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GETTYSBURG AND STORIES OF VALOR- CIVIL WAR MINUTES III(director: Mark Bussler; cast: Keith Carradine (Narrator), Michael Kraus, David M. Neville, John L. Burns, Winfield Scott Hancock; Runtime: 180; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mark Bussler; Inecom Entertainment; 2004)
“Director Mark Bussler does a solid job bringing this enterprise together.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This 3-hour documentary on a handsome two-DVD set relives the Battle of Gettysburg fought during the American Civil War, capturing the human experience through a mixture of live footage, still pictures, rare photos, drawings, engravings, soldier’s letters home, personal stories of the men and their valor, and rare Civil War artifacts. The documentary covers in great detail the bloodiest battle ever fought by Americans. This unique documentary serves a different purpose than Ken Burns’ brilliantly inspiring 1990 PBS documentary on the entire Civil War. Though not as interesting or as provocative as Burns’ masterpiece, it should nevertheless fulfill the needs of those wanting even more information about Gettysburg. Both have value to history students and those who want a more in-depth account of the first battle where the north invaded the south, as the Union Army was led by General George Meade and the Confederate Army by Robert E. Lee.

Disc one covers the Battle of Gettysburg, the second covers additional heroic and tragic moments including details of battlefield medicine, brutality at the notorious Dead Line in Andersonville Prison, leadership of Union and Confederate generals and the explosion at Allegheny Arsenal. In addition there’s a worthwhile 20-minute bonus containing an interview with Civil War historians David Neville and Michael Kraus, who supply information that was unable to be squeezed into the film.

The battle at Gettysburg took place the first three days of July in 1863 in this small rural farm town in Pennsylvania, where of the 160,000 men who fought a total on both sides of some 10,000 lost their lives. It is narrated in an almost monotone voice throughout by Keith Carradine (the film would have benefited more by having different voice-overs as Burns’ film had, which added excitement by each narrator’s new way of reporting things).

The invaluable documentary for Civil War buffs packs in a lot of information about the significance of the Union victory and the battle conditions prevailing, including stories that were either forgotten or never known before. It covers battle episodes such as: clearing up the mysterious Devil’s Den photographs of the dead; Colonel Strong Vincent’s brave defense of Little Round Top; the moving human interest story of the patriotic John L. Burns, a 69-year-old Gettysburg resident who joined the battle and got wounded; the glories of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the most outstanding Union soldiers who survived his battle wounds and ran for president as a Democrat to only narrowly lose to another Civil War veteran–Garfield; the bullet-torn sack coat of private David Myers, preserved after his death in Andersonville Prison, becoming a rare relic of the war; and Confederate General Lewis Armistead’s secret Masonic call for aid in the heat of battle that got him help from the enemy.

Director Mark Bussler does a solid job bringing this enterprise together. He easily fulfills his aim in making this documentary “entertaining, colorful and educational.” Though I think it is far more educational than entertaining, if one can say educational without putting an unnecessary damper on such a necessary and positive work.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”