March / April 2014
A Nation at War
or as long as there have been assassinations, there have been conspiracy theorists. Few of them captured my interest until I read The Surrogate Assassin, by Christopher Leppek. This well -written book invites Sherlock Holmes to investigate the events behind the president’s death and form new and startling conclusions. Holmes is drawn into the case through an appeal of Edwin Booth, the elder brother of the infamous murderer of Abraham Lincoln. It is many years after the incident, but various historical figures are still alive, and Holmes is intrigued by the thought of unmasking the “true” murderer. Sherlock Holmes is known for his incredible skills of deduction and observation and his firm presence in Victorian England. Various novels over the years have tried, without success, to recapture the brilliance of the originals while inviting Holmes to solve subsequent crimes or engage physically with other well-known literary characters from the same
period, such as The Phantom of the Opera (two separate accounts, one of which has a charming ending), Count Dracula, and Jack the Ripper. But Leppek does what no writer before (or since) has done: he rewrites history through fiction,
in a believable enough way that the reader is temporarily fooled into wondering if his theories and alternate explanations are plausible or even real. His careful attention to detail of the murder
paint a vivid, realistic picture of possibilities outside established facts, and the cleverness with which he does it is nearly as intelligent as his “borrowed” leading man, Mr. Holmes. Yes, Watson is there too, an affable and good-natured observer and occasional participant, much as he is in the original stories, but as always, it is Holmes that carries the narrative. The style and flair of the pastiche is remarkable in its closeness to the tone of the original, its characters unchanged and still engaging, but its new premise set in an entirely fictitious yet surprisingly accurate world. The author weaves historical events and facts into the narrative in new ways, planting seeds of doubt in the reader’s mind; not only does he validate his alternate theories but Sherlock Holmes ceases to be merely a fictional character at the same time. By tying him into an actual historical event, he becomes “real.” One might call it an early foray into “speculative fiction,” if it weren’t for the absence of any
remarkable events other than the skill involved in crafting the case. But it does raise interesting ideas and questions about the impact fiction has on history. A reader unfamiliar with the true facts of the situation might accept these claims as the truth, and go on to share this misinformation with others, planting seeds of suspicion that lead to “conspiracy theories.” Fiction has a profound impact on society; it can be a force used for good or evil but it is never meaningless. Books have less impact than they did a hundred years ago, when they were the primary source of epic entertainment; when Mr. Holmes plunged to his death along with his nemesis, London went into a state of mourning and men wore black armbands to symbolize their sadness. Even though Holmes wasn’t “real,” he was to his readers to such an extent that he impacted society with his temporary “death.” Similarly, the modern-day Sherlock has impacted modern British society by becoming a fashion icon for young men. The common man on the street wouldn’t be able to separate the facts of the sinking of Titanic from the fictionalized account by James Cameron; most saw and believed, both the true facts and the fabricated fiction. The most
powerful medium today is film; through fiction, it has steadily chipped away at the truth of past eras, establishing modern morals and beliefs onto previous eras. This can either be in a form of romanticizing (excluding the brutal realities of a period) or in some cases, diminishing a past
Civil War Topics: Surrogate Assassin Louisa May Alcott Gone With the Wind Cold Mountain Women at War Gods & Generals Reverend Veasey
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Other Wars: The Last Samurai War of the Worlds Raoul Wallenberg
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era by concentrating on its evils or inserting fictional evils as realities to plant negative ideas about the period. If you choose to go by film’s perception of the Civil War, all slaves were brutally treated—and everyone owned them. The reality is far different. We must learn to see fiction for what it is—fiction, and never trust it to tell us the facts. ♥
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ouisa May Alcott is best known as the author of the American classic Little Women, and identified with her literary counterpart, Jo March. While the Alcott family and their life inspired the events of the book, history paints a different picture of her. She was raised by an idealistic father, Bronson Alcott, and practical mother, Abigail May, under the philosophy of Transcendentalism. The Alcotts were often in debt, starving and moving from place to place, yet their unorthodox beliefs encouraged them to continually sacrifice for others. It wasn’t uncommon for them to restrict their food rations and give what they had to spare to the less fortunate. The Transcendentalists supported the abolition of slavery before it was popular; Bronson welcomed an African American girl into his classroom and had to close his school for daring to cross the line. The Alcott family even had connections to the Underground Railroad.
sitting on the sidelines. She was not faint of heart. For years she struggled along with her family, striving for something more. At age fifteen she made a vow: “I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family. I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I
When the Civil War began, the Alcotts did their part. They rolled bandages, donated their time and meager funds. For Louisa, that was not enough. A woman of action, she was not satisfied with
won’t!” She had always had a knack for writing and had begun to make a small name for herself writing romantic and lured tales. Louisa had become her family’s breadwinner.
