"Von Steuben's Continentals: The First American Army"
A 60-minute, live-action documentary DVD on the life, uniforms and drill of the Continental Soldier 1775-1781... The first release in a planned 35 DVD series on American Military History.
This DVD is a full-color, live-action, authentic record of the American Soldier of this period. Think of this film as an "Osprey MEN-AT-ARMS" book brought to vivid life on DVD.
This film studies the evolution of the American "rabble" from defeats on Long Island in 1776 to triumph with the bayonet at Stony Point, New York three years later. The film analyses the uniforms, drill, camp life, food, weapons, equipment, etc. of the soldiers.
This hour long documentary begins in the Hudson Highlands of New York in 1779. The narrator, John Pagano of the 2nd Virginia Regiment and the Corps of Sappers and Miners, explains to viewers that the army of 1779 is much different from the one that first formed in 1775-76. A flashback sequence then takes the audience to August 1776 and the Battle of Long Island. Viewers are placed amongst a party of Americans along the Gowanus Heights as they desperately try to hold their position against the advancing British. The scene is nicely done with a good deal of superb special effects that give a, Band of Brothers feel to the footage. The re-enactors in the scene do a good job of acting and convey a sense of real panic when they break and run to the rear. Following the American rout at Long Island, the DVD returns to 1779 and the American camp in the Highlands of New York. Viewers observe a number of camp activities while the narrator summaries the events of 1777-78. At this point in the film the producers concentrate their focus on the details of Baron Von Steuben s drill. Re-enactors, especially new folks, will find this segment of the film useful as a training manual for Baron Von Steuben s drill. The narrator reads from Steuben s drill manual as footage of the drill is shown. Lessons on loading, firing, and the manual or arms are all demonstrated. Following the drill segment, the film provides a variety of camp life scenes that I think are very interesting and informative. Viewers get an excellent overview of the life of a soldier in camp, from squeezing into a tent with four other men, to digging and using sinks (latrines). We see what the men ate and how they prepared it, what they wore and how they took care of it, what duties they performed and punishments they suffered, and what they did to relax. Viewers also learn about the role of camp followers in the army. The film concludes with a scene of the storming of Stony Point. Like the Long Island battle scene, this one is very nicely done with quality special effects and drives home the point that the American soldier of 1779 was much different (better) than the soldier of 1776. Viewers will come away from the DVD with a better understanding and appreciation of the life of a continental soldier and the role that Baron Von Stueben s drill played in transforming the troops from rabble to soldiers. --Michael Cecere