1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free! If you aren't ready for that, try posting your question or comment as a guest!

"Buster" Kilrain - real or fictional?

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Fritz1255, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Fritz1255

    Fritz1255 Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2005
    Messages:
    4
    He is one of the more interesting characters in the "Gettysburg" movie and "The Killer Angels", but I have never seen reference to him anywhere else. I have books which pertain to the 20th Maine, including Truelock's book, another called simply "The 20th Maine" (Pullen), and another called "The Passing of the Armies" (I think written by Chamberlain himself), but no mention of this person. His story seems to be a little too "pat" to be real, but I don't know. Does anyone know if he was a real person? If he was indeed real, are the details fictionalized?
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    11,535
    Location:
    South of the North 40
    Check the Roster of the 20th MN... IIRC in the Movie he was the Regimental Sgt Major.

    Probably fictionalized.
     
  4. hoosier

    hoosier 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    2,706
    Location:
    Dillsburg, PA
    Buster Kilrain was fictional. There was no one by that name in the 20th Maine. Those who go to Gettysburg and look for a grave marked "Kilrain" in the Maine section of the National Cemetery will look in vain.

    The fictional Kilrain may possibly have been based on a composite of real-life characters, but if so, I don't know who they were.
     
  5. Fritz1255

    Fritz1255 Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2005
    Messages:
    4
    What is odd is that during the intro to the movie "Gettysburg", when they are comparing pictures of actors to what the real people looked like (Jeff Daniels/Chamberlain, Martin Sheen/Lee, etc.), they have a picture of a Civil War soldier next to Kevin Conway's picture. I had assumed this meant that he was portraying a real person, but the evidence says no. 20th Maine roster is not posted anywhere on the internet that I am aware of, although supposedly available in a book about Maine in the Civil War.
     
  6. tomh

    tomh Corporal

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    Gettysburg, PA
    Buster Kilrain

    Buster was a composite character and his lines in the book/movie were actually compiled from letters and documents written by several soldiers. He turned out to be one of the most memorable characters in the book/movie and people are constantly asking the battlefield guides where he was wounded, where he died, where his marker is in the cemetery, etc. Fictional or not, he has brought people to the park and that is a good thing in my opinion.

    I believe that the only "real" soldiers in the portrayal of the 20th Maine were the Chamberlain brothers and Ellis Spear.

    Just a humble opinion,
    TomH
     
  7. Nelly28

    Nelly28 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2005
    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    PA
    Supposedly, Buster Kilrain was the only fictional main character in Gettysburg (I'm not sure about Gods and Generals). I've also heard that his name came from the title The Killer Angels. Whether any of that is true, I'm not sure. I would also be interested to know who that soldier was whose picture was compared to Kevin Conway's picture during the opening credits of the movie.
     
  8. Nelly28

    Nelly28 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2005
    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    PA
    Many regimental rosters can now be found on the Internet in the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System:

    http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/index.html

    A roster for the 20th Maine can be found there, as well as the rank of each soldier and the company to which he belonged.
     
  9. chuck71

    chuck71 Cadet

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    39
    Buster Kilrain was a fictional character based upon a person named George
    Washington Buck, a sargeant in the 20th Maine who was demoted to private
    for a petty situation involving a captain. During the defense of LRT, he was
    mortally wounded. As he lay dying, Chamberlain promoted him back to his
    original sargeant rate. The terms "buck private" and "buck sargeant" remain
    to this day.
     
  10. hikimenwaza

    hikimenwaza Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Messages:
    1
    My teacher said that Kilrain was a real person but was demoted (before Gettysburg) because he had a problem with alcohol.:beer:
     
  11. max

    max Corporal

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    295
    In the Gettysburg movie did the scolding that General Lee gave General Stuart upon his return to the AONV ever really take place?

    Max
     
  12. tomh

    tomh Corporal

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    Gettysburg, PA
    Lee/Stuart

    Max,

    When Stuart did finally show up for the dance he was dressed down by General Lee. I have seen a couple of versions of what was actually said and doubt whether there is an exact quote available, but the concensus is that Lee told Stuart that he had disappointed him. Apparently Stuart offered his resignation and Lee responded "There is no time for that!", or something to that effect.

    Some historians question whether the dressing down led to the charge that took place on the 3rd day when Stuart was assigned the task of riding around the north of the Federal line to attempt to get in their rear. The ensuing battle at the East Cavalry Field was marked by several saber charges by both sides (the most memorable being Custer's Wolverines slamming into the center of the CS column). One of the very few saber and pistol charges conducted through the entire war (another being on the same day at the South Cavalry Field, where Federal troopers slammed into the remains of Hood's Division on the Slyder farm, resulting in a rout of the Federal Cav).

