Retreat from Gettysburg; Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign, Kent Masterson Brown, narrator and writer, Witnessing History Film, High Impact/Post Time Productions, high definition format dvd, 100 minutes,2008, $19.95
Following up on his Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics & the Pennsylvania Campaign, Kent Masterson Brown, wrote and narrates the script of this high definition DVD. As narrator, Brown also appears at locations featured in the book. One of the many strengths of this film is Brown's confident presence on the screen; a lawyer who has appeared before juries, Brown gives to the script a both scholarly and an emotional commitment to the material.
Viewers of Lionheart, Wide Awake, and History Channel films will find that this Witnessing History film has all the best features of those and more. In production, visuals, maps and graphics, Witnessing History films are well served by High Impact Productions. Both are based in Lexington, Kentucky. The high definition quality is so fine that CWL saw uniform buttons standing out from the wool. The maps are dynamic and not static; their moving graphics are necessarily frequent and interesting to watch. Particulary striking are the maps that involve the placement of the Army of Northern Virginia's divisional hospitals on the battlefields. The film's attention to such details regarding the wounded, their transport, and their voices is one of the more rewarding of the many fine characteristics in the script.
Thankfully the film is not all reenactors all the time. Among many other places, Brown takes the viewers to Black Horse Tavern (Pickett's division's hospital), Monterrey Pass, Williamsport Landing and even the aqueduct that Ewell's corps used to reach the pontoons that crossed the Potomac. For the most part, though frequently used, the the reenactor segments are short and not heavily relied upon. CWL spotted only two women in the Confederate rank and file. The film shows roads used by Lee's immense wagon trains and the key sites where those wagon trains were attacked by Union cavalry. Lee established defenses that did not always delay or defeat the advances of General Meade's forces. Mountain passes and Potomac River crossings are featured both in ground and aerial shots. The film uses black and white photographs and color film to compare and contrast the terrain with a 'then and now' view.
Retreat from Gettysburg; Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign is suitable for both the beginning student of the campaign and the immersed reader. Having read the book, CWL thoroughly enjoyed the film. The music is new, appropriate and symphonic. The script's attention farm hospitals, ambulances, pioneers, pontoon building, the immense wagon train of wounded, the herd of 50,000 livestock, and the constant battling of the Union cavalry is satisfying. The voices from diaries and letters ring out. Certainly this is not a 'one watch and then on the shelf' DVD. CWL will return to Brown's and Witnessing History's current and effort and to those forthcoming, in particular this fall's release on the history of bourbon in Kentucky.
Links: Witnessing History, producers of Civil War books, documentaries and guided battlefield tours
CWL also recommends March 31, 2008 post: One Continous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863,