Visual depiction

General Kearney’s Gallant Charge

General Kearney’s Gallant Charge by Augustus Tholey. (1)

This visual is a lithograph by Augustus Tholey. It was made in about 1867 and it depicts the Union General Philip Kearney, who was known with his contributions in the Mexican-American and Civil War. In September 1st 1862, many northern troops, who were fleeing from Confederates, met them near Ox Bull. In the battle, also known as the Battle of Chantilly or Battle of Ox Bull, the Unionists were outnumbered and Kearney perished in battle, where soldiers had to fall back. This art piece marks the start of the retreat to Washington and the start of the Maryland Campaign, where General Lee tried to invade Maryland. The visual depicts the height of the Civil War, where the South had an advantage and the Union received massive casualties. It shows the rampant skirmishes during the war and the patriotism of both sides, where the Union holds up their flag.


Notions

Different developments in the North and South

The North was more industrialised due to its location with abundant resources. Also the climate in the north made farming more suitable for small farms. Agriculture was heavily industrialized with machinery being introduced to farms. The industry was soaring and workers were immigrants coming from Europe, because slavery died out mostly. In fact, over 85% of immigrants coming from the Old World settled in northern states. Massive cities were created in the process of urbanisation and the industry provided railways. To add, emphasis was put on education as well, and as a result, many northerners got good education and became engineers. The North’s economy was thriving. Most of the residents supported the Republican party as well. The South, on the other hand, was in a such hospitable climate, that favoured mass-producing plantations. Cotton and tobacco were the most rampant crops. Because of the prolific production of agricultural goods, industry fell behind and machines were not used in the mammoth farms. Instead, slaves from Africa were used to import to use as workforce. There were not any major cities beside New Orleans, larger settlements were located on trading posts to export agricultural goods to Europe. Education was not a crucial topic and few children went to school. The population of the southern states consisted of approximately half “whites” and half African-Americans. In addition, southerners promoted the Democratic party. The military aspect was also more improved in the South, as there were many military colleges in the South.

Abolitionist movement

The abolitionist movement started in the 1830s in America and West Europe to emancipate all slaves at once. This movement was inspired by the Quakers, who condemned the idea of slave labour. This belief started in the northern states and many leaders founded “slave-free” churches to fight against it. The abolitionist movement itself started in 1820s, but became more hostile in the next decade with armed protests. The ver, in the 1840s, internal conflicts became more apparent, because of mixing slave emancipation with women rights movement.  The movement’s way of exchanging information was through newspapers and speeches. The most important figure of the abolitionists was Frederick Douglass.

Portrait of Frederick Douglass. (2)

Missouri compromise

The Missouri Compromise is a treaty to accept Missouri to the Union, being a slave state. But with the condition, that Maine would also be a sovereign state. This compromise was ratified in 1820. At that time, the US consisted of 22 states, with 11 slave and 11 free states, so the acceptance of Missouri would have destroyed the fragile balance between the North and South. Many Representatives had tried to end slavery by pushing through acts in 1819, but to no avail. There was a very harsh debate in the government and many discrepancies involved. For example, Senator William Pinkney of Maryland argued that if the original 13 colonies could choose slavery, if they wanted, then the new states should have the same right. Eventually, an agreement was made that Missouri would join as a slave state, however some of its area would be slave-free. Also the agreement concluded on the joining of Maine as a free state, formerly a part of Massachusetts.

Fugitive Slave Act

The Fugitive Slave Act was 2 different acts, one in 1793 and the other in 1850, which promised to capture and return runaway slaves to their owners. The first act, signed in 1793, gave local governments the authority to find and arrest slaves, who had run away from their owners, and return them back to their owners. In addition, anyone, who would help these slaves, would be prosecuted with a 500$ fine. The returning of the slave would take place in court, where the owner had to display relevant document for proof. This brought up even cases, where free black people would be illegally enslaved, as it was in the case of Solomon Northup, who had to spend 12 years in hard labour.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 put even more emphasis on catching fleeing slaves, following pressure from southern states. The government act obligated citizens to stop and catch escapees and hand them over to a jury trial. Also, the penalty of helping a slave would double to 1000$ and 6 months in jail. The North responded with severe criticism, while some states tried to nullify the law and many riots took place during the first years. Eventually, both of these acts were repealed in 1864.

