The Civil War is Central
The Civil war is central to the history of the United States of America and as part of the historical events that define the American experience, it is vastly represented in several historical movies . Indeed, while 1776-1783 revolution created the US, the Civil war of 1861-1865 is said to be the determinant of what kind of nation America would be in the world . By nature, cinematic historical representations of past events are common and loved by Americans and the world as they provide a meaningful way of engaging with the past of the nation and at the same time offering the opportunity of thinking about the present.
In a critical analysis, this involves comparing and contrasting how the civil war is portrayed in the Red Badge of Courage and the Glory films the discussion aims at identifying how the movies teaches society with the knowledge of what happened during this significant life history that till date has been the bloodiest war ever on US soil and with US soldiers, we lost more soldiers than any War that we’ve ever fought, this War was essential in forging the USA as a nation.
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Civil War Background The civil war mainly resolved two fundamental questions that the revolution left unsolved. First, was US to be an indivisible nation run by a sovereign national government or a dissolved confederation of sovereign states? Second, was the USA, a country born out of a declaration that every person was created with an equal right to liberty, going to continue existing as the largest slaveholding nation globally? The two opposing sides in this war were the Union or the North and the South or Confederacy . The North was referred to as United States of America led by President Abraham Lincoln and attempted to have its citizens living as equals. They were more open to change and did not have slaves.
In fact, they did not even think that anybody should possess slaves and thus did all the work. In terms of technology, the North was more developed due to the industrial revolution and the form of living was more urbanized. However, prejudice still existed but it was covered up in politics . On the other hand, the South was called the Confederate States of America People residing in this region were more set in their ways; they did not want to change their way of living. They wanted to continue having slaves for free labor and they felt as if their beliefs, of how life should be, were being challenged. Civil War in Red Badge of Courage vs. Glory Similarity In both films the Civil war is portrayed to have taken place in 1862 which indeed is the actual year the real fighting began and dramatizes real events that took place during this warfare. In the Red Badge of Courage starts off with a narrator (James Whitmore) telling the audience about what they should be able to figure out for themselves .
Specifically, he assists the viewer to understand Henry Fleming’s frame of mind, the main character in this movie. The narrator also indicates that the period was 1862 in the spring during the war between states (civil war) . In addition, in this introduction part of the movie, the Potomac Army is shown to be camping on the Rappahannock River which coincides with an actual event during the Battle of Antietam. During the winter of 1862- 63 the Union Army of Potomac composing of about 130,000 men encamped on the north side of Rappahannock River which is located at Falmouth, Virginia .
The setting of the battle portrayed in the Red Badge of Courage is Chancellorsville which took place in spring of 1863 and was fought in the wilderness. Just as it was during the actual battle, the movie shows fighting taking place in a dense forest and tangled underbrush which covered much of the battlefield. The film Glory portrays the beginning of the Civil war and dramatizes the assault of Fort Wagner which was a Confederate base on Morris Island in 1863 . In fact, the main characters of the movie (who were Black) are depicted as soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. During the Emancipation Proclamation that was issued by President Lincoln in January 1863, allowed black men to join the U.S. Army and Navy. As a result, 180, 000 of the estimated 2 million people who fought on the Union side were black soldiers and sailors.
In addition, in the two films, there is a reference to divinity in some scenes. In an event like civil war, religion is expected to play a role or to be involved as both Southerners and Northerners believed God was on their side. During the war, when people are called to sacrifice their lives for the greater good of the nation, religion makes a distinctive mark on meaning-making efforts as the opposition is seen as the evil that needs to be battled. In the movie Glory, they show a scene of the night before the largest battle where the men had a religious gathering. Here, the movie accurately depicts slaves who shout worship and songs as they prayed for divine intervention from God to help them win the battle which would free them from bondage. On the other hand, there are several instances where worship of God is portrayed in the Red Badge of Courage.
For instance, in the scene where Flemings was helped to reunite with his troop by another soldier in the evening who picks him up after getting a concussion during the day when he confronts another soldier and gets hit on his head using a gun . Here the soldier indicates that one could not tell during the day the battleground was mixed up and one could not tell any of the soldiers one met which side they belonged due to the massive shootings. He further advises Henry not to worry about his life in the battle rather he should turn his affairs to God and do his duty and if one gets killed it is His concern. Just like in Glory, the war here is treated as an affair that should involve God who provides victory and protection of the soldiers during the battle as they fight the evil enemies. Indeed, since the two films focus on Northern Soldiers, they sufficiently portray the notion held by them during the fight based on their beliefs about God . Specifically, martyrs’ blood in a fight over slavery and their sacrifices for the preservation of sacred order that is ordained by God (all humans are equal before his eyes) justified the killing and being killed in the service of higher good.
