Entry 24: Sympathy for the Rebel

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The Proud Rebel. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Written by Joseph Petracca and Lillie Hayward. Based on the short story, “Journal of Linnett Moore,” by James Edward Grant.

Release Date: November 2, 1958.

It might seem odd in a post-Glory world, but 20th Century pop culture often portrayed Confederate soldiers and veterans as beleaguered victims. Screenwriters defined these characters—usually protagonists—by their commitment to the Confederate service until the bitter end, making loyalty and toughness their primary traits. Think of Josey Wales, Johnny Yuma, or the narrator in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The Proud Rebel takes this concept to an extreme by placing the beleaguered Rebel in the North and creates tension from the harsh way northerners treat him. This generates some predictable historical problems, made worse because the film largely loses interest in the concept as it goes along and eventually devolves into a fairly standard Western. Read More

Entry 7: Hurrah! Hurrah! We Bring the Jubilee!

“Marching through Georgia.” Music and Lyrics by Henry Clay Work.

Release Date: January 9, 1865.

Available: Audio by Old Crow Medicine Show and as sheet music.

I’m delighted to announce that my final New York Times Disunion piece is up. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it discusses Henry Clay Work’s most popular song, “Marching through Georgia.” You can read it here. Thanks again to Clay Risen for including me in this awesome endeavor.

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On Women in Civil War Pop Culture

Before shifting away from historical fiction for a few weeks, I want to make a few observations about women in Civil War pop culture. After reviewing Point of Honor and Cold Mountain (heck, even after The Beverly Hillbillies), it occurred to me that stories about the Civil War much more prominently feature female characters than fiction about other American wars. Sure, the Civil War has more than its share of guys-only stories (I don’t think there’s a single woman in Gettysburg, for instance) but it seems to me women are central to the way the Civil War is popularly represented and perceived. Indeed, the most popular and significant fictional treatment of the war, Gone With the Wind, has a strong female protagonist. Read More

Entry 3: Scarlett Gets a Makeover

Cold Mountain Movie Poster

Cold Mountain. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella. Based on the novel by Charles Frazier.

Release Date: December 25, 2003.

In his book on the Civil War in popular culture, Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten, Gary Gallagher argues that Cold Mountain is, in part, a revision of Gone with the Wind‘s take on Confederate women. I decided to focus on this as I re-watched the film for the first time since it came out in 2003. It didn’t take long for me to realize this is, in fact, the only way to watch Cold Mountain. This movie is all about the ladies. Read More