A poster looking for an escaped slave. (3)


Underground Railroad

This was a measure countering the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The abolitionists increased their efforts after the act had come to effect and devised a network of people in the US to help slaves escape the jurisdiction. The mission was called ‘Underground Railroad’, because the network of people helping was vast and there were resting stops called ‘stations’. The most active members of the plan were African Americans and they were called ‘conductors’. Slaves would escape from their plantation to border countries such as Kentucky, where conductors would guide them to safehouses. There they could travel north to Canada, because slavery was prohibited there, or, even in some cases, Europe.

Dred Scott case

The Dred Scott Decision is a decision by the Supreme Court in 1857. The case was known as Dred Scott vs. Sanford. This involved a slave named Dred Scott, who lived with his owner in a free state. Later, when they moved to Missouri, a slave state, made him a slave. He thought that being a free slave meant that he was emancipated. However, the court’s ruling was that no black man can claim US Citizenship and concluded, that black people can not pledge for freedom in court. This decision angered abolitionists and even more raised the tensions between slave and free states. Some argue that it was the start of the Civil War.

Portrait of Dred Scott. (4)

Formation of Confederacy

The Confederate States of America were 11 pro-slave states, who made an alliance after president Lincoln came to power in 1860. The confederates claimed themselves to be a sovereign nation, but no-one recognized their country. It existed from 1861 to 1865 and its president was Jefferson Davis. The nation devised their own constitution, using the one in USA as a model. Their army attacked the Unionists, starting a four-year war known as the Civil War. The government structure was very inefficient and inflation was high in the nation.

Flag of the Confederate States of America. (5)

Causes of the Civil War (1861-1865)

The main reason behind the Civil War was the difference between the northern and southern states. The tensions were enlarged by different reasons, such as the Dred Scott Decision or the moving of abolitionists westward, jeopardizing their ambitious plan to establish slavery in West America. To add, the winner of the presidential elections in 1860 was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. The South had had it enough and formed their own nation. Then they threatened and attacked Fort Sumter, where Union troops surrendered. The tensions were further enlarged by the Bleeding Kansas Incident. At first, the Confederacy had an advantage over the Union, as they had a bigger population, larger arms production, bigger rail network and a tighter sense of unity and tradition, keeping their main beliefs together.

Developments and outcome of the war

The First Battle of Bull Run coerced Unionists to flee further North, to Washington D.C. The war then continued in Virginia, where the Confederate troops reached the Potomac river. After a victory for the Union forces, the southerners deployed a flank on the Second Battle of Bull Run, where the forces of unionist John Pope once again retreated. The bloody war at Antietam, where over 25,000 troops perished in a day, gave a decisive victory to the North. In June 1863 Commander Lee sent 2 surprise attacks to Union territories. The latter fought against the Union troops near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, what would be the final invasion to the Union. An important victory was achieved by Unionists in Vicksburg, Mississippi, led by Ulysses Grant. The next years, northern troops conquered land in the South, such as Georgia and North Carolina. The Southern forces finally surrendered on April 26, 1865.

Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. (6)

Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was made by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. It declared all slaves free. At the start of the Civil War, Lincoln was more worried about the unity of the Union than abolishing slavery. He devised a strategy, that encourages the freed Northern slaves, who fought for the Union. His proclaim essentially freed 3.1 out of the 4 million slaves in America. After the war, the Republican Senate passed the Thirteenth Amendment, which bans slavery all across the United States.


Historical accuracy

The movie “Glory “ takes place in the Civil War, where a black regiment, the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, fought for the Union against the South. The movie depicts the story through Colonel Shaw, the leader of the regiment. The movie has won many Oscars in 1990, such as Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Denzel Washington won an Oscar as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Many critics have praised the film as one of the most accurate historical programs in existence and I have to agree with that opinion.

Firstly, very much emphasis was put on the small details and to mammoth features. For example, the final fighting scene at Fort Wagner was very precise, from the geographical location to the fighting conditions. The film portrayed the conditions of the battle to perfection: the skirmish actually took place in dusk, the troops had only a small 100-meters wide land bridge to head towards Fort Wagner, as the ocean was on one side and a dense swamp on the other. Soldiers were heavily bombarded by cannons, but they moved forward. A reviewer comments the fight: “The portrayal of this attack in Glory is the most realistic combat footage in any Civil War movie I have seen.”(7) I commend the screenwriters for putting so much effort towards the scene. To add, the commitment of Shaw towards the regiment was actually real and he was willing to go to death for the unit.

