Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten

by Fred Ray on April 5, 2008 · 1 comment

UNC Press has posted an interview with Gary Gallagher, author of many books on the Late Unpleasantness, about his latest work, Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War. In it he identifies four “narratives” of the Civil War, namely the Lost Cause, the Union Cause, the Emancipation Cause, and the Reconciliation Cause. Each differs radically in its choices of heroes, villains, and story line.

What’s his take on the best CW film? “I think Glory (1989) is the best Civil War film – well acted, faithful to the big historical questions relating to the 54th Massachusetts and black soldiers in the war, and quite moving at many points.”

Hmm, well, would agree on most of that, but the the 54th Mass. was formed mostly of free Blacks in the Boston area, not escaped slaves as portrayed in the movie, which is a whole ‘nother “question.” But hey, it made a good story, and wasn’t Denzel handsome in that uniform? Another minor gripe was seeing them cut up those melons in cavalry practice, in mid-winter no less. Now where did they get those melons in New England? Safeway?

Gallagher also mentions something I’ve noted myself — the post-Vietnam tendency for Hollywood to portray American soldiers as crazed killers and rapists, while showing them at the same time to be victims of outside circumstances that they can neither understand nor control. The recent spate of anti-war, anti-soldier movies (Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, etc.) simply follows the trend.

Brett said he bought the book, so perhaps he’ll favor us with a review.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brett Schulte April 5, 2008 at 11:32 pm


Film studies are a kind of secondary interest of mine, so this one is pretty high on my “to read” list. I’ll definitely get a review up once I’ve read the book.



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