Dorothea Dix and her band of nurses broke barriers. Prior to the Civil War, it was unthinkable for a lady to attend to wounded and ailing men. Early on in the war, only married women were allowed to participate. By 1862, the Union was so desperate for volunteers that they accepted unmarried ladies. When Louisa heard, she volunteered and headed to Washington. Bronson felt as though he were “sending his only son to war.” It was the only way she could serve her country without donning a uniform and fighting. This was one of the many times she lamented being born a girl instead of a boy. While no stranger to hardship, Louisa’s eyes were open to the results of war. She supported the Union wholeheartedly and believed slavery was a great evil. However, now she realized that there was no glory in the suffering of men who shed their blood. Men of all ages and backgrounds were in desperate need of care. They had come straight from the battlefield, mangled, ill and many dying. The ones that survived needed their broken bodies and spirits healed. Louisa washed them, gave them medication, assisted in surgeries and amputations, read to them
and wrote letters home to their families. She connected with one Union soldier; a Virginian blacksmith named John. She was drawn to his strength and quiet grace. As he slipped away, she remained by his side, holding his hand. Removing her hand, the white marks of his fingers were still impressed into her skin. He also left a lasting impression on her heart. While she worked there, she sent letters home detailing her experiences. Her parents saved them. Due to the foulness of the camps and trenches, the soldiers were stricken by lice, typhus, typhoid fever, cholera and pneumonia. Louisa was in her sixth week of nursing when she contracted typhoid fever and struggled between life and death. Her long, dark hair (which she considered her one beauty) was shorn off to relieve her of her fever. The doctors treated her with mercury in the form of calomel. It was deemed unsafe, but many physicians still used it. Her
father escorted her from the hospital and brought her home, where it took many months for her to recuperate. Prior to her service as a nurse, Louisa’s health had been robust but after this point, she was fragile for the rest of her life. The mercury would have eventually left her system; however, it is now believed that she developed the auto-immune disease, Lupus. When she recovered enough from typhoid fever, Louisa looked over the letters she had sent home and after some editing submitted them to a gazette. Excerpts of her work, “Hospital Sketches,” appeared in print throughout the east coast. In 1863, it was published in book form. A slim volume, it was a costly 50 cents and though the
royalties she received did not lift her or her family out of poverty, it was a literary success. She garnered attention and connections for her endeavors, paving the way for her to eventually write Little Women. Louisa made her youthful vow partly come true. By 1868, she was famous and rich; her family never had to worry about money again. Yet all of that came with a heavy price. The public always wanted another book, her health and emotional state were delicate and she never wrote the kind of fiction that she had dreamt of writing. But she was proud of her service to her country and at that time in history, she was considered a war veteran. ♥
hen war is presented on screen, Hollywood tends toward the epic. Epic in running time, epic in visual scope, epic in narrative theme. However, a film set during a war doesn’t even have to feature one single battle scene to qualify as epic. A case in point is Gone with the Wind. The backdrop is our nation’s Civil War, which is a conflict favored for on screen treatment and useful to filmmakers with its inherent story potential. Gone with the Wind shows war as the source of change that matures the lead characters and the nation in grand fashion. Based on Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind is the story of Scarlett O’Hara and her life as she grows to adulthood and struggles to retain her beloved plantation Tara amid the Civil War and Reconstruction. Though for nearly the entirety of the story, Scarlett believes she is in love with Ashley Wilkes (even through they are both married to other people), she finally realizes what the audience has known all along: that she is actually truly in love with Rhett Butler. The film was released in December 1939, at a time when going to the movies was an all-
day outing. The films were often long and included Overtures and Intermissions. Length isn’t the only aspect of Gone with the Wind that is epic, however. The most cutting-edge camera effects of the day (like the matte paintings) were used to create some shots that are still visually impressive. The big themes of love, loss, and survival that shape the narrative could also definitely be considered epic. The most compelling consideration that makes the film epic is the way the lead characters and the country evolve for the better as the events of the plot play out. Scarlett O’Hara is 16-years-old at the beginning, but the viewer would be hard-pressed to confuse her with any heroine of the modern young adult genre. Lives were shorter in the mid1800s and women married much
younger, but Scarlett has an immaturity matched only by her stubbornness. She insists on claiming she loves Ashley Wilkes though the audience always sees this as the infatuation it is, and she focuses on shallow social considerations rather than the substantial issue of war even after fighting begins in earnest. Scarlett slowly experiences enough to become a better and more self-aware person. She works as a nurse in an Atlanta hospital and sees death and
suffering first-hand. She trusts her instincts enough to marry Rhett after losing her second husband as if she subconsciously understands that he is her match though she won’t realize it until much later. She finally comes to appreciate the quiet goodness of Melanie Wilkes, Ashley’s wife and her strongest supporter, as Melanie lies on her deathbed. Rhett Butler is a man already grown when Wind begins and therefore matures in a different way throughout the narrative. Initially, the audience learns that Rhett is a gentleman from Charleston with a reputation as a rogue that got him disowned by his family. He doesn’t share the feeling about the South the other characters do, and only joins the war cause as a blockade runner for profit. After Gettysburg, the audience see doubts creep into his mind. Rhett gets Scarlett safely away from Atlanta only to leave her to make the rest of her way home to Tara by herself. He is going to join the army, too ashamed of not having done so sooner to wait any longer. Rhett never loses his cool swagger but does become a doting father when Scarlett gives him a daughter and is able to admit he loves Scarlett as their marriage progresses. Her insistence on her feelings for Ashley and a tragic miscarriage wound him but the real blow comes when their child dies in a fall from a horse. Rhett insists he and Scarlett can never reconcile and when he thinks Melanie’s death has left the door
