22 January 2015

Getting Panty Bunched Over Point Of Honor

*Update: Point of Honor goes from being the worst thing since the Bubonic Plague to a rather giddy "buries the Lost Cause for good." Wow, quite a transformation. See what happens when you actually investigate something before condemning it? Quite amazing that a one hour Amazon streaming TV show (that no one watched) can do to the Lost Cause perspective what academic historians have been unable to accomplish for 50 years - bury it. Doesn't say much for academic historians, now does it? Sounds more like wishful thinking to me.

[End of update.]

Oh my, this is so predictable. The folks at Civil War Memory are all aghast over a new WBTS movie plot - again. (See here and here.) Though the movie (actually it's an Amazon drama pilot) hasn't even been released, they're all against it because the story line involves a West Pointer who frees his slaves and then fights for the Confederacy. Can't have that - doesn't fit the template, you know, "it was all about slavery, etc, etc, etc." Of course, they're arguing it's not historically accurate, yet CWM host Kevin Levin admits:

While Levin's honesty is refreshing, I'm curious as to why one would admit such ignorance and then go on to condemn a movie involving the topic one is ignorant about. Civil War Memory is a strange place indeed. 

Like Levin, I'm also not aware of any West Point cadets who renounced slavery and then supported the Confederacy. Although I recall (vaguely) some examples of Southerners freeing and/or denouncing slavery and supporting the Confederacy. There is some evidence that Stonewall Jackson expressed opposition to slavery prior to the war and prior to his enrollment at West Point. Those familiar with James Robertson's biography of Jackson are aware that Robertson believed that Jackson likely opposed slavery, even though he fought for the Confederacy:
Jackson neither apologized for nor spoke in favor of the practice of slavery. He probably opposed the institution. Yet in his mind the Creator had sanctioned slavery, and man had no moral right to challenge its existence.
Historian and fellow blogger Robert Moore has told me that he had a great x 3 grandfather who freed his slaves before the war and yet his son served in the Stonewall Brigade. This son was not a conscript and served as a company commander. Point is, opposing slavery and supporting the Confederacy was not, as many of us are aware, unheard of - something Levin and many of his followers seem to struggle with. There were a number of reasons, besides slavery, that some Southerners took up arms against the Union - having your sons beheaded by Union soldiers, for example. Thus the movie's storyline is not all that unrealistic - even though it may not be specifically historically factual. But let's not forget, it's just a film.

You can watch the trailer below. It looks interesting to me. It may be horrible. It may be so-so. It may be great. But I haven't seen it yet. So I'll withhold judgement until I actually view it - something I'd recommend for others as well. And try to remember, it's just a film.

And while thinking about the reaction to this movie, one should compare it to the reaction to another recent Civil War movie - just for giggles.

And an update: Here's an excerpt from an entertainment website that doesn't like the film either but, ironcially, for a different type of inaccuracy:
Point of Honor clearly wants to commit to the real drama of the American Civil War, but it lacks the budget and the attention to detail necessary. Sure, I’m being a fussy snob in calling out their historically inaccurate musical choice, but they also make the mistake of having two characters blatantly discuss how the Civil War was all about slavery. It wasn’t. It was in part about slavery, but slavery was a moral concern for abolitionists. The American Civil War was about how centralized government should be and it’s a dispute that still rages on Capitol Hill. [Emphasis mine.]
Oh my, I can almost hear the sound of panties bunching already.


Eddie said...

Powell Hill seems to have been another West Pointer with no interest in slavery. He had no slaves to free because he, nor his family, owned any.

From James Robertson's biography of Hill --

On February 26, he submitted his resignation. He had examined his alternatives. Defense of slavery and secession held no attraction. However family ties, Virginia traditions, disenchantment with the federal government, and allegiance to the land of his forefathers were all deeply instilled in Powell Hill. There was no real choice to make: he must cast his lot, for good or ill, with the Old Dominion and the new Confederate States of America.

Anonymous said...

Kevin posted this:
"At one point a mob of poor whites, led by the mayor of Lynchburg demands to know if it is true that the Rhodes slaves have been freed." This scenario is inconsistent with Code of VA 1849. Slaves were emancipated in open court, registered in court, and carried free papers.

Code of VA, Title 30.

Chapter 104. Sect. 9: Any person may emancipate... slaves by... deed, recorded in the court... Sect. 12: If any person emancipate... without making adequate provision for his support... the overseers of the poor shall... charge such person...

Chapter 107: Sect. 1: No negro, emancipated... shall... remain in this state more than one year without lawful permission... Sect. 2: Any negro may be permitted... to remain in this state... proof of his being of good character, sober, peaceable, orderly and industrious... Sect. 3: The court... may... revoke... Sect. 5: Every commissioner of revenue... shall return... a complete list of free negroes in his district... fix up a copy at the courthouse door... Sect. 6: Every free negro shall, every five years, be registered and numbered... specify... any apparent mark or scar on his face, head or hands... Sect. 7: The clerk shall deliver to the free negro... copy of his register, with the seal... Sect. 10: Any free negro... not having... copy... may be committed to jail...Sect. 18: Free negroes desiring to remove into any county... shall... be registered...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Kevin - I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here. Films like this often take artistic license for obvious reasons. I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing, but it's not at all uncommon. I've not watched (and probably won't)the film - does it make claims of historical accuracy?

ropelight said...

Maybe Levin would like a movie about Union Generals who freed their own slaves 2 years after Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Levin might take special interest in just how that hypocrisy is remembered (or ignored) by revisionist historians these days.

Maybe someday Hollywood will make a movie about US Grant's November 1862 General Order #11 giving Jews only 24 hours to clear out of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi - lock, stock, and barrel.

Grant's famous order ostensibly banned long distance train travel but curiously focused on “the Israelites especially,” because they were “such an intolerable nuisance”. Grant's order specified “no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad”.

General Sherman, a war criminal and a vicious anti-Semite, encouraged Grant's order warning that “the country will swarm with dishonest Jews” if a travel ban was not vigorously enforced.

Maybe Hollywood might consider making a modern day movie hero out of Union Army Captain Philip Trounstine, a Jewish cavalry officer, who resigned his commission rather than carry out Grant's odious orders. Trounstine claimed that being compelled to enforce such an order violated his conscience.

He also complained about anti-Jewish taunts and the open expression of hatred for Jews endemic in the Union Army (and in Northern newspapers of the day).

In full support of, and by way of extending Grant's order, corrupt Massachusetts politician and Major General Benjamin (Beast) Butler announced he would “suck the blood of every Jew, and …will detain every Jew as long as he can” when he took charge of Union-occupied areas of Louisiana following the fall of New Orleans.

Since accurate patriotic movies always make money, and anti-American movies invariably lose money, Hollywood might consider the financial upside of exposing Union Army duplicity. It just might turn out to be as profitable as it would be eye opening.