Civil War Cinema

From Birth of a Nation through Gone With the Wind to Glory and Lincoln, film has played a powerful role in shaping how Americans understand the American Civil War (and, in several instances, Reconstruction). Of course, every time a film appears, the critics are sure to follow, with scholars asked to pick apart a film in terms of historical accuracy, followed by complaints that those scholars are jealous, etc.

Some of these issues appear in this discussion sparked by a new film, Field of Lost Shoes. I freely admit that I’ve not seen the movie: indeed, in many cases I avoid seeing certain movies when they are released, because I find the ensuing discussion as predictable as it is discouraging.

“Did you see The Moon Also Rises?”

“Wasn’t that wonderful history?”

“What did you think about it … as a historian, I mean?”

“Well, I still liked it.”

Later … “He’s so picky. Maybe he’s jealous. So what if it wasn’t accurate? I liked it.”

So I won’t say anything about Tom Skerritt’s portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant, even if someone got the buttons on his uniform jacket wrong.

Perhaps this is what happens when you look for a maverick, only to find Franz Sigel.

At least Sigel’s buttons are correct.

Do you have a favorite Civil War movie? Or a least favorite Civil War movie? Details, please …

Can You Handle the Truth?

Simple question: Is Colonel Jessup right?

And then a not-so-simple question? Why?


October 9, 1864: William T. Sherman Makes a Promise

Allatoona 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9th 1864
Lt. Gen. Grant
City Point

It will be a physical impossibility to protect this road now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler and the whole batch of Devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think Hoods movements indicate a direction to the end of the Selma and Talladega road to Blue Mountain about sixty miles south west of Rome from which he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport and Decatur and I propose we break up the road from Chattanooga and strike out with wagons for Milledgeville Millen and Savannah.

Until we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it, but utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads we will lose a thousand men monthly and will gain no result. I can make the march and make Georgia howl. We have over 8,000 cattle and 3,000,000 pounds of bread but no corn, but we can forage the interior of the state.

W.T. Sherman

M. Genl.

A Note on Duck Dynasty

Remember those folks who stood tall and proud for “Duck Dynasty” … even in the face of this report … at least until they found out that the central character didn’t care for the Confederate flag?

A certain quacker quacked: “We need to keep the ability to differentiate between a Phil Robertson and a Brooks Simpson.”

This has just become more difficult in light of this revelation. More like Duck Head than Duck Dynasty (and I owned my share of Duck Head khakis in the 1980s when I lived in South Carolina … I see they’ve become more expensive).

Oh, my.

A Mixed Message? Or a Muddled One?

10687166_984356634924184_7682380790675437760_nYou tell me.

Seems to me that in this case the confusion’s by design as a way to “spark discussion.” That means people are free to make of it what they will … just as they will make what they will of other displays of the Confederate Battle Flag along highways.

Sometimes if you want to send a message you first have to figure out how to communicate your intent. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if other people can’t figure out what you want to say … or offer different meanings.

About Last Night

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI agree that Derek Jeter’s “farewell tour” has been overhyped (although I enjoyed seeing it in Texas, just like I enjoyed Mariano Rivera’s “farewell tour” last year). This was largely due to the overcommercialization of it (last night they were already collecting dirt from the Yankee Stadium infield at short … remember the shift, guys … get that dirt, too) and the excessive analysis, some of which explains the unwarranted extreme backlash comments of Keith Olbermann and others (of course, Olbermann was getting over his Goodell rants, so maybe he forgot to change gears). Moreover, one would be clueless to think that Jeter himself was not aware of this and even contributed to it (exhibit A: the ads). And yes, other guys are departing the game with less fanfare, although they were classy and memorable in their own way.

All of this is true.

And yet you can’t take away last night. Indeed, last night, complete with the crowd chants, Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s decision to pitch to Jeter, and Jeter’s own memorable (if, indeed, flawed) game performance suggests that had people just let things play out, we’d still be left with a moment many of us will recall fondly, with a smile and a tear. Certainly Jeter was moved, and it was good to see that. He had also delivered in the moment, and it was good to see that.

For me … the last time I remember a walkoff hit like that in a meaningless regular season game made memorable by circumstances?  August 6, 1979. That was another game against an Orioles team headed for the postseason, where an Orioles pitcher decided to pitch to a Yankees hitter wearing #2, with a result that brought a similar explosion of cheers, tears and yells. Jeter himself said last night that this year has been like a funeral. Back in 1979 the team had just attended one for another captain whose number is now to be found at Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

Some things are intangible. This is especially the case with Mr. Intangibles. No, he’s not one of the top five Yankees, although I think he’s easily in the top ten (the top five are 3, 4, 7, 5, and 8 from St. Louis). So, for that matter, is Rivera. And one can cite all sorts of numbers pro and con. But something about Derek Jeter transcended all that, much like something about Joe DiMaggio made him so much more than the sum of his parts. In Jeter’s case I’ve always thought it was a combination of his effort, his intelligence, his style, and his humanity (I’d argue that Jeter’s greatest skill was his ability to be calm in clutch situations, and last night he admitted that didn’t come easily). His postseason body of work is what counts for most of us, and five rings ain’t bad in today’s game. He always worked hard and tried to do his best. Who can ask for more?

We don’t need the hype. The reality last night was amazing enough. To borrow from someone else, I could not believe what I just saw … and yet, as Yankees announcer Michael Kay put it, fantasy became reality. What we could not have anticipated we nevertheless expected. It is at the heart of our joy of sports, and it will last as long as memory endures. Enjoy.

One Pitcher, Two Home Runs

Murcer HRDennis Martinez had a remarkable major league career. Making his first appearance as a Baltimore Oriole in 1976, he also pitched for the Montreal Expos, the Cleveland Indians, the Seattle Mariners, and the Atlanta Braves, where he ended his career in 1998. But it was not until recently that I put 2 and 2 together, because Martinez served up two rather big home run pitches to two Yankees who both wore #2.

On August 6, 1979, Martinez started against the defending World Champion New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. It was clear that 1979 would be the Orioles’ year, and they had won the first three games of the series against the Yankees. That may be in part because the minds of the Yankees, and certainly their hearts and souls, were elsewhere. For it was on August 2 that Thurman Munson died in a plane crash at Canton, Ohio. Four days later the Yankees returned from Munson’s funeral to confront Martinez and the O’s.

The Orioles took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, when both Bucky Dent and Willie Randolph reached base with two out. Martinez then faced #2, Bobby Murcer, who was commencing his second stint with the Yankees. having returned to the team as the result of a trade with the Chicago Cubs that June. Murcer had struggled in his return in pinstripes: earlier that day he had delivered one of the eulogies at Munson’s funeral. That evening he was hitless in three at bats. To see what happened next, go to the 1:50 mark of the video below for the entire at bat, or 1:51 for the pitch and swing in question:

Murcer would cap the comeback performance by driving in Dent and Randolph in the ninth inning with an opposite-field single against Tippy Martinez.

Fast forward to Opening Day, 1996. With the Indians as defending American League champs, Martinez took the mound to face the Yankees. At shortstop for the Yankees (Murcer’s original position, by the way) was a young man named Derek Jeter, wearing #2. Here’s what happened when Martinez faced Jeter that afternoon.

Jeter 1 HR

That was the rookie’s first major league home run. Holy Cow indeed. I miss Phil Rizzuto.

Two home runs, each by #2, their first home run for the Yankees that season … all courtesy of El Presidente. Not that Martinez had a bad career. Nicaragua’s first major leaguer, he won 100 games in each league and pitched a perfect game while with Montreal in 1991. But for Yankee fans, these are his most memorable moments.