open for Scarlett to pursue her feelings for Ashley, he leaves her. He won’t believe her protests that she’s realized she loves him. Rhett matures through the war so much that a hint of bitterness has begun to encase him. War doesn’t only change the people it effects, though. It has a profound impact on the nation or nations involved. In the case of a civil war, that country is indelibly altered. The United States had been independent for less than 100 years and the basic human rights issue of slavery arose to bring the nation to a crossroads. The conflict of North vs. South resulted in the true unification of the States in ideology. We never see a battle in Gone with the Wind. The film focuses solely on the home front because the story has a female lead character and a woman wouldn’t be near the
front lines at that point in history. Women would go on to slowly gain a more equal position to men and small hints of that are presented here, as Scarlett owns the lumber business she began with her husband’s money while married. It is one of the ways progress began in maturing the United States once it was put back together following the war. The positive evolution of Rhett and Scarlett is due to changes incited by the war. The story is classic melodrama, an epic love story of the most satisfying kind. Even the famous speculative ending where Scarlett and Rhett aren’t together does not diminish the entertainment value of the film because we know Scarlett gets what she wants and now is mature enough to pursue Rhett in a way that will win his affections back. ♥
hy are so many war stories considered great romances? Can beauty come out of horrible conflict? The scale and heartbreaking tragedy of war makes for a dramatic backdrop and the death, destruction and chaos that surrounds a pair of lovers can make them stand out like a candle on a dark night. Still, romanticism can’t drown out the stench of blood or mask the faces of those dying in mass numbers around the protagonist while he/she remains unharmed for the sake of the story. Cold Mountain comes closer than any other film I’ve seen in getting close to the reality of lovers in a time of war. Ada and Inman are separated by the onset of the American Civil War; the film dwells on their lives apart far more than their brief time together. This is what makes the film special and interesting. Inman’s part of the story is filled with the horrors of battle one can expect from a war story, the fear and panic of running and hiding after deserting the Confederate army, and the various kind and unsavory characters he meets on his long journey back to Ada at Cold Mountain. However, it’s Ada’s portion of the story I wish to dwell on as she is the often forgotten sort when tales of war
are told; the women who stay behind while the men go fight. Ada is kind, compassionate, friendly, beautiful and spirited, a true Southern belle. Some of her fine qualities are due to her conservative, educated and faithfilled upbringing as a reverend’s daughter, while others are simply in her nature. Since her mother died in childbirth, women of the community, schoolteachers and perhaps a governess provided her education. As a result, she arrives at Cold Mountain as an accomplished young lady, at least according to the standards of high society. She carries on the beginnings of a relationship with Inman, the one man in Cold Mountain who catches her eye, although both are extremely reserved and neither do very much talking. War arrives in the South and takes the men off into the battlefields in droves, Inman with them. Ada is left to pine and write letters to Inman, although she knows that most of them will probably not even reach him. Shortly after the war begins, her father dies. She is left to run their farm singlehandedly, as there are no slaves in Cold Mountain and all the able bodied men are gone. Ada survives with the kindness and generosity of other families
in town, but soon her farm is run into a state of disrepair. The stables go unmucked, the garden untended, the fields unplowed and the chickens run wild until a young woman named Ruby shows up to lend a hand. Ruby is a perfect foil to Ada; she is initially everything Ada is not. Ruby is a woman of the land, knowing how to farm, care for the animals, and do anything and everything practical. She is also coarse, gruff, unsophisticated and plainspoken, demands to be treated as an equal, not as a servant, and is quick to pass out orders when Ada accepts her help. Like a true farmhand, Ruby is up before the crack of dawn to feed cows and soon gets Ada to work alongside her, mucking out the stables, planning out a winter garden, rebuilding fences and tilling fields. Before too long the farm is back in working order, albeit with a few differences and a slight downsizing to make things more manageable for two women on their own. Ruby’s tough exterior is the first thing Ada and other characters see when they meet her, and her responsible hardworking nature makes an impression on the Cold Mountain folk. However, Ruby doesn’t shy away from revealing
her past heartbreaks when her roguish Confederate deserter of a father shows up at Black Cove, and she isn’t afraid to show her softer, feminine side when put into the right company. Ruby is also educated, something that helps her and Ada bond when they read classical literature like Wuthering Heights together. In Ruby, Ada finds something akin to a sister and by the end of the story they have gotten as close as any two friends in this world. Ada and Ruby’s reclaiming and reconditioning of the farm on their own is a testament to the hardiness and resilience of women, especially in their time. Ada starts out as a proper highclass lady but, as she says to Ruby, “I can talk about farming in Latin. I can read French. I can lace up a corset, God knows. I can name the principal rivers in Europe; just don’t ask me to name one stream in this country! I can embroider but I can’t darn. I can arrange cut flowers but I can’t grow them! If a thing has a function, if I might do something with it, then it wasn’t considered suitable.” Indeed, Ada’s “ladies education” doesn’t do her much good when the time for Southern belles is past, but Ruby’s down to earth, practical education does much good for both their sakes; when Ada is taught how to work with her hands she becomes as capable as the farmhands that left Cold Mountain to fight. They have struggles even after the farm is put back together,
