“Glory” (Ott)

Notions

Different developments in the North and South

In the 1850s the main differences in developments were about economy and labour. Southern states were widely using slaves and their economy depended largely on agriculture. One of their biggest export products was cotton. Northern states had gone through industrialization and were practising free labour. Northern states had also more mineral resources. Many of the Northen residents lived in urban areas. New Conservative President Abraham Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery but because slavery was rampant in the south and their economy was dependant on it, they refused to let go. This led to many states departing from the Union.

Abolitionist movement

The abolitionist movement was a social movement to put an end to racial discrimination, segregation and slavery. There were people with different views. Some wished for the gradual emancipation of slaves. Some wished to just restrict slavery to certain areas and thus prevent it from spreading. They were called “Free-Soil” activists. This movement was largely fueled by religion. People fought for religious purposes. These purposes appeared with the Second Awakening that caused the religious fervour. The movement was one of the reasons for the Civil War. Some of the female abolitionists went on to be prominent figures in the women’s rights movement. One of the most active abolitionists was called William Garrison. He founded the American Anti-Slavery Society and published an abolitionist newspaper The Liberator which he founded with Isaac Kipp in Massachusetts in 1831. The newspaper was published until slavery was abolished.

Missouri compromise

Missouri compromise of 1820 was a follow-up to Missouri’s request in 1819 that requested Missouri to be declared a slave state. This was the boiling point of the tensions between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions. Until this event, there were 22 states, 11 free and 11 slave states. A perfect balance that was now being threatened by this request. So, the request was accepted but with a minor condition – Maine was to be admitted as a free state, so the balance would last on. Senator Henry Clay received the name “Great Pacificator” for his work for the compromise. Many heated discussions whether to allow or not. Maine was previously part of Massachusetts.

Fugitive Slave Act

Was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as a part of the Compromise of 1850 between the northern and southern states. It was one of the most controversial acts of the compromise as it required that all escaped slaves, upon capture, have to be returned to the owners/masters. Also, the citizens of free states had to cooperate. The act was called “Bloodhound Law” by the abolitionists because of the dogs used to track down the runaway slaves.

There was also a previous law in 1758 called the Fugitive Slave Act. It allowed the owners to search and catch their slaves themselves and bring them before the court. Anyone who obstructed such capture was forced to pay a fine of 500 dollars. The act had also a massive downside: some previously free African-Americans were illegally enslaved.

Underground Railroad

A network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States in the first half of the 19th century. The network was used by the African-American slaves for escaping to free states and Canada. They were helped by the abolitionists who felt sympathetic to their cause. One of the most active leaders of the Underground Railroad was called Levy Coffin. He was a Quaker. It is estimated that a wapping number of 3000 slaves passed through his care. It has been suggested that by 1850, 100 000 slaves had escaped using the Underground Railroad. Various other routes led to Mexico, Spanish Florida, Nova Scotia and overseas. One of the most popular destinations was British North America (nowadays Canada) where slavery was prohibited. One of George Washington’s own slaves escaped through the Railroad in 1786. George Washington blamed a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.”

Dred Scott case

One of the most controversial events preceding the Civil War. Dred Scott was a slave who lived with his master in a free state before returning to the slave state of Missouri. Dred Scott claimed that the time spent in a free state entitles him to emancipation. The Supreme Court decided in 1857 that the blacks cannot petition the court for their freedom for they have no U.S. citizenship. A black person, a slave or not, cannot claim a U.S. citizenship. This verdict outraged the abolitionists and further intensified tensions. Dred Scott and several members of his family were granted freedom by his master only 3 months after the court’s verdict.

Formation of Confederacy

The Confederate States: Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, (later North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia).

