Chickamauga! High Tide In The West, Wide Awake Films, 2006, 50 minutes, $19.95.
CWL decided to buy a couple of films for a Great Battles of the Civil War discussion group. Hmmmm? Wide Awake Films? Lionheart Films? Media Magic? Previous experience had shown that the latter two may have uneven production and inconsistent story editing. On the other hand, Wide Awake was unfamiliar. Chickamauga! High Tide In the West has the best reenactment footage, storyline, narrative style CWL has seen in a long time.
Positive Factors: 1.)No intrusive talking heads. The single narrator is a voice over. 2.) A smoothly written, clearly and concisely written script. 3) The essential maps are sharp and not simplistically crafted. 4.) The film footage is not repetitious and 12 guys in uniform are not passed off as a brigade. 5.) Whatever reenactment was captured on film . . . well . . . wish I had participated in it. It was huge and loud 6.) The combat sound was crisp and not intrusive on the narrative.
The film editing was well done and had variety to it. Live action and slow motion, black/white and color, steady cams and hand held cameras, still photography and archival photos. "The best Civil War footage gathered thus far," Ed Bearss, highly respected chief historian emeritus for the National Park Service on the film's case. Don Troiani, noted Civil War artist [CWL as several of his prints] and avid collector of authentic Civil War artifacts and uniforms, said the the film has a "standard in historical accuracy rarely met by film documentaries" and is very realistic. CWL agrees with both.
The film offers a brief review of the generals and the armies involved in the Chickamauga campaign and its place in 1863, a year of battles east and west.
Chickamauga is a battle by brigades and in Peter Cozzen's book on the battle, CWL counted 15 brigades mentioned in one long paragraph. The script writers understood this element. Neither a compendium of the battle or a eighth grade level discussion of the battle, Chickamauga! deftly presents the complexity of the battle without getting lost in its details. Primary sources and the soldiers' words are used to summarize movements and characterize battle action.
Overall, the film was well received in the discussion group and CWL gives Chickamauga! high marks and feels comfortable adding a few more Wide Awake films on the personal bookshelf.