mainly to do with the winding down of the Civil War, the return of Inman and the persistent “home guard” (a group of men too old or feeble to join the army, charged with protecting the town), who are out to hunt down and kill Confederate deserters, Inman included. The world of Cold Mountain and Black Cove farm is darkened when all these things come together in a climatic set of events. Inman returns to Ada and the pair has a happy (if at first estranged) reunion, but their joy lasts a mere day when Inman runs afoul of the home guard. After the guns cease firing and the smoke has cleared, the home guard is dead but so is Inman. It’s a tragic set of events to draw the story to a close, but not without hope. The audience learns that Ada conceived a daughter because of her one night with Inman (whom she unofficially “married”), Ruby finds a husband and forms a family of her own, and Black
Cove continues to recover under Ada and Ruby’s leadership. The Civil War’s end brought the South to its knees. Almost an entire generation of young men was wiped out and the Southern way of life forever changed course. Reconstruction was long, arduous and painstaking, fraught with more conflict and much bitterness on both sides. Cold Mountain doesn’t touch on the issue of slavery or much else that doesn’t concern Ada, Inman, Ruby or the sheltered town of Cold Mountain, but it does do a good job of showing that things changed, needed rebuilding and fundamentally altered the lives of those involved. Perhaps the reconstruction of Ada and Ruby’s lives can be seen as a metaphor for the reconstruction of the South. Both took time, effort and endured a great deal of painful loss, but in the end something beautiful came out of a war after all. ♥
“Maybe it’s a good thing you got a fighting wife”
n 1863, six young men, soldiers in the Union army, are having their picture taken: a portrait to send home to their parents or girlfriends. As young men do, they tease and prod each other until the photographer urges them to stand still. With a flash, their likeness is recorded. A likeness that maybe will be studied by historians over 150 years later, looking for clues to the everyday life of the Civil War soldier. But there is something hidden in this picture. One of the men is a women! So begins the remarkable novel I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe. The novel tells the story of Rosetta Wakefield, a farmer’s daughter from rural New York. Only two weeks after she marries her sweetheart Jeremiah, he sets off for war, leaving Rosetta behind. Alone in their small new home, Rosetta doesn’t know how to fill her days or how to deal with the stifling pressure of her parentsin-law to be a person she can’t be. Missing Jeremiah is like a physical pain that keeps her awake at all hours. All she knows is she wants to be near him and one day she decides to do just that, to disguise herself
as a man and follow her husband into battle. This book isn’t based on a real event or the story of a real person. It is, however, inspired by the more than 250 written accounts of women who fought disguised as men in the Civil
War. Historians guess that in total over 400 women fought in the Union and the Confederate armies. Many of their names and deeds will never be known, but reading through the letters and diaries of those that left written evidence of who they were, you will find stories of incredible bravery and strength.
Erin Lindsay McCabe was inspired by these stories and by the questions they raised: what was it like, being a woman hiding within so many men? How did they conceal their identity for so long? What where their reasons for taking such a drastic step? To imagine an answer to some of those questions, Mrs McCabe decided to write a novel detailing the story of one female Civil War soldier: Rosetta Wakefield. Though Rosetta is a fictional personage, there was a real Rosetta who was a soldier in the Union Army. Sarah Rosetta Wakeman served as private Lyon Wakeman in the regiment of the New York State Volunteers from 1862-1864. Other, more famous female soldiers were Sarah Edmonds and Jennie Irene Hodgers. Edmonds served as a battlefield nurse and spy in addition to her soldiering. She fought in several campaigns under General McClellan, including the infamous battles of Bull Run and Antietam. Despite her being discovered as a female, her fellow soldiers spoke highly of her and called her fearless. She was later to become the only female in the Civil War veterans organization.
How was it possible for women to become soldiers and to live so long disguised in close quarters with men? The physical exams enlisters needed to pass before being let into the army weren’t the problem. They were not rigorous at all. If you could run straight and hold a musket, you were fine. Also, though for the Union army there was an age restriction of 18, many younger boys enlisted and were taken on as soldiers. This meant the women weren’t less manly than many of their young fellow soldiers and their smooth faces didn’t stand out. We must also keep in mind that in those days gender roles were very restricted and women in pants were a rarity. Therefore, if you had short hair and wore men’s clothes you were simply thought of as a man. Once the women were in the army they kept to themselves. Stories from fellow soldiers about these women described them as aloof. Above mentioned Jennie Hodgers was known to prefer to be alone. This must certainly have helped the women to keep their secret, even in the crowded army camps. In the end some of them were found out: when they were wounded or ill or in some cases when they were giving birth! Some of the women were found after their death when they were laid out for burial. And
some, like Jennie Hodgers, were never found out at all and served until the end of the war. From the surviving letters and diaries of these women, often the question of why they decided to join up can be answered. For many of them, the reasons were the same as their male fellow soldiers: to support the cause they believed in. Remember, unlike in the First and Second World War, women could do very little outside of soldiering to help with the war effort. While in the 20th century, women built army material, worked in war offices and even flew planes, the women of the Civil War era could hardly be involved at all. There were female nurses, but only in small numbers and the work of cooks and laundresses for the regiments was only done by women of “low standing.” The women who fiercely believed in the cause of the Union or the Confederacy saw no other chance to be involved