Additionally, the main characters had similar motives for serving which assisted in winning the war against Confederates. In both, all soldiers want to gain victory for their nations which was the main goal of Union Soldiers. As a Veteran of the US Army, I contemplate the Valor the soldiers had during the Civil War and it doesn’t compare to anything today, in todays times we should from a hundred meters away. Back in 1862 you had to be practically face to face, if that were today, the deserters would be by the millions. Todays generation has no clue the Valor it took for those soldiers to fight the fight they fought… Contrast In Red Badge of Courage soldiers of the Northern side were less prepared to fight.
This is well portrayed during the first encounter with the southern side of the battlefield . During the shootings, the Southern side first retrieves when they realize that their strategy was not working. Interestingly instead of chasing them away and capitalizing on this weakness, the Northern soldiers relax and some soldiers start even saying that they wish the Southern soldiers would engage them another day since the encounter was enough. However, the Southern soldiers come back after some minutes well organized and ambush the northern soldier in their war front making them scatter away.
Henry is seen running way through the forest from the battleground like the rest of soldiers very scared of what he had seen. This is an indication that the northern soldiers were not mentally and tactically well prepared to fight at the beginning of the Civil war. In fact, although they were constantly drilled, Northern soldiers were still afraid and many even used to run away. The scene portrays the actual fear of soldiers and just like Henry felt many of them were deserting and attempting to run away from the war. However, they used to be threatened with death. In fact, more soldiers were executed during the Civil war than all other American wars combined. Figures indicate that about 500 Northern and Southern Soldiers were killed and two- thirds of them were because of desertion.
The president in power was Abraham Lincoln which is well depicted in this movie . On the other hand, Glory focuses on Black soldiers’ recruitment to the Army rather than events such as fear and unpreparedness of the troop during the Civil war. Indeed after the Emancipation Proclamation and as manpower ran low, black enlistees were sought despite protest from some whites. In the Glory, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington are portrayed as soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment . This unit was composed of Black volunteers and they were commanded by Officer Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.
In the movie and historically the Fort Wagner: Colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, was killed. Nine other regiments and two brigades entered the fort, but after brutal hand-to-hand combat were driven out with heavy casualties. At the beginning of the war, blacks had volunteered to participate in the war but they were turned down repeatedly for various pretexts. Initially, the whites believed that by enlisting Black Americans would demean white soldiers and demoralize them . Notably, whites were believed to be the key determinants of the northern victory and according to them, their task was to restore the union and not to destroy slavery. Enlisting African American would mean giving them an equal playing ground with the whites.
The film also kept the integrity of the battle at For Wagner. Specifically, the climax of the movie is the 54th Massachusetts Regiment’s assault which is the most realistic depiction of the Civil war combat. The equipment employed and their participation in the war was accurately shown in realistic details as well as the suicidal experience of charging in into musketry and hail of shells. Generally the events of the attack were accurately captured in the movie. For instance, it is true that the 54th were forced to advance a narrow beach strip between swamps and ocean.
The film’s geographical location means a careful viewer may be able to observe that the troop was advancing south which is a reversal of reality through an otherwise realistic terrain . The aftermath and outcome of the war in the film is also sadly a realistic depiction of the real historic event. Furthermore, as it is displayed in the movie black soldiers were denied proper equipment and equal pay like white soldiers. As such, Red Badge of Courage which uses fictional characters and portrays behaviors of soldiers in the battle including the level of organization, the Glory film is more focused on portraying the real events of how the Fort Wagner battle took place and the life of Black soldiers in the war.
Conclusion and Overall Depiction of the Civil war in Both Films In the Red Badge of Courage’ Americans are depicted as people who were more afraid of a negative image than the fight itself. Henry portrays this character sufficiently as in one of the scenes he is seen thinking of how others would think of him after running away. He even confesses near the end of the movie to a fellow soldier as the thought of running away from the battle was disturbing him. This shows that the main aim of his participation in this battle as a young man is to build an image through achieving glory.
In fact, the image of USA was what they were fighting for and they did not want to lose the war since it would destroy the image of their nation. On the other hand, Glory is a representation of how unity can assist a nation win a war. The Northern soldiers were running out of manpower but after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Blacks joined the army and navy which assisted them winning one of the bloody and rigorous battles in the history of American Civil war.