The Battle of
THE CRATER
at Petersburg

An episode of CIVIL WAR COMBAT produced by
Greystone Communications for The History Channel

Written, Produced and Directed
by Darryl Rehr

(Lots of pictures to follow, those with slow dialup connections please be patient)

 

Our shoot for this show took place at Jack Rabbit Trail near Beaumont, CA, December 5-9, 2001. The desert-look location was as close as we could get to the "moonscape" which surrounded the trench lines outside Petersburg, VA near the end of the Civil War. For the cast and crew, high winds and blowing sand gave us a taste of what it must be like in Afghanistan. Fortunately, our Civil War reenactors were not firing real bullets!

Above, our shooting setup for the aftermath of the battle. Our "Crater" was sculpted from an embankment of sand already existing at the location.


 

 

Below is a "before" shot of our Crater. I've darkened the surrounding terrain to highlight the set. The real Crater was the result of the underground explosion of 4 tons of black powder. Kapow!

 


 

 

Director Darryl Rehr (left - yours truly) and Director of Photography Paul Desatoff. First day of the shoot, before the elements beat us down to the level of invertebrates.

 


 

 

"Elliott's Salient" - the Confederate artillery position under which the Union placed its explosive charge. Our setup was way up at the top of the valley, so that we could shoot without seeing the telltale mountain ridges. Making California look like Virginia is pretty tricky! 


 

 

....And, can we get ready to roll, please???


 

 

Before the Union troops could blow up Elliott's Salient, they had to dig a tunnel under it. Here's our setup: a trench dug into the earth (thanks to the backhoe skills of Prop Master Carl Clink). It was covered with black tarps to darken it.

 

...And here's the interior view. Getting set up for the shot.

 


 

 

"Tunnel Rats." Two reenactors at the Tunnel "entrance," which was built separately from the underground installation you've seen above. The guy on the left, by the way, only has four teeth!

 


 

 

 

Not even the best monitor hood works out in bright sun like this! So, I'm in and out of the black drape like Matthew Brady!


 

 

Tom Collins, running the B-camera had his problems, too. Here, he looks like the Unknown Cameraman. But he's really trying to keep the blowing sand out of his eyes... while still getting the shot.


 

 

KABLAM!... and here is the result. Elliott's Salient becomes "The Crater." No, they're not really dead men, but they play them on TV.


 

 

And what would CIVIL WAR COMBAT be without some nice hand to hand fighting?


 

...Or fake blood tenderly applied by the Makeup Department?


 

 

....or shooting and dying and killing and maiming and pain....


 

 

...But these guys all got up, and will be there for the next battle. Keep your eyes on History Channel listings.