than to become a soldier themselves. But for many other women the reason was the same as for Mrs McCabe’s heroine Rosetta: to stand by their husbands. To stay with them for better or worse, as they vowed. Though quite a lot is known and a large number of books have been written about the remarkable female soldiers of the Civil War, some questions will always remain unanswered. The thoughts and dreams, hopes and fears of these women, we will never know. But by reading the story of Rosetta Wakefield we get a glimpse into their private lives that feels very real. ♥
Meghan M. Gorecki
he Civil War is largely romanticized and glorified through literature and motion pictures into a sepia picture of the Old South, with the Union standing up against slavery, and trying to hold the states together. Two literary masterpieces go against this commonplace view to shed a light on those who fought and why: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and a later written prequel called God’s and Generals by his son Jeff. The Killer Angels was written after a vacation to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1964. Michael Shaara became intrigued by the turning point of the Civil War and threw himself into extensive research. Ten years later it was published and instantly snapped up by the public. It went on to win one of the highest honors in the literary realm, the Pulitzer Prize. This book is a vivid, heartwrenching portrayal of the battle of Gettysburg. It follows generals from both sides and how they lead their men into the three day battle known to be the turning point of the Civil War. The ending of The Killer Angels is somewhat abrupt, but Michael Shaara goes on to tell of the rest of the war in a brief but detailed afterward. He lists each general
mentioned in the story and tells of their later lives. This novel is gripping from the first page to the last; you’ll feel as if you’re standing next to each general during the battle of Gettysburg. From beginning to end, The Killer Angels is a brilliant piece of literature and has earned its place amongst the classics, as has its film portrayal made in 1996. The motion picture, simply called Gettysburg, begins as the troops move into position around Gettysburg at the end of June 1863, just weeks after General “Stonewall” Jackson died. General Robert E. Lee is feeling that he has lost his right hand man but presses on up through the fertile farmlands and steep
Appalachia mountains of Pennsylvania. It ends just after Chamberlain’s men push back the Rebels from overtaking their position as the Union army’s far right flank at Little Round Top. Filmed entirely on location, Gettysburg is an epic film—far from a dry documentary. Due to the literary genius of Michael Shaara in The Killer Angels, the depth of emotion and attention to minute details are translated flawlessly onto the film. Being a Civil War buff, I can’t say enough great things about Gettysburg. It sounds trite, but the book and film truly do make the history come alive—and it was done in such an honorable way to not merely pay homage to those who
led, fought and died there, but to shed a light of remembrance on them as they well deserve. In Jeff Shaara’s literary debut and dedication to his late father, he pens a brilliant prequel about the men of The Killer Angels beginning in 1859 and carries on through Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s death in June of 1863, called God’s and Generals. This book opens just a few years after the Mexican War in 1859. Jeff Shaara shares the story of four of the great leaders of the Civil War: Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jackson, Joshua Chamberlain and Winfield Hancock. From each side of the Mason-Dixon line, he chronicles the story of the Southern states secession and leftover hostilities from out West after the Mexican war. He takes from history the importance of faith in Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson’s lives and intertwines that thread through out the entire story, to Stonewall Jackson’s dying breath. Because of the extremely personal light shed on the leaders of the Civil War, the story comes alive to the reader and gives them an accurate, yet typically overlooked view of what the war was truly about, and what it meant. The story comes alive through the written pages and the film takes you through a time machine to the first half of the war of Americans fighting Americans. Gods and Generals, made in the early 2000’s, is a very accurate
revision of the written work but leaves out the pre-war years recorded in the book and only includes a few of the major battles from the first half of the war. A particular lengthy but poignant scene is from the Battle of Fredericksburg. December, 1862 is cold. There is a frenzied fear in Virginia as the Union troops move closer. It highlights a family evacuating their home and fleeing to the high ground where the Confederates sit as the Union army finally crosses the river after waiting idly for days. General Meagher of the Irish Brigade in the Union Army takes his troops up the hill to advance on the Confederates. Up on the hill, the camera pans to a certain group of Confederate soldiers— an Irish regiment. There are torn feelings and tears as the Confederate Irishmen reload their guns to shoot at their fellow countrymen. One man sends up an Irish cheer and the entire group of Confederate Irish troops
halt their shooting and take up the cheer as General Meagher’s men begin to retreat. This scene depicts what a terrible war it was, with brother fighting against brother. Previously, I had viewed the Civil War as a romantic period full of beautiful Southern Belles, gallant soldiers, and glorious patriotism for “the cause.” While I enjoy Gone with the Wind, I know now the Civil War was about far more than that. What I appreciated in both the Shaara’s books and their fantastic films was how they paid attention to both sides of the war —most tales focus on the South. Since their publications, over twenty years apart, these books haven’t ceased and will not cease to inspire and impact readers from all walks of life and challenge their former thinking on the Civil War. ♥
ow and then, someone’s sin can be compounded in our eyes when the person is someone we’d never expect to commit that sin. Think of a murder by a doctor, policeman, preacher or psychiatrist. Somehow it has a much darker undertone to it than a murder committed by someone in a lesser position. The fact that these people are trusted by the public, have sworn to help others and protect innocents makes their crime feel so much worse. The sin is the same as a murder committed by a jealous secretary or enraged postal worker, but when someone in a high position goes against everything they say they believe in, trust is broken beyond repair and lives are utterly destroyed.
