Golden Thread Twenty-five Years Ago: My Brush With Glory!

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James N.

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I am sure it was not his intent, but I hope one of the staff pick up on this amazing thread and nominate James N. for member of the month.:thumbsup:

Thanks for the vote of confidence, oldman, but since I'm the host of the Stonewall Jackson forum, I'm inellegible.
 

theoldman

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Thanks for the vote of confidence, oldman, but since I'm he host of he Stonewall Jackson forum, I'm inellegible.
well dang nabit, we need to change the rules then!!!who do I call?? A grass roots campaign!! Maybe a boycott...strike!!
well, nap time now. Sire, the peasants are revolting!! Yes indeed, they are!!:bounce:
 
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Custers Luck

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Question James...While working on this film Is there any thing quirky, or a less known fact of a historical person, general, capt, etc. or regiment that you have gained new knowledge of ? Thank you.
 

James N.

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The_Storming_of_Ft_Wagner-lithograph_by_Kurz_and_Allison_1890.jpg


Question James...While working on this film Is there any thing quirky, or a less known fact of a historical person, general, capt, etc. or regiment that you have gained new knowledge of ? Thank you.
What a great time you must have had! Anything in the future?
I would say no to the first question because I knew so little about raising black regiments or the war around Charleston in the first place. I'd read The Sable Arm and knew in a general way about the Union naval attack on Ft. Sumter by the monitors; about all I knew about the 54th Mass. was what could be gathered from the famous ca. 1890 Kurz and Allison print! Since then, I read Joseph Glatthaar's very much more informative and relevant Forged in Battle - The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers as well as the classics, One Gallant Rush about Shaw himself and Army Life in a Black Regiment - if you want a "quirky" character, the author of the latter book, abolitionist Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson's your man! Prior to the film I had NO knowledge of ANY of this though, so it was all quite new to me!

If by "Anything in the future?" you mean other film projects, no - after Last of the Mohicans I attempted to work on Gettysburg, but my employment situation had changed by then. Since I lost touch with people like Ray and Dale, I haven't heard of newer projects like Gods and Generals until after-the-fact. Now that I've retired, I'm satisfied to have done these things in the past, but like with reenacting think I'm too old for things like that anymore!
 
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Filming Begins at the Isle of Hope

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As I already noted, filming was as usual out-of-sequence: the very first scenes for the soldiery were those marching through "Beaufort, S.C." and on the flat-bottomed barges that brought them there. These scenes were shot in a Savannah suburb called the Isle of Hope. Savannah was established in 1730 by British Gov. Gen. James Oglethorpe and is perched on a bluff above the river of the same name which separated his new colony, named for King George II, from that named for King Charles, Carolina. To the south lay the hostile Spanish in their "land of Flowers", la Florida. For protection from the notoriously sea-faring Spanish raiders, the colony was placed inland, surrounded by swamps and marshland and numerous small "islands" which aren't really islands at all, but marshy lowlands cut up by numerous creeks. Sometime in the mid-nineteenth century one of them, Isle of Hope, became a ritzy suburb featuring fine homes built along a lazy canal-like stream, perfect for our setting. This will also be a perfect opportunity to talk about the uniforms and equipment our new "soldiers" were slowly becoming accustomed to.

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For reasons of "economy", there were at least two levels of equipment manufactured for the film: one for close-ups; the other for what's known as the deep background. Look carefully at the knapsacks and other equipment worn by our men in these photos above and below. For this and many other of our sequences more than merely our nominal "background company" was required: we had either two or three approximately thirty-man "companies". ( On paper at least a Civil War company was around 100 officers, NCO's, and privates. ) For this only members of the background company of Matt's and mine were fully equipped with correct accouterments; the others had the sub-standard "deep background" equipment. This consisted of things like "dummy" WOODEN cartridge boxes with non-functioning flaps; tarred canvas "leather" belts and cartridge box straps, plainly evident in these photos; and the strange-looking black cloth - not tarred canvas - "knapsacks" seen here. The "rolled blankets" atop them were nothing but grey fabric "tubes" or pillows stuffed with something to make them resemble blanket rolls!

