Revisit the Civil War: An Evening with Gen. A.P. Hill
The American Civil War created a long list of iconic military leaders with familiar names like Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and William T. Sherman.
Yet, there were many lesser-known generals whose successes, failures, and eccentricities contributed significantly to the final resolution of the conflict and still contribute to heated debates among present-day Civil War enthusiasts.
On Thursday, April 16, actor and historian Patrick Falci will portray one of these controversial military leaders, the Confederate Lt. Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill, at the next meeting of the Gen. Rufus Barringer Civil War Round Table in Southern Pines.
A.P. Hill commanded what was popularly know as "Hill's Light Division" under Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and, later, the Third Corps under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hill was a slightly built Virginian who was emotionally high-strung to the point of becoming physically ill before a battle. Some historians and health professionals have speculated that he suffered from a psychosomatic condition which at times hindered his judgment and effectiveness. But few doubt his fighting ability. On the eve of a battle, he would often wear a red wool hunting shirt, his "battle shirt," as a signal to his adoring troops that a fight with the Yankees was imminent.
With his full beard, resplendent general's uniform, and fierce demeanor, Falci is a near perfect embodiment of A.P. Hill. He was cast as Hill by director Ron Maxwell in the epic film, "Gettysburg," in 1993. He also served as Maxwell's historical adviser.
Speaking from his home in Roseland, N.Y., Falci talks about his interest in the War Between the States.
"I was a re-enactor with the 14th Tennessee Regiment at the Battle of New Market in 1989 when I met Ron," he says. "We hit it off well because of our similar interests and New York backgrounds.
He had read Michael Shaara's book, 'The Killer Angels,' and was working to put it on film. From then on I served as Ron's historical adviser, taking him to the Gettysburg battlefield and showing him around. I also began to campaign for the role of A.P. Hill by dropping hints all the time. After awhile, Ron got fed up. One day he went into a souvenir shop and came out with a bag and said, 'It is yours.' Inside was a portrait of Hill. I knew then that I had the part."
It was A. P. Hill's Third Corps that initiated the Battle of Gettysburg when Gen. Henry Heth, one of Hill's division commanders, entered Gettysburg July 1, 1863, presumably to find shoes for his footsore soldiers. The next three days of fighting changed the fortunes of the Confederacy as Gen. Robert E. Lee's army retreated back to Virginia, never again to threaten Union territory seriously.
Since the release of "Gettysburg," Falci has kept himself busy by traveling the country as an "actor and performing historian." He served as historical adviser for Ron Maxwell's production of "Gods and Generals" and Tom Berringer's production of "Rough Riders." He has worked with authors Jeff Shaara and John Jakes to ensure the historic accuracy of their books and has shared his expertise with numerous documentary filmmakers.
During his visit to the Gen. Rufus Barringer Civil War Round Table, Falci will deliver a presentation titled, "The Man in the Red Battle Shirt: The Life of General A.P. Hill."
"It is my way of giving back to Lee's forgotten general," says Falci. "He was always in the right place at the right time. He saved Lee at the Battle of Sharpsburg in September 1862, and Jackson at Cedar Mountain in August 1862. Lee thought so highly of him that he became godfather to one of Hill's daughters. By contrast, Hill's relationship to Stonewall Jackson at times was stormy. The uncompromising Jackson actually placed him under arrest after one of their spats. It is significant that both Jackson and Lee called out for A. P. Hill while they were on their deathbeds."
Each year on April 2, Patrick Falci holds a remembrance at the site of Hill's death at Petersburg, Va. On that day in 1865, Hill rose from his sickbed to rally his beleaguered Third Corps as Union troops finally broke through Confederate lines during the Siege of Petersburg.
He was shot and killed by a corporal from the 138th Pennsylvania Regiment. Ironically, Hill was not wearing his red battle shirt. Lee wept when he learned of Hill's death and said, "He is now at rest, and we who are left are the ones who suffer." A week later, Lee surrendered his army to Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.
The Southern Pines event, which begins at 7 p.m., is free and open to the public.
"Potential new members of the Round Table are welcome," says a spokesman.
For more information, call 692-4934.
More like this story