Monday, October 10, 2011
TONIGHT: The War of 1812
Nothing says Canadian Thanksgiving like a documentary on a 200 year old war.
I learned a lot about the War of 1812 interviewing Lawrence Hotz. He's the producer/director behind tonight's unique Can-Am co-production The War of 1812 (Buffalo PBS affiliate WNED 9 p.m.; check other PBS affiliates in your area).
For one thing, the expression "the fog of war" comes from that conflict. The British and American artillery's would line up and fire their muskets in unison (the better to actually hit somebody). The thick white smoke that billowed up as a result was referred to as the fog of war.
The other was that it was a war of relatively few casualties. Muskets had worse aim than Tiger Woods the last two years on a putting green.
Hotz calculates that during the two-and-a-half-year conflict there were between 12,000 and 20,000 casualties, "eighty percent of them from disease and infection," he says. Dysentery and starvation were killers. Military medicine left something to be desired.
Getting hit in the arm or the leg could cost you and arm and a leg. "They didn’t know anything about germs, they just knew you had to sew it up quickly," says Hotz. They would operate very quickly, take an arm off in a minute, putting flap of skin over and sewing it. It you survived the operation had a good chance of surviving. Any stomach wounds you were dead. They had no idea what to do."
So, like, enjoy your turkey dinners.
The documentary was shot on actual battlefield locations on both sides of the border. Hotz says a lot of "re-creators" were used in the battle scenes, dudes who regularly show up on annual occasions in their own home made military uniforms and play Battle of Crysler Farm or whatever. One of these guys' girlfriends was conscripted into playing American heroine Dolly Madison. Which shocked the hell out of me--these guys have girlfriends??
For more on The War of 1812, including who really lost (it's not who you think), follow this link to a story I wrote about the documentary for The Canadian Press.