There were few historical inaccuracies depicted in “Glory”. For example, many of the characters were fictional, such as Trip, Sergeant John Rawlins, Major Forbes and Sergeant Major Mulcahy. Another aspect, which was overlooked, was that most of the soldiers were actually free in their entire lives. In addition, the show does not mention that many other black regiments were formed in 1863; this may create a feeling to the viewer, that this was the first regiment of that kind. Also, higher-ranking African-American and white soldiers did not get along well, as a critic mentions: “There was no question of making African-Americans into officers, and their white officers faced stigma for serving in the unit.”(8) Many people were still skeptical about non-white people fighting.

To sum up, the movie emphasizes the importance of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment towards emancipation and giving black people equal rights. For me, this was a very accurate film, with many details covered thoroughly and portraying the true emotions in soldiers to each other. Some small inaccuracies were in the film, but for the most part the film truly depicted the Civil War era. This movie gives a detailed overview of the Civil War era and the movement towards equal rights for all races in the US.


Movie discussion

In what war were the characters in the movie fighting in? Give a brief overview of the causes of the war.

The action of the movie took place in 1863, when the Civil War was in full swing. The Civil War was fought between the Northern, industrialized, educated and anti-slavery, states and the Southern, rural. railway, arms, pro-slavery, states. Many slaves lived free lives in the northern states and they wanted to live in a free America, where no-one was a threat to them. Pro-slavery states supported Democrats, while northerners wanted Republicans. The gap between the states became so large, that the South declared their own nation, the Confederate States of America. Many African-Americans escaped up north and wanted a personal freedom and to fight. That is why many wanted to go to military, but there was very few attempts on a coloured regiment.

Who was Shaw’s father? How is he depicted in the film?

Shaw’s father was the Governor of Virginia (Francis Shaw) and he firstly offered his son to be the colonel of a new coloured regiment in Massachusetts. Shaw wrote him letters from the army and he wanted his father to directly write a letter to president Abraham Lincoln in order for his regiment to go to battle.

What are the backgrounds of the soldiers in the regiment? How do they differ?

Some were free men , some were slaves. Thomas grew up together with Shaw, he was an intelligent person (Snowflake). Trip former slave, doesn’t know how to read. They came from very different backgrounds, but were eventually equal in the regiment.

What was the opinion of other white soldiers towards the Massachusetts 54th Regiment?

Noobs, don’t know how to fight, weak. Racism was very widespread. Only suitable as slaves. When the black soldiers first entered the camp, many white soldiers were booing and they were used to slavery and not that they could be in the army themselves.

Why didn’t Thomas fit in with anyone? How does that change throughout the film?

Thomas was black so at that time even in Northern States, he was still not equal to others. He had his friend(Shaw) who looked at him as an equal but most people wouldn’t quite accept him. In the 54th regiment, black men look down on him because he has a higher education and stand out. Trip is really mad as he believes that Thomas wants to look and seem white, but from Trips experience that is not possible and Thomas is a dumb white mens lap dog in his mind. Thomas tries to help but Trip makes it feel like Thomas thinks better of himself than others in the 54th regiment. By the end, Thomas has managed to educate quite a few of the soldiers and taught them to read, he is definitely accepted as a part of the family the men created while serving together.

What differences were there between whites and blacks? What difference did Robert mention?

The ability to relax and enjoy the moments –

“But the moment they are dismissed from drill, every tongue is relaxed and every ivory tooth is visible and you would not know from the sound of it that this is an army camp.”

The fearlessness and bravery

How did Shaw learn the issues of soldiers in the training camp?

He talked to Rawlins, the wise old man, who gave information about the well-being of the soldiers. For example, Rawlins told Shaw that they need new shoes. When Shaw realised the true situation, he demanded new shoes for everybody. Also with the blue uniforms.

How did the the blacks’ attitude towards Shaw change throughout the movie and vice versa?

They considered him a young, “small guy” who tried to hide behind his title, but realised he really cared for them and was becoming one of them, they respected him more than anyone.

