Civilians crave scenes of battle

June 25, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

Editor's Note: Tim Rowland is on vacation. While he's away, favorite columns from the past will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays in The Morning Herald. This column first ran Sept. 17, 2001.

Talk about poor planning. If I'd started to grow my beard when they announced the making of "Gods and Generals," it would have been down to my waist by now and I'd be a cinch for an "extra" part in the movie.

But starting last week, I just couldn't get it done in time for the final tryouts. I looked less like I was from the Civil War era of the 1860s than the Boxcar era of the 1930s. If the movie were named "Gods and Hobos," I would have been picked. When I dramatically got down on one knee and removed my hat, someone threw a quarter in it.

Anyway, this week, filming is scheduled to begin in Washington County, which is pretty exciting stuff. As I write this, there is no indication of exactly where they will be filming, although it shouldn't be too hard to narrow down. There are only about two or three spots left where the view isn't dominated by a cell phone tower - find one and you've found the movie, I'm thinking.


I don't know exactly what scenes they will be shooting here. They filmed the Antietam scene in Virginia, so I suppose they will film all the Virginia scenes up here. God and Hollywood work in mysterious ways. It's understandable they do not want a large crowd watching them. Bloody Lane would lose a little something if you had the guy with the rainbow hair and "John: 3-16" sign in the background.

According to the "Gods and Generals" Web site, a large number of "civilians" are needed for the opening scene of the film, where they will "warm up" the audience for war by engaging in a stirring game of paintball.

Or I wish, anyway. Not that I don't appreciate the importance of "setting the scene," but I think we all want to get straight to the battles. That's what we came for.

And that's why I never would have had the patience to be a "civilian." To be honest, I think I would have been the perfect Gen. George McClellan. We have a lot in common: We both like to procrastinate and always feel greatly outnumbered.

Of course, most all pre-Grant Union generals had that affliction. I would encourage everyone to read Jeff Shaara's book "Gods and Generals," from which the movie is being adapted. Were it not so tragic, much of it would be funny.

Reading about the Federals at Fredericksburg trying to locate a pontoon bridge is like listening to a wife telling her husband where to hang the Norman Rockwell print.

"Put it right there - no wait, over there, OK, no ... higher, higher, higher - no, lower ... all right now to the left and THERE! No not there, you had it for a second ... you know, maybe this pontoon bridge would look better in the den."

Once the Union got a decisive general however, did that make the media happy? Heck no. He was called "Old Blood 'n Guts Grant" and accused of being a drunkard and insensitive toward the loss of human life.

Fortunately, the difference in the media back then was that news didn't travel as fast. By the time the press got around to criticizing him for the slaughter at Cold Harbor, the war had been over for two months.

Grant never would have lasted today: Chris Matthews and that Tony Snow goose would have hung him out to dry. "There were people KILLED in that battle, KILLED!! There was DEATH, do we tolerate DEATH in this country? Mr, Grant, did our forefathers DIE so we could have DEATH!!!"

Then to CNN: "Tonight in the Crossfire, 'General Grant, effective military man, or the Abattoir of Appomattox?'"

Then you get all those moronic people off the street in the basement of the CNN building: "Yes, I'd just like to say Mr. Grant, if you're listening, our boys are not cattle. Are they cattle? No they're not cattle. We, and I'm speaking for myself and my wife Sally here, we do not want you putting them in harm's way over some worthless wilderness."

There's your civilian scene. Do we really want that? I say, let the battle begin.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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