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The Battle of Little Sayler's Creek (2006)

Civil War reenactors gather on the original battlefield at Sayler's Creek Virginia to recreate this historic battle. This is the story of not only the history of Battle of Little Sayler's ... See full summary »



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Civil War reenactors gather on the original battlefield at Sayler's Creek Virginia to recreate this historic battle. This is the story of not only the history of Battle of Little Sayler's Creek but the fierce allegiance held by the reenactors on each side of the battle to this day. Sayler's Creek - April 6th 1865 - was one of the last battles of the American Civil War culminating three days later in General Lee's surrender at Appomattox. This was the largest surrender without terms in American military history. Written by David George

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civil war | virginia | See All (2) »







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Last Gasp Of The Confederacy.
16 May 2012 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is a documentary about the "reenactors" who stage the Battle of Little Sayler's Creek in Virginia. The engagement took place late in the war, barely preceding Lee's surrender at Appomatox.

It's an interesting film for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the staging of the battle takes place on and around the actual battlefield. There are forests and cleared fields and houses built in the 18th century. The place hasn't yet been swallowed up by urban sprawl.

For another, it's informative. Some of the information is going to be familiar to any Civil War freak but it's still curious to see a man in uniform telling us about how leeches were collected from creeks to treat soldiers by bleeding them. I don't think Bruce Catton got very deeply into that sort of thing, nor did Ken Burns in his excellent series on PBS. We also learn that illnesses like typhoid were thought to come from vapors emitted by the ground and that soldiers were thought to "catch" the diseases by sleeping on the ground. Finally, we get to see a vertebra with an embedded .69 caliber musket ball. The reenactor patiently explains to us that it was better to be hit by a round ball than by a Miniere ball, which tended to have more force behind it and shatter bones, making amputation necessary.

Everyone seems to be enjoying himself. And herself, too, since the residents dress in period costumes during the reenactment. I know some people who know reenactors and they're a solidary and committed group. They love it. "It's not a hobby, it's an obsession," one Union soldier tells us. Most of the participants want to be Confederates and they don't want to be shot down too early. (If they are, they must merely lie there while the rest of the regiment charges on by.) One guy, not referred to in the film, specializes in bloated corpses.

It's a little surprising to sense some of the bitterness towards the Union that lies not too far beneath the surface of some participants. Some of the ladies explain that the Confederacy had nothing left to fight with. (PS: If they did, they probably would have won, as they should have.) And there is a lengthy shot of three or four Confederate reenactors sitting around the camp fire and chatting. They're not in their roles now; they're just schmoozing. Lincoln violated the Constitution, one declares. He put the Baltimore government under arrest so they couldn't vote to secede from the union. "As Thomas Jefferson said, if I can quote, when the people fear the government that's tyranny. When the government fears the people, that's liberty." The speaker isn't playing the role of reenactor here, but like most of us he's still playing an improvised role, and he knows the camera is there. Even so, the impression we get -- and not just from this one speaker -- is that maybe it's too bad that secession failed, and that if it did it was due to the overwhelming material superiority of the North. Maybe next time -- The film is well worth watching, especially for buffs, but sometimes the covert themes get a little spooky.

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