Such is the case with Reverend Solomon Veasey. He is only a minor character in Cold Mountain but his tale stuck with me long afterwards (especially considering the recent death of the man who portrayed him, Phillip Seymour Hoffman). He is a wholly immoral man, someone of unrestrained self-centeredness who can’t seem to stay his lustful appetites. We’re introduced to him praying over his unconscious slave lover. Inman, the male protagonist of Cold Mountain, who is on a long trek back home after deserting the Confederate army, comes across Veasey as he prepares to drown the slave he impregnated. Inman stops him from committing murder and makes Veasey put
the slave girl back in her bed. At first, Veasey thanks Inman from stopping him from “doing a grievous wrong,” but soon he expresses his great fear to Inman over what will happen to him when his wife and parishioners find out what he’s done. Inman is ashamed of the Reverend’s cowardice and corruption, so he ties him up and leaves him to face justice from the town. Upon discovery, Veasey is exiled from his parish and ends up running for his life. Eventually he meets up with Inman again and becomes an unwelcome companion. Here Veasey turns into something of a comic relief for the audience as he prattles on about personal things Inman and the audience probably never wanted to learn about. During his short trek alongside Inman, Veasey also lets the audience into his mindset about Christianity. We begin to understand the depths of his hypocrisy as he uses faith to justify his immoral actions. “You’re a Christian, don’t you know your commandments?” Inman asks when Veasey justifies his stealing of another man’s saw. “You’ll find the good Lord is very flexible on the subject of
property. We could do a lot with this saw…” Veasey reasons. “I should have shot you when I had the chance,” Inman says. “Please yourself. I’m just being a Christian,” Veasey counters. All other vices aside, Veasey’s lustful eye is his biggest problem, his Achilles heel if you will. His affair with his slave is the first thing we learn about, although chances are it was not his first dalliance. We never meet Mrs. Veasey, but we can only assume that she is a member of the angry lynch mob that chases the preacher out of town. Later on, when Veasey is on the run from Union soldiers and the home guard with Inman, he is more than receptive when a young Southern girl offers her “services” for thirty dollars, even though he never gets a chance to pursue the opportunity. As it turns out, just as the infamous heel of Achilles led to his downfall, so does Veasey’s
covetous eye. The stolen saw that Veasey justified taking lets him help a farmer with a dead cow problem. But the farmer has something other than beef on his mind when he takes Inman and Veasey into his house for the night as a “thank you.” There are several women at this farmer’s
house, and after the unfortunate pair is made good and drunk, these women set upon Inman and Veasey like seducing harpies. Inman isn’t very receptive, even in his drunken state, but Veasey gleefully engages them in a drunken four-way tryst. The deceptive farmer brings the Confederate guard home with him and the distracted Inman and Veasey are taken prisoner before they can run. In an even worse twist of fate, Union soldiers soon discover the home guard and in the ensuing
shootout everyone is killed but Inman. Thus Reverend Veasey meets his end gunned down on a dusty plain, shackled alongside deserters and criminals, never to be properly buried or mourned by anyone. I can’t help but wonder how good Veasey’s life was before he fell into a life of sin, how long he was married and whether he had ever been happy. Perhaps his immorality was of long standing and he always hid behind a mask of righteousness to cover his sins. Perhaps he truly believed that he was above the law. In any case, Reverend Veasey becomes a symbol of the destructive nature of sin and how far one can fall from grace because of it. Could he have been forgiven for if he’d turned away from his depravity, found a better path and sought God’s pardon like he encouraged his parishioners to do every Sunday? Of course! But it didn’t happen with a false faith like Veasey’s and he dies a lost soul, forever to suffer the penalty for his hypocrisy and unfettered selfishness. ♥
ar. Gruesome battles. Countless deaths. These have traumatized even the strongest of men. For Captain Nathan Algren, the horrors of Gettysburg can’t compare to the blood on his hands. Years ago, he and his unit were ordered to slaughter innocent Native Americans. Unable to recover from what he did, he turned to alcohol to drug his mind from the pain.
from his memories. But the cold reality is he’s dirt poor and in need of money. The training barely commences before Omura orders him to lead the Japanese soldiers to attack their enemy, the samurai warlords.
Algren finally confronts the samurai lord who spared him. He angrily demands to know what Katsumoto wants from him. The samurai doesn’t care about giving Algren answers. He wants to learn about Algren’s culture, his way of living and fighting. Why doesn’t Algren want to talk about the men he’s killed? Why is he ashamed? The two men clash as much as their cultures do. A chasm of mistrust and uncertainty divides them.
Can you imagine dealing with that kind of regret? It’s not surprising that he chose to live his life in a painful haze. What money he gets, he wastes on drink—and drink eventually gets him fired from another job. A fateful meeting with a Japanese ambassador changes everything. Ambassador Omura offers Algren a job training Japan’s inexperienced troops alongside his former superior officer Colonel Bagley. Algren is disgusted at the idea of working again with Bagley, who had led the massacre. That is until Omura offers him a vast sum of money. Life can be sadly ironic. Algren can’t believe he’s back in the soldiering business after so desperately trying to purge it
village. Wounded, sick and lying in a foreigner’s house, Algren begs his caretaker, Taka, for sake —alcohol. But she refuses him. Algren descends into a hellish trial of detoxing, filled with cold sweats, uncontrollable shaking and horrific nightmares. Taka stays strong despite his screams for relief. Then one bright morning, he wakes up. He hasn’t been sober like this in years.
The attack is a disaster—the inexperienced troops can’t hold the line. Algren fights with desperate passion, attracting the attention of the samurai warlord Katsumoto. The samurai capture Algren and take him to their
With nothing to do, Algren starts learning from his captors. He studies the samurai fighting style and works alongside them in their daily activities. The samurai honor and simplicity attract him. In these men, he sees discipline, compassion, integrity—men who stand by their principles. He sees soldiers that don’t have nightmares.