    Just a humble opinion,
    TomH
     
  13. blue_zouave

    blue_zouave Sergeant

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    817
    Hikimenwaza, don't rely on your teachers, do your own research. Kilrain is as real a person as Tom Sawyer or Scarlett O'Hara, which means that his creators made him live for us and seem more real than the "real" people in "The Killer Angels" and "Gettysburg." BTW, if you haven't read "The Killer Angels," you're in for a great experience.

    Yes, even the Zouave has read it.

    Regards,
    Zou
     
  14. maryingettysburg

    maryingettysburg Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Messages:
    56
    Actually Tom, the Merrill brothers, Private Foss, Sargeant Owen, Andrew Tozier, Estabrook & Capt. Clark , all of which were mentioned in the movie, were all real.
     
  15. tomh

    tomh Corporal

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    Gettysburg, PA
    Buster Kilrain

    maryingettysburg,

    Thanks for correcting me on that point.

    Were the Merrill brothers the two soldiers who prefered to fire standing?

    I don't remember any of the other characters mentioned, I guess I need to watch the movie again.

    Thanks,
    TomH
     
  16. dadaken

    dadaken Cadet

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    16
    As efficient and documentarian as Col. Chamberlain was I would fine it hard to believe that anyone he knew as intimately as he seem to know "Buster" Kilrain
    and vice-versa, Col. Chamberlain would have mentioned him somewhere in his memoirs. He is a fictional character, who shall we say, been blessed with the
    best traits and humaity of those men i and around the 20th Maine.
     
  17. maryingettysburg

    maryingettysburg Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Messages:
    56
    Yes, Tom, that was them. I've watched the movie at least 85 times this year alone....guess I know it TOO well. And after having watched it so much, I've found alot of "bloopers". And would be interested in hearing about any I may have missed. Perhaps I'll start a blooper thread. As for the Merrills, they are probably in two of the unmarked graves up in the cemetery. There are MANY unmarked 20th's in the Maine plot. One of those is likely George Washington Buck. there are alot more than I thought of Chamberlain's boys buried up there that never got to go home.
    Private Foss is up there (the guy who was praying in the movie), his grave is marked.
     
  18. tomh

    tomh Corporal

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    Gettysburg, PA
    Bloopers

    maryingettysburg,

    Thanks for the info.

    If you haven't already, try to get a copy of the "Director's Cut" of the film. More bloopers than the release version. my favorite is as the CS troops step off in PPT's assault there is a clearly visible white panel truck driving by in the background. Must have been one of those legendary CS stealth vans <grin>.

    TomH
     
  19. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    30,654
    Location:
    Near Kankakee
    maryingettysburg;

    I heard of another, although I've not seen it or, if I did, thought nothing of it. My nephew tells me that when a priest was blessing the Irish Brigade, he made the sign of the cross wrong. On your 86th viewing, look for it. I don't much care, but you did ask for bloopers that you might've missed ...

    The biggest bloopers were those ridiculous beards on Longstreet and Stuart. I can't watch either with a straight face. Maybe it's the absinth.
     
  20. cwreader

    cwreader Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2005
    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Fl
    In response to TomH,

    Watched "Gettysburg" again the other night and caught these names of men in the 20th Maine. By checking on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors website cited above I came up with the following:

    Capt. Clark (Atherton W.)
    Sgt. Owens (William H) (also a John Owens listed as Corporal)
    Pvt. Foss (there are ten Foss's listed - I think John Foss is listed on the 20th
    Maine memorial as having been kia at Little Round Top but will have to
    check on that)
    Merrill Brothers - there are 6 Merrills listed and one is named William

    Sgt. Estabrook - two listed George and Glazier (I think Glazier was mentioned
    in the movie)
    Sgt. Tozier - listed as Andrew J. Tozier - rank out as 1st Sgt.

    I could not find any of the 2nd Maine men named in the movie:
    Pvt. Bucklin (spelling?)
    or Dan Burns (even though there are two other Burns's listed.)

    It was surprising to find so many of the names listed there. That's a great site for looking up soldiers!
     
  21. chuck71

    chuck71 Cadet

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    39
    Another person who was fictional was 'Captain Brewer' of the 118th PA.
    He was the OIC of the detail that delivered the 120 2nd ME mutineers to
    Chamberlain. The last time I was at G'burg, I looked on the PA Monument.
    They have every regiment listed from PA that fought at the battle. The
    118 was definitely there, but no 'Captain Brewer' was listed. Michael
    Shirra may have used literary license for his name, due to the fact that
    JLC was born in Brewer, ME. Just a thought. Chuck71.
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page