Bringing history to life, recording for posterity
April 26, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - Two Department of the Army civilians recently took part in a fierce battle, but fortunately, they already knew the outcome - the North would again reign victorious.
Just days before the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, Mark Hubbs and Stephen Hutson, both U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command employees, participated in a documentary filming of the Battle at Shiloh, which occurred April 6-7, 1862.
"The current film shown at the Visitor's Center was recorded in 1959, and has despite being a horrendous film made with incorrect uniforms and weapons, it has become somewhat of a cult classic. A new film was long overdue," said Hubbs, an environmental protection specialist and archeologist with the USASMDC/ARSTRAT. "The new film, which will be about 30 minutes long, is set to debut next year on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh."
Filming took place at the Shiloh National Military Park near Savannah, Tenn., March 24-27 and April 7-10.
"We started at dawn and ended at dusk," Hubbs said. "They squeezed out every moment of daylight available. The first weekend we filmed it rained the whole time and it was in the 30s."
Of the nearly 200 reenactors, many already knew each other, according to Hutson, a general engineer for USASMDC/ARSTRAT.
"(Keith) Willingham coordinated all the participation to try to get the best, most authentic folks for the film," Hutson said. "He knew most all of the reenactors from our network of friends and through years of reenacting together."
Hubbs, who also acted as the historical weapons coordinator, said each reenactor had both Confederate and Union soldier uniforms and equipment. This reduced the number of reenactors required on the set. However, tailored museum-quality reproduction uniforms were produced for the actors who portrayed Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard.
According to Hutson, the camaraderie among reenactors even led to equipment being shared.
"We traveled around the park with all of our gear. Some days we'd have gear changed five-six times," he said. "We even shuffled around gear amongst ourselves to help change up the view and not get too much face time."
Both men are veteran reenactors, but Hubbs started first in 1972 at the age of 15.
"I've gotten away from reenactments and have been doing more educational or historical interpretation events," he said. "The past 10 years or so, I've moved away from the Civil War and focused more on the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. But I came out of retirement for this project."
While Hobbs was drifting away from Civil War reenactments, Hutson was starting to get involved, but he said he does not reenact as often as he used to. Even still, he participates almost annually in one event or another. He participates in living histories at both Shiloh and Lookout Mountain, Tenn., and he participated in the reenactment at the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Penn.
"At the peak of my career, I attended 13 events one year while in college," Hutson said. "That was before having my own family and back when free time was more abundant."
The two men have known each other for years and worked on several other projects together, including the command's Army birthday celebration two years ago.
"Mark and I first met through reenacting, but I think this was the first time he and I stood in a battle line together," Hutson said.
This reenactment was a unique experience, according to Hubbs.
"I worked (at Shiloh) as a summer hire during college in 1977, and I had ancestors who fought there, so the place has always been meaningful to me. It was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see how the movie company operated," he said. "But for an older person like me, it was sometimes hard to keep up with some of the younger guys."
Hutson said he enjoyed the connections.
"It's been several years since I attended an event, and I enjoyed socializing with good friends," he said. "But the experience left me feeling insufficient. Regardless of how banged up my knees got or tired I was, I couldn't help but believe that what I felt and what I looked like was a far cry from the men who actually fought and died there."
There was a total of 23,746 casualties (killed, wounded, captured or missing) during the Battle of Shiloh - 13,047 Union soldiers and 10,699 Confederate soldiers.