After a few months, the samurai return Algren to the city and he meets with a stunned Omura. The ambassador immediately senses the change that has come over this man. Algren refuses a drink, something he never would have done before. There’s a new look in his eye; he’s a whole man again. When Algren hears of a murder plot against Katsumoto’s life, he goes after the assassins and kills them. Afterwards he’s frozen as he replays in his mind what he’s done—and for the first time in many years there’s no harrowing guilt. He fought honorably to protect his friend. Algren takes this new passion for life straight to the battlefield, standing alongside the samurai. They boldly make their last stand but their raw courage is no match for recent technology. A machine gun rips into the cavalry charge, injuring Algren and killing all the samurai. Finally the Emperor of Japan summons Algren to his palace. Though the Emperor had his differences with Katsumoto, he respected the man as a mentor. “Tell me how he died,” the Emperor asks Algren. “I’ll tell you how he lived,” Algren replies. Through the relationship of people like Taka, Katsumoto and the samurai, Algren found the
pieces to rebuild his life. While Algren might see his recovery hinged on the samurai way of life, the people who lived that life out were the ones who brought him to a place of peace. Algren isn’t waiting for death anymore. He’s ready to live life to the fullest—and when death comes, to meet it with honor. ♥
t is October 30th, 1938, and the world has not yet erupted in its virulent 2nd World War. A harmless radio broadcast is begun, The War of the Worlds written by H.G. Wells, directed by and starring, amusingly enough, Orson Welles. Within half an hour of the program’s start, a good portion of the United States of America believe that the aliens have landed. Welles took the author’s original work and dramatized it so it sounded like a news broadcast and less like a story, providing the perfect avenue for the repressed fears of a population recently rocked by a world war and very much afraid of a repeat. At some point Welles was made aware of the situation and was instructed by the Mercury Theater of the Air to run a commercial break that would also announce the title of the radio play. Welles ignored the request for as long as possible, and pandemonium broke out across the country. People hid in
storm cellars, packed the roads in cars, and were absolutely certain they, themselves, had witnessed alien ships landing near their neighborhoods. One unfortunate town even suffered a perfectly timed power outage, sending the terrified inhabitants fleeing into the hills, certain the enemy was upon them.
What enemy did they fear? Was it really aliens from outer space that had these people quaking in their boots? How could such a huge populace believe in pure fantasy? Part of the blame can land squarely on Hitler’s doorstep. Hitler, somehow, had become a viable threat and his
speeches were terrifying. Remember, this is just prior to World War II and no one wanted a new war. These families still poignantly remembered the loved ones they’d lost to World War I and now a new threat had arisen. It took only a simple stroke of genius to push them over the edge. As New York Tribune columnist Dorothy Thompson said, “Mr. Welles scared thousands into demoralization with nothing at all.” He didn’t need proof. All he needed was a script and a microphone. When people yield to this type of fear, they will believe anything. Twenty-three yearold Orson Welles was a genius, a mastermind by all accounts. He played the humble, meek man before the public, apologizing for the trauma he caused, but his own daughter knew that he wasn’t one bit sorry. He had done the impossible, sending a vast chunk of a powerhouse nation tilting at windmills. We could hate Welles for his abuse of power. It would
be entirely plausible to do so. Instead, let us step back and consider the ramifications of such a feat. The world is vulnerable to the news media, to media of any kind. We are easily duped into believing whatever the radio or the news stations tell us, flying into a panic without demanding viable proof to back up ludicrous claims. True, there haven’t been any alien landings lately, but the majority of Americans still blindly believe anything and everything the Media Machine throws at them. Such a mentality breeds naiveté and fear. Let’s be honest, this story of Orson Welles and The War of the Worlds is insanely funny. Modern society sits back in our little lounge chairs with our ereaders and martinis and laughs and laughs over the absurdity of our ancestors. But would we behave any differently if the news media suddenly took it into the heads to declare a new terrorist attack and show us images of a smoking pile of rubble where the White House used to stand? Suddenly, it’s not a laughing matter anymore and we’re trembling in the same manipulated shoes as our grandparents. Scripture tells Christians in 1st John 4:1 to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” We are called to question, called to wisdom, called to not blindly believing everything our pastors
and our peers throw at us. If the Lord wants us to test the spirit of our faith, how much more does He want us to test the world’s claims? Because, unlike from within the faith, the world is out to deceive, kill, and destroy believers. Orson Welles is not alone in his talent for deception and manipulation. True, he had the perfect opportunity dropped into his lap, but so too could any number of deceivers. The new manipulator could even be someone we respect, someone we believe. We have to test all of these spirits, both within the faith and from without, so the next Orson Welles doesn’t catch us when we’re vulnerable. It is, though, one thing to be afraid, and another thing entirely to be cautiously aware. Not surprisingly the Apostle Paul said it best in 1st Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear drags us down, makes us
believe anything and everything, or even sometimes, disbelieve something when we actually should believe it. Faith is based on power, love, and a sound mind. It is the sound mind part of that scripture that really hits home because it implies lucidity, sanity, and intellect. People of a sound mind are not going to tear after the latest fear or immediately believe the latest broadcast that doesn’t have fact backing it up. A sound mind is what Americans needed on October 30th, 1938, and thankfully there were enough individuals of that sound mind who knew that Orson Welles was a phony and it was just a radio broadcast. Not everyone drank the Kool-Aid. ♥
