I’ve known Allen Guelzo for seven years since I first pressed him into service as one of my on-camera historians in “Lincoln and Lee at Antietam” in 2005. Back then he was underexposed as far as television appearances went.
In the intervening years, he has certainly made up for lost time, even landing on The Daily Show opposite Jon Stewart trading jokes. He is a very funny man and more than held his own on Comedy Central.
He has become the go-to historian on television for Lincoln and the Civil War for mainly two reasons: First, he delivers. I have never worked with a more eloquent historian or richer storyteller in my career. His on-camera responses to even the most mundane interview questions flow forth like filmmaking butter. He never stumbles, there is rarely a pause except for effect, and he never fills the blank spaces between words with those annoying “ahhhs” which can be the bane of an editor’s existence. Each word is carefully selected and delivered with such subtle intonation that a filmmaker can almost hear the accompanying music bed in the final program under Allen’s interview while he is delivering it.
The second reason, I believe, Allen has risen to prominence, aside from his vast academic accomplishments, is the fact he is a complete joy to be around and work with. His humor epitomizes the definition of “wry.” It sneaks up on you, and before you know it, you’re in stitches. And he always makes you feel like you’re in on the joke as a fellow lover of history.
Allen is quite busy these days. I was able to capture an on-camera interview with him in April for the Gettysburg Battlecast and an eventual film on the 150th Gettysburg. At the time his book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, was only weeks away from publication. It was his first big mass-market hardcover history book with a huge publisher, Random House.
I asked him at the time if he was having trouble containing his excitement and how he felt about it. He responded soberly that he could express his emotional state in a single word: “apprehension.” He knew this was a very bold book. Fellow academics would scrutinize it very closely, and armchair historians would show no mercy in reviews on Amazon if it did not live up to lofty expectations.
Well, his fears–and I knew this at the time–were unfounded. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion has been universally hailed as perhaps the best book on the battle that has been penned in the last twenty years. Amazon made it their selection of the month for June and whispers of “Pulitzer” are everywhere. Allen would perhaps discount such talk as he is a modest man but the book is a true contender.
I hope you’ll have a chance to check out Allen Guelzo on the Gettysburg Battlecast. And below is just one video sample pulled from several clips of him on the site. Enjoy.