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DVD Review: Horses of Gettysburg – Civil War Minutes IV

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Horses of Gettysburg: Civil War Minutes IV is a documentary directed by Mark Bussler and narrated by Ronald F. Maxwell (director of the films Gods and Generals and Gettysburg). This film is about the relationship between soldiers and their horses during the battle of Gettysburg which was fought from July 1 through July 3, 1863 in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

This film is available in two versions: the two-disc version that I am reviewing, and the single DVD, which is 56 minutes long and is designated as the Public Television Edition. The two-disc version is 116 minutes long. Horses of Gettysburg is geared for grade six and over, and unlike most documentaries about this battle, which focus on the military and human components of the war, this film focuses on the 72,000 horses and mules that took part in this conflict.

This is the fourth installment of what has become the Civil War Minutes series. According to Mark Bussler, “The idea of this film started with questions like how many horses were involved in the Battle of Gettysburg, and who fed them, how were they trained, and what happened to them during the battle?”

Horses of Gettysburg begins with the fact that humans have been relying on horses since the dawn of time. From there we lead up to the civil war in general and then to the use of the horse in John Buford’s cavalry on the first day of the battle.

The Union army had strict policies governing the purchase and training of horses, as opposed to the Confederate army, in which the soldiers provided their own horses. Army mules were another vital component that is examined in this film. Known for their stubbornness, they were used for pulling heavy loads.

Bigelow’s Stand provided a heroic story of the horses and the men of the 9th Massachusetts Battery who stood their ground on July 2nd. Here many drawings from Charles Reed, participant and Medal of Honor recipient, are featured. Also featured here is Captain James P. Postles, who volunteered to deliver a set of orders to his fellow soldiers under a barrage of Confederate fire in what would be a suicidal ride. He was also a Medal of Honor recipient.

Also included is George Armstrong Custer, earning his reputation as a fearless cavalry commander as he goes against Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. Farnsworth’s Charge is examined as the Union army engages in a bloody assault near Big Round Top.

The film also documents how the horses were maintained; an estimated 3 million gallons of water, 3.5 million pounds of oats, and 4 million pounds of hay were needed to feed the animals just for those three days.

Horses of Gettysburg finishes up with the great equestrian statues that are a part of the museum that is the Gettysburg National Military Park. There are over 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials, many of which honor those on horseback.

To me, it seems like the series gets better with each installment I see. I think that Horses of Gettysburg has some of the best production yet. There was plenty of information presented in an interesting manner on such a topic that to date has been largely overlooked.

Extras include an interview with Ronald F. Maxwell, a documentary with Eric Campbell, a Gettysburg National Military Park Ranger, the making of Horses of Gettysburg, personal interviews with Maxwell, as well as other interviews totaling over three hours of extras.

I think that if you are a history fan, especially a Civil War fan, then this video is a must. If you love horses and want to see what they really contributed to this epic battle, then too, this is a must. If you want to see another side of what the war was like, or if you just want to be entertained for a couple of hours then you really should check out Horses of Gettysburg

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://www.worlds-wide-web.com/custermain.html Joe Topinka

    General Custers website

  • http://www.worlds-wide-web.com/custermain.html Joe Topinka

    Site of George Armstrong Custer as portrayed by Joe Topinka