“Wallenberg was always conscious of the fact that saving as many persons as possible was what mattered.” - Per Anger from With Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest
nce, long ago, I remember hearing about Schindler’s List for the first time. I was compelled to research the German Nazi-party industrialist, Oskar Schindler, and found that he had saved 1,200 Jewish people from the Holocaust. I tucked him away in my mind next to Irena Sendler, the Polish nurse and social worker who smuggled some 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Here were some of the finest of humanity, working to stem the tide of atrocities and ethnic cleansing washing over Europe. But was no one trying to save more than a few at a time, when millions of lives were at stake? My research broadened and although it took years, I finally stumbled across one name: Raoul Wallenberg. Raoul Wallenberg was an unlikely suspect, a person that history books overlook and big Hollywood films rarely ever mention. He was born on August 4, 1912 in Sweden to a fairly wealthy family and was onesixteenth Jewish, a fact he was proud of. He was a Swedish architect and businessman turned humanitarian diplomat
during WWII. He was selected by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, who were backed by the Swedish Crown and American aid, to be sent to Budapest, Hungary to serve in the Swedish Legation Office. He arrived in July 1944 with a single mission:
prevent Budapest's remaining Jews from being sent to concentration camps. At that time, only 230,000 or so Jews remained in all of Hungary, with over 400,000 souls having been deported by German SS Obersturmbannführer Otto Adolf Eichmann between May and July
of that year. Wallenberg’s arrival was not a moment too soon. He, fellow Swedish diplomat Per Anger, and many hundreds of staff worked in correlation with other neutral nation’s Legations to issue protective passports to as many Jews as possible. The paper would “technically” turn Hungarian Jews into Swedish citizens, people who didn’t have to wear the yellow star and could live in one of the many requisitioned, Swedish-flag protected safe houses. For Raoul, whose life had been somewhat adrift in Sweden, his true purpose was found in saving humans in the middle of a war zone, all at the age of 32. He and other legation members used extensive means to protect the Jews, from diplomatically speaking with the leaders of Hungary to threatening Nazi and SS leaders that they would be hung once the war was over and they could testify to the Allies. Although precise numbers of saved persons are hard to calculate for Wallenberg, some 50,000 were saved in the foreign protected houses, and Per Anger stated
that Wallenberg was directly responsible for saving 70,000 in the ghettos from being murdered at the very end of the Nazi occupation. He sounds rather like superman, dashing here and there in his car with the little blue and yellow crossed flags flying, hands full of passes and documents, a mind thoroughly occupied with saving human souls. So why isn’t his name engraved in every history book? I think it is because of how his story ends. On January 17th, after surviving death threats and assassination attempts from Nazis along with the bombings, Raoul Wallenberg went to meet with General Malinovsky of the Soviets and was abducted. In a moment of either great irony or insight, his final recorded words were “I'm going to Malinovsky’s —whether as a guest or prisoner I do not know yet.” That was the last time he was seen on the other side of the descending Iron Curtain. The Russians claimed he died in 1947 at the age of 35, though conflicting evidence from former gulag prisoners suggests he lived well into the 1980s. I remember finding out about his end and feeling dejected, for here truly was a Righteous among the Nations, yet his path ended in a dark prison cell and torture. It seemed the world ignored him because there was nothing more to say in his story. My dejection slowly turned to elation, as I realized that because of his actions and coaching, bullying,
and buying off of the corrupt evil in Hungary, several tens of thousands of souls were saved. He is not completely forgotten, either, as he has a memorial tree planted on the road to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, several statues in various countries that honor his memory, including here in America, and at least one English speaking docu-drama
countries were involved that is important. It is a fact all modern people should be aware of: neutrality does not mean “doing nothing.” The war was fought on many fronts, some of them with guns and tanks and some with diplomatic relations aimed at saving the Jewish Nation. And what I want you to come away with is, if you think you can never do anything heroic, consider what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 25:40 NIV, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Raoul Wallenberg certainly did this and is an inspiration to us to protect and help our fellow man, no matter their origins. ♥
concerning his actions. Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story is a bit padded and for cost reasons couldn’t show the near complete destruction of Budapest, but the heart of the film is there and Richard Chamberlain does a fine job in the lead role. It is not so much about the money behind something anyway, but the sympathy for the plight of the Jewish nation and the direct and urgent way that the neutral
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May/June: Faith & Villainy Those who used itâ€Ś or abused it.
Inside this issue: Thomas Becket, Ghandi, Margaret Beaufort, Czar Nicholas II, William Wilberforce. July/Aug: Colonial Period Inside: John Rolfe, The Patriot, Abigail Adams, The Scarlet Letter, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Marquis de Lafayette.
Sept/Oct: Underrated Tales Inside: Brideshead Revisited, The Making of a Lady, John Carter, The Longest Journey, The Sinking of the Laconia, My Brilliant Career, The Painted Veil, A Tree With Deep Roots.
Halloween: Monsters & Madness Inside: Sleepy Hollow, Frankenstein, Evil Creatures in Middle-earth, The Monster Squad, Rumplestiltsken, King Kong.
Nov/Dec: A Family Affair Inside: The House of Eliot, Little Dorrit, The Baratheons, The March Family, Jane Austen, Anne & Margot Frank, The Bennet Family, Sherlock & Mycroft.