Civil War Film Inaccuracies

rbortega

Private
Joined
May 4, 2013
What are some major Civil War film inaccuracies that you thought have stood out over the years? One notable example I can think of is the Battle of Antietam being listed as taking place on September 19th, 1862 in the Director's Cut of Gods and Generals.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
Here's a couple from the movie "Glory": Morgan Freeman reading out nonexistent serial numbers when handing out Enfield rifled muskets; and Colonel Shaw and Thomas wishing each other Merry Christmas. Massachusetts didn't get the okay from the Federal government to raise the regiment until late January 1863,and the unit was recruited and trained late winter and spring 1863, well after Christmas.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
Wrong orders in Glory.
"Reload" (correct order is "Load")
"Fire at Will" (Correct would be "fire by file! Commence firing!, and then the firing start from the right file of each company, adn then after the soldier have fired, he can then load and fire in his own time)

When looking at clips from reenactments events on youtube both show up more often than not.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
As in all Civil War films (Gettysburg included) and even Revolutionary War films they show artillery exploding on the ground as if it were WWI. This is not how it worked (with perhaps an unusual exception with a rifled round). Solid shot would have been skipped along the ground (and, of course, wouldn't have exploded). Smooth-bore shot and shell would have exploded above the advancing troops. Canister would have been used at closer ranges. Most rifles would have employed timed fuses against advancing infantry which also would have exploded above the advancing troops.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
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Location
Coffeeville, TX
Every CW movie, (or any historical movie really) is full of historical inaccuracies. This is mainly due to writers, directors, and producers not really knowing history. That's why a lot of period films have historical consultants for costume, weapons and so on. As someone who's been one of those consultants, let leave a primer of some of my experiences:

Director: "Hey did everyone wear they're guns in town in the Wild West?"

Me: "No sir, most every town outside of unsettled places had ordinances against the open carrying of firearms in town. With fines or arrest being the order of the day in the Western Era. But there were a lot of folks that carried concealed weapons, plus didn't have a firearms at all. Most towns were well to do."

Director: "Hmmmm.... I don't know. (he starts pacing with his head down in thought) Oh we'll go ahead have the whole town full of armed gunfighters to set the tone and give the feel of the Wild West. Thanks man, don't know what I'd do without you!"

Me: .... (Me standing there with a blank stare in silence asking myself if what just happened did happen.)

Actual conversation by the way. Actually been several of them.....
May have been a western but I think it gives an idea of what happens with history on a film set. The makers think in terms of business and giving audiences what they want. Or think they want for that matter.
 

thomas aagaard

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Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
As in all Civil War films (Gettysburg included) and even Revolutionary War films they show artillery exploding on the ground as if it were WWI. This is not how it worked (with perhaps an unusual exception with a rifled round). Solid shot would have been skipped along the ground (and, of course, wouldn't have exploded). Smooth-bore shot and shell would have exploded above the advancing troops. Canister would have been used at closer ranges. Most rifles would have employed timed fuses against advancing infantry which also would have exploded above the advancing troops.
This actually, one of the very few things "The Patriot" do well... showing how a solid cannon ball work against infantry,

Gettysburg do have detonations in the air, both when showing the 1st day and pickets charge.

(And yes, Prussian rifled guns did have a detonate that worked on impact at this point)
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Making movies is one of the many things I know absolutely nothing about but I believe that reenactors aren't being paid, at least not much, and supply their own uniforms and equipment. If thats true it would seem like a big inducement to have them around, age and flab not withstanding.

John
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
This actually, one of the very few things "The Patriot" do well... showing how a solid cannon ball work against infantry,

Gettysburg do have detonations in the air, both when showing the 1st day and pickets charge.

(And yes, Prussian rifled guns did have a detonate that worked on impact at this point)
The Pickett's charge scenes show many ground bursts.

Impact fuses existed for rifled artillery but they weren't used against advancing infantry (rather, against hard, fixed targets like other batteries or buildings). When impact fuse rounds hit the ground they tended to just bury themselves and not go off (don't know anything about the Prussian ones). Also, for ground detonation at fairly close range the rifle would have had to have been actually aimed at the ground. Using a timed fuse for detonation above ground was standard practice.
 

thomas aagaard

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Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
Making movies is one of the many things I know absolutely nothing about but I believe that reenactors aren't being paid, at least not much, and supply their own uniforms and equipment. If thats true it would seem like a big inducement to have them around, age and flab not withstanding.

John
As I understand it money was donated to battlefield preservations instead of pay for the reenactores.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Making movies is one of the many things I know absolutely nothing about but I believe that reenactors aren't being paid, at least not much, and supply their own uniforms and equipment. If thats true it would seem like a big inducement to have them around, age and flab not withstanding.

John
Definitely not trying to knock the reenactors who make these projects possible, just an observation.
 

Polloco

Captain
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
I've always been disappointed by the clean cut and hygienic appearance.The Southern soldiers lack that "rag-tag" look.The uniforms almost look pressed. The short hair, clipped fingernails,clean shaven looks.Beards were few and far between on earlier films.No mud or gunpowder on the uniforms and they all had on a fairly new pair of boots or shoes.Oh, and those pearly whites did they all pack a toothbrush along with the scissors and razor?
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Location
Coffeeville, TX
I've always been disappointed by the clean cut and hygienic appearance.The Southern soldiers lack that "rag-tag" look.The uniforms almost look pressed. The short hair, clipped fingernails,clean shaven looks.Beards were few and far between on earlier films.No mud or gunpowder on the uniforms and they all had on a fairly new pair of boots or shoes.Oh, and those pearly whites did they all pack a toothbrush along with the scissors and razor?

I've heard a lot of stories of reenactors going to great lengths in Gettysburg and Gods & Generals going to great lengths to avoid the powder puff or whatever they called it from the make up department.

I can't say I worry too much about the "rag-tag" look everyone expects to see from Confederates in film. Its kind of a fiction they were as bad as folks believe. For example you should see them with short hair and without beards, there's plenty of first hand accounts to support that as lice love long hair and beards and thus Confederate dumped the Antebellum fashion of long hair and didn't worry about beards, excepting officers of course. Besides, most of you soldiers were really boys which don't always grow beards.

As for uniforms there would've been plenty or raggedness, and dirty trousers, but they did clean they're clothes, they had to keep them wearable. As for cleanliness and hygiene, there were Confederate officers that mandated this be done, probably most famously Bedford Forrest who was kind of a clean freak from h**l when it came to himself and men under his command.

As for teeth, they did have toothbrushes, plus you can't expect every reenactor to willingly let they're teeth degrade, or a film production spend the extra time and money on the bad look for all they're actors, (it'd cause some actors to have difficulty speaking without practice, and on set time is money), or all the reenactors with close up shots.

Film is entertainment and will never get it all a hundred percent correct, especially considering the numbers of people who are between the heights of 5'4 and 6'1 and weigh 90 pounds nowadays compared to back then. Sometimes you just got to turn your knowledge off to enjoy a film.
 
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