How much do you know about the Civil War? Did it come about because of slavery, money, greed, states' rights, economic and social differences between the North and South, growth of the abolitionist movement, or all of the above? No matter what you think the reasons for it were, the war is a part of our history. There is an abundance of materials, both fiction and nonfiction, available at our libraries. Many movies have used this dramatic part of American history as its backdrop.
"Glory" is a stirring account of African-Americans in the Civil War: specifically the 54th regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. After the assault on Fort Wayne failed, the Union colonel was killed and members of the brigade scaled the parapet using brutal hand-to-hand combat. The Federals resorted to siege operations to reduce the fort. This was the fourth time in that war that African-American troops played a crucial combat role, proving to skeptics that they would fight bravely if given a chance. There is superb acting from an all-star cast. The film is historically accurate and rich in detail.
The movie "Gettysburg" is superb, based on one of the best novels ever written, "The Killer Angels," by Michael Shaara. This movie dramatically depicts the three most courageous days in American history as experienced by the leaders of the Confederate and Union armies. Well-staged battle scenes were filmed at Gettysburg. There is multifaceted character development and an outstanding performance by Jeff Daniels. Great music and an excellent screenplay make the movie a must see.
"Gone with the Wind" -- the title of which is often thought of a as a metaphor for the departure of a way of life that for some existed in the South prior to the Civil War -- is a well-loved classic love story that uses the Civil War as a backdrop. The story centers around a strong-willed Southern woman, Scarlett O'Hara. "Gone With the Wind" does a great job of depicting the South's point of view without moralizing. The movie takes a compelling look at the effects the war had on the Southern people. It is a story of the long tiring struggle for post-war survival -- strong, unforgettable characters abound.
"North and South" is a miniseries that does an excellent job of portraying one of the most important periods of our history. Two friends, one Northern and one Southern, struggle to maintain their friendships. The Mains are rural cotton planters who have a successful plantation, and the Hazards live in a small Northern mill town and live by manufacturing and industry. They reflect their differences that eventually led to the Civil War. Patrick Swayze leads an all-star cast with superb performances. Everyone should see it.
"The Red Badge of Courage," based on the classic novel by Stephen Crane, captures a young Union soldier's struggle with cowardliness. Audie Murphy, World War II's most decorated veteran, stars in the film. In the movie "Shenandoah," a successful planter in Virginia is unwilling to take sides in the Civil War but is forced to when the Union soldiers take his youngest son. The movie proceeds as his family travels to retrieve his son and discovers the horrors of the war along the way. Superb scenery and tremendous acting from Jimmy Stuart. (I still cry when I see the ending.)
Donald Sutherland plays General Beauregard in the fact-based tale "The Hunley," about the submarine and its crew. It is a story of great heroism, a portrayal of the uncommon and extraordinary temperament of the nine men who led the Hunley into history and died valiantly.
Many other DVDs are available at our libraries. Come by your local branch and browse our Civil War 150 displays and materials.
Mary Jo Berkes is the branch manager of Hilton Head Island library.