My Civil War Memory class has finally finished watching Shenandoah and students are now working on comparative reviews that incorporate their understanding of Gone With the Wind. Shenandoah represents a sharp transition in popular memory of the war in the roughly twenty-five years since the premier of GWTW. I want to wrap up this series of posts [see here and here] with just a few more thoughts that connect to the movie’s conscious attempt to steer clear of as much regional controversy as possible. Apart from the battle scenes there is nothing that might alienate any one demographic. As I noted in the first post, the movie ignores the issue of slavery apart from an early scene where Charlie Anderson declares it to be immoral. The slave boy who befriends the youngest Anderson boy is freed by a black Union soldier, but he is encouraged to embrace his freedom by one of the Anderson daughters. Toward the end of the movie a black woman, who is never identified as a slave, cares for Charlie Anderson’s granddaughter.
Most interesting, however, is that the only threats and violence that visit the Anderson family come from fellow white Southerners. The Union army may have mistakenly taken the young boy prisoner, but there is a very understanding colonel who offers to help Anderson in his quest to find his son. Agents of the Confederate government in Richmond attempt to confiscate the family’s animals while a Confederate colonel pushes Charlie Anderson to acknowledge his responsibility in the war by giving up his children to the army. Late in the movie the eldest Anderson boy is accidentally shot by a 16-yr. old Confederate soldier.
But the most shocking scene is the murder of son Jacob and wife Ann who stayed on the family farm while the rest looked for the youngest Anderson boy. The scene takes the audience by surprise and while Jacob’s brutal murder is captured by the camera, the death of his wife is left to the imagination. Once the party returns to the home they are greeted by the doctor, who informs them of the murders. Interestingly, the doctor refers to these men as “scavengers” even though they are clearly Confederate deserters. Without intending to this scene, along with much of the rest of the movie challenges the Lost Cause assumption of a united Confederate populace. It also touches on an aspect of the Civil War that we rarely discuss and that is the violence that was perpetrated between white Virginians, especially in the Shenandoah Valley, which was used by large numbers of Confederate soldiers who had deserted from the army. It would be interesting to know whether moviegoers, especially in the Southern states, understood these men to be Confederate soldiers.
I know that my students thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I have to say that it has moved up in my list of favorite Civil War movies.
I am not a big fan of historical impersonators. More often than not their interpretations reflect a consensus view that simply reinforces deeply held beliefs. The goal seems to be more entertainment than education. Such is the case with Tom Dugan, who pulls off a pretty good Lost Cause-inspired interpretation of Lee. Here is Lee the beleaguered slavemaster who wants nothing more than to see slavery end. Even a cursory perusal of Lee’s letters or the recent biography by Elizabeth Brown Pryor reveals a very different attitude regarding slavery and race. A bit more disturbing is the Lee who never quite gets over the “high watermark of the rebellion” – even before it had become the high watermark. Funny, that I am here reminded of Michael Fellman’s overly-psychological interpretation of Lee. I would love to bring Dugan in to perform for my Civil War Memory class. It would make for a wonderful discussion.
My subscription to this magazine couldn’t run out soon enough. You can imagine my surprise when I read this in Keith Poulter’s “Editorial” column: “We switched printers with the last issue and failed to make clear that the magazines should continue to be mailed to subscribers in polybags. As a result they were not bagged and a number (about a dozen) were damaged in the mail, necessitating their being replaced. As subscribers will already have noticed, this issue was bagged and this will be the case with all future issues.” I can report and as you can see, THIS ISSUE WAS NOT BAGGED!
When it comes to Gen. Benjamin Butler there is no shortage of controversy. Butler is arguably best known for his infamous General Order No. 28 of May 15, 1862, which stated that if any woman should insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and shall be held liable to be treated as a “woman of the town plying her avocation”, i.e., a prostitute.
Most of us are familiar with Butler’s treatment of the ladies of New Orleans, but how about his handling of foreign nationals? Can someone tell me why, in the summer of 1862, Gen. Butler ordered the residents of New Orleans to register, indicating to which country they held allegiance?
There is no prize other than the pride that comes with a correct answer to an obscure question.
I know I posted this video once before, but it is so damn funny that I thought it was worth sharing again. Maurice Bessinger is quite a character. Consider Mr. Bessinger’s “21st Century Declaration of Independence Renewal”:
Our sacred constitutional republic has been badly wounded and eroded in our lifetime through illegal executive orders from Presidents, Abraham Lincoln thru Bill Clinton, unconstitutional laws passed by Congress and radical left-wing re-interpretations by the Supreme Court. If we are to save our constitutional republic that our ancestors gave their lives, spilled their blood, and gave their fortunes then this generation must implement a simple plan of individual states initiative to begin the return of our sacred constitution given to us by God Almighty.
We can do this by beginning to restore state sovereignty. As a first step, we can demand that our state governments and legislatures place their state flag first place on the top of the State Capitol dome and on all state property, including schools. When this is accomplished, it will tell everyone, especially our children, that each state is a sovereign entity in this republic and from this moment on, we will get back to constitutional government. This will stop these left-wing one-worlders who realized over 50 years ago that in order to accomplish their goals, they must destroy, re-interpret or ignore our sacred constitution to carry out their plan of destroying our constitutional republic. Let’s get those state flags back to first place on all state property. That step alone will be a giant step in taking back our constitutional republic. Our Sacred Constitution was given to us by God and He expects us to have the courage to keep it.
Long live the constitutional republic.
Well, that seems to take care of the argument that the Confederate flag is not a political symbol. Enjoy as I head outside to do some serious snow shoveling.