a tedious task, but I think it is well worth it. The men who fought in the War, more so if you fought for the Confederacy, were emaciated by the time the fighting ended. The series will become a lot more emotional if this point is driven across.2. A somewhat high level of violence: The reason why I say “somewhat” is because I do not want to turn this into a gore fest with soldiers wading through blood and body parts, however, if the filmmakers want to seriously get across the violence of Civil War fighting, there needs to be blood spilled, and limbs lost. There needs to be a hospital scene, where we can see an amputation or something to that effect—many still do not realize that the only remedy for a gunshot wound to an extremity was cutting off the limb that applied. I am not saying that we need to see blood spurting everywhere, but there needs to be some gore. A shot like I pictured above, from a movie that I really cannot stand, Gone With the Wind, would actually become very effective, because it shows rows and rows of bodies, and how disastrous the war had become.

When it comes to battle scenes (though they are not the driving point of this series) and men are shot, we also need to see a volatile reaction of some sort, not just slumping to the ground. These bullets were powerful, and tore through men with ease. Had you been struck by one, you would not have softly fallen forward as if you fell asleep in mid stride. There can also be plenty of implied violence off-screen, such as soldiers or generals commenting on how horrific the fighting was in the last battle. This could get the audience to picture it for themselves, which might even be more ghastly than depicting it on-screen.

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3 Responses to What We Want to See Vol. 1: Realistic Reenactors and a Level of Violence

  1. I agree with both points.

  2. Charles Roman says:

    Good points, but keep in mind as well with the reenactors what units you might be ‘recruiting’ for- if they are Regulars, especially before or after the Civil War, they tended to be older than during the war. The average Regular during most of the mid to late 19th century was in his late twenties to early thirties (the official enlistment age was 21!) and on his second five-year enlistment. The NCOs especially should be in their late twenties to early forties. The officers, especially before and after the war, tended to be much older- Edwin Sumner, for example, was nearly 40 when he was made a Captain in the 1st Dragoons, nearly 50 when he made Major, and nearly 60 when he finally made Colonel in 1855. This was the norm for career officers- it was not uncommon at all to see a forty or even fifty year old Captain in the field commanding a Company or Troop. No 25 year old wünderkind in command of a Regiment except among the Volunteers during wartime. And also very few NCOs in their twenties or without at least one service stripe, and often one edged in read (meaning wartime service).

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