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Naturally this is one of the ways that evident "mistakes" can find their way into a finished film; this can easily happen when more than one camera is used to capture different angles of a scene. Up by the first unit where the actors usually are things may look fine; but a second unit shooting from a different location or camera angle may include all that "deep background" junk. Second unit directors are concentrating on "getting the shot" and often either don't notice or know the difference in what it is they're shooting!

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The sub-standard equipment even found it's way into our background company in the form of "budget" canteens that wouldn't hold water! It seems that most of our "better" reenactment-grade uniforms and accouterments had come from the firm of C. & D. Jarnagin who had offered the production company a "deal" on their canteens: if they would accept canteens whose metal halves had only been tacked in place rather than fully-soldered all the way around they could have them at a discount. This made good sense to the usual "bean-counter" who ordered them ( and let me stress that the Jarnagins were doing nothing to deceive anyone ), but the result was predictable. This was for February a hot day standing and marching endlessly in the sun, and our men began to feel and to show it. I went to get water for them, but the P.A. or "production assistant" pointed me to the craft services table; when I informed her it was not for myself but our hundred or so men, she looked puzzled and said "But they have canteens." Happily, once I replied "Yes, but they don't hold water!", the craft services crew soon appeared carrying large water coolers and paper cups.

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Joe Covais and members of our drum corps going "back to one" which means to return to your original position to film another "take" of the same scene .

After marching all morning, following lunch we boarded the 3 barges briefly to get the scene of their arrival in The South; the vessel used for this was an ordinary tug or barge boat of some kind ( I forget! ), so remains unseen on screen. Afterwards, only enough of our background company members to fill the frame were used in the scene where Morgan receives his sword and chevrons as Sergeant Major, so the rest of us were left "cooling our heels" ( all that by then was cool ) while that was filmed; thus ended this first sequence. In many ways this had been a foretaste of some of the problems that were to "rear their ugly heads" later!

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Next time, we go into our first battle!
 
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CheathamHill

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FANTASTIC! Also quite evident in the extras' uniforms is the fad that began in the 1980's and, unfortunately, carries on to this day with many 'enactors...wearing your 'couters low enough to bruise your knees and thighs....
 

JRJ

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I'm glad I caught onto this thread late. Then I didn't have to wait on the first three installments! Awesome stuff James. Keep it comin' brother.
 
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FANTASTIC! Also quite evident in the extras' uniforms is the fad that began in the 1980's and, unfortunately, carries on to this day with many 'enactors...wearing your 'couters low enough to bruise your knees and thighs....
Actually, since part of OUR function ( the Reenactor Core Group ) was to oversee things for authenticity we would've corrected this had they been adjustable! Look again at the boxes and their straps, which were tacked or even stapled to the wooden blocks and couldn't be shortened. They'd deliberately been made long to accommodate a tall man with the sorry-looking result seen here. They held up poorly, too, so that by the end of filming three months later they were in really bad shape.
 
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distantinlaw

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James , did you have a little trouble figuring out how they decided to run down to Darian and ransack and burn and then get back to Beaufort that same day on a horse ?
 

James N.

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James , did you have a little trouble figuring out how they decided to run down to Darian and ransack and burn and then get back to Beaufort that same day on a horse ?
I think I get your drift, and yes that could've been a problem! In case anyone doesn't know, that was an amphibious expedition; I think the ( nowhere stated ) idea was that they were marching only from their point of disembarkation to the town and back - presumably the horses for the officers were brought along onboard ship.
 
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unionblue

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James,

I am so impressed with this thread of your experiences in this strange world of movie making. I am learning so much and appreciate your efforts to tell your story.

Thank you for taking the time to post it here at our forum so others may enjoy these wonderful memories.

Please, continue.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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