At first, Robert tried to stay distant and remain the “higher power”, later became closer, forming a team.

Robert said “I owe them my freedom… my life if necessary”. Why?

“It is my job to get these men ready. And I will. They have risked their lives to be here, they have given up their freedom. I owe them as much as they have given. I owe them my freedom… my life if necessary.”

What kind of an outlook does general Montgomery have on black battalions and soldiers?

Montgomery is racist and he is certain that African-Americans are a bunch of senseless monkeys who are there for labor and hardwork, or destroying villages by stealing from houses and burning them down.

What is the difference between Montgomerys’ and Shaws’  battalions? Where does the difference come out and how? Why is there a difference?

Roberts’ 54th regiment is well behaving honourable soldiers, who are treated like normal soldiers. Montgomery already treated his men like wild animals so they act like a bunch of headless chicken, ramaching houses and burning villages without thinking about what they are doing. It is shown in the way the two regiment march to a village in Georgia and what happens while they are in the village.

What happened in Georgia? Why did Robert let the town be burnt down?

Montgomery gives orders to raid the town and when one soldier proposes burning down the town he responds, “Why not. Go ahead,” then goes on to insult the negro soldiers,calling them “animals”.

Montgomery threats to take his troops away if Shaw does not obey his commands to ‘liberate’ the town.

What did Robert have to do to get his men the permission to fight?

He blackmailed a higher officer. (Smuggling, looting, grafts) He promised to tell higher officials the smuggling and other illegal activities that the officers did.

Why do you think Thomas didn’t want to go home after shot in the battle of St. James Island?

He wasn’t a coward and didn’t want to lose the first chance he ever had to fight for what he believed in.

Why doesn’t Trip want to carry the flag?

Because he’s not fighting for him nor for the country, he’s fighting for himself and the ones who share his destiny.

What is there to fighting? What do these mean?

Character, strength of heart

Why did Shaw want to be the “suicide squad” at the invasion of Fort Wagner?

Because he wanted to show, that his men are eager to fight for freedom and are ready to die for it. Proving, that black people are vital and equal to others as well. It was considered an honorary move and white soldiers saluted them, when they went to battle.

Why did the soldiers meet the night before the final attack? What happened there?

It was a singing party, everyone made a speech. Rawlins, Thomas, Trip as well. It showed, how close they had become during their training. Trip said, that the regiment was like a family for him. As many soldiers did not have a family, it really meant a lot for them to have someone that took care of them.

What were your expectations concerning the end of the movie? How did it make you feel after watching it?

The end of the movie should be realistic, depicting the accurate end. Too many good people died? Very sad, tragic, that they could not conquer it. But it showed, that the brave attack influenced the Congress to encourage black people. The end was symbolic, as it was a right step towards equal rights for all races.

Did you find anything else odd in the final scene if the film?

The dead soldiers’ weren’t wearing any shoes(they had probably been taken before burying them to give to other regiments) but everyone was still dressed to their uniforms. Historically their uniforms were taken off as well.


References

Images

(1) Tholey, Augustus. General Kearney’s gallant charge, at the Battle of Chantilly, VA, 1st September 1862. 1867. Litograph. Library of Congress, n.p.

(2) Portrait of Frederick Douglass. Accessible at:
www.nps.gov/frdo/learn/historyculture/frederickdouglass.htm

(3) A poster looking for an escaped slave. Accessible at: www.kmuw.org/post/fugitive-slave-law

(4) Portrait of Dred Scott. Available at:
constitutioncenter.org/blog/dred-scott-decision-still-resonates-today-2

(5) Flag of the Confederate States of America. Available at:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America#/media/File:Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1861%E2%80%931863).svg

(6) Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. Available at:
www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/fort-wagner

Reviews

(7) Knighton, A. ‘What the Film Glory Got Right About the American Civil War and What It Did Not’, 2010. War History Online. Available at: www.warhistoryonline.com/american-civil-war/what-the-film-glory-got-right-about-the-american-civil-war-and-what-it-did-not.html [Accessed 19.05.2019]

(8) McPherson, J. M. ‘TNR Film Classic: ‘Glory’ (1990)’, 1990. The New Republic. Available at: newrepublic.com/article/91210/tnr-film-classics-glory-january-15-1990 [Accessed 19.05.2019]

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