The Confederate States of America was a collection of 11 (originally 7) states that departed from the union in 1860 as a result of President Abraham Lincoln getting elected. Abraham Lincoln was a strong proponent of abolishing slavery. The Confederate States existed for 4 years from 1861 to 1865 and were led by Jefferson Davis. The Confederate States were never recognized as a sovereign state, especially not by the United States. The northern and southern states had been torn apart because of several differences in politics and economy with slavery at its centre. The victory of Abraham Lincoln was labelled as an act of war by some southern states. They thought that the army would seize the slaves and force white women to marry black men. So, they started organizing assemblies and as a result, they separated from the United States, forming the Confederate States of America. In the Confederate States, the President served only one term which lasted for 6 years.

Causes of the Civil War (1861-1865)

The Civil War was basically the result of decades-long tensions that had reached the boiling point quite some time ago. The conflict was almost inevitable. There were also fundamental economic differences including labour force, main economic sources, etc. Abraham Lincoln carefully proclaimed that the war was waged over the preservation of the Union. Their main purpose was to preserve the US in its previous form. Lincoln knew that the aim to abolish slavery would’ve been unsuitable for many states. Many said that this war was to decide whether slavery will be abolished or not and so this war was also labelled as a war over slavery.

Developments and outcome of the war.

Developments: During the Civil War, there were many developments as desperate times demanded desperate measures. New weapons (naval mines), new technology (telegraphs), new (rail)roads, etc. For the first time, ambulances and hot air balloons were used. The industry was developed and further modernized.

Outcome: The Civil War ended with the Confederate forces surrendering unconditionally. The Civil War was the costliest and deadliest war on the American soil ever, with some 620 000 of 2.4 million soldiers killed. Millions were wounded and the south was left in ruins.

Emancipation Proclamation

This was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Before it, Abraham Lincoln threatened to free the slaves in those states that did not end their rebellion against the Union. As none of the Confederate States restored them to the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863. This outraged the Confederate States. The Emancipation Proclamation freed 3.1 OR 3.5 million (different data) of the total 4 million slaves, so it had a massive effect. The proclamation also made it possible for the African-Americans to join the Union army. The order changed their legal status from slave to free, though the designated area was only the South. Emancipation Proclamation was basically a war measure that encouraged slaves in the Confederate States to run and join the Union’s side. The slaves in the Union were freed by state action or three years later by the 13th amendment.

Visual

This is the elongated version of a mash-up Confederate flag. This flag is put together of the Second Confederate Navy Jack and the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The flag can also be seen as a banner on the second national Confederate flag which is named “The Stainless Banner”. Nowadays this flag is referred to as the Confederate flag and also as the symbol of Southern United States. It does have a controversy. It’s also known as the rebel flag, Dixie flag and Southern cross. The mash-up version has become a divisive symbol in the United States. The flag has been used by far right-wing political activists, for example, in Neo-Nazi parades. It is especially displayed in Germany due to the original Nazi flag being outlawed. The flag is considered in the USA as an extreme symbol of hatred and racism. This is one of the examples what kind of a trace the Confederate States have left. This is one of the examples where we see the Confederate States nowadays.

Essay

Glory: a lasting tribute

Glory is a 1989 American film starring such actors like Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman. The film was directed by Edward Zwick, lasts for 2 hours and 2 minutes and depicts the American Civil War through the eyes of Colonel Robert Shaw. Glory was nominated for five Academy Awards and won three of them, in addition to 3 Oscars and several other awards. The film was also successful financially making 26.8 million dollars on an 18 million budget. But how about the historical integrity and what about the public opinion?

The public opinion seems to be mostly unanimous to the awards. Reviewers praise the film thoroughly. Some of the most praised details include the soundtrack of the film and the acting of Denzel Washington while playing Private Trip. He also received an Oscar for this. One reviewer says that “Glory is a lasting tribute to both the power of courage and heroism and fantastic filmmaking” and gives a short final verdict: “Highly recommended.” (Liebman, 2013)

The historical integrity seems to be in balance with the fiction in the film. The most important events in the film did take place. A man called Colonel Robert Shaw did exist and led an all-black regiment called 54th Massachusetts. The film succeeds in its purpose which was “about the contribution which black men made in the American Civil War, an aspect of the war which is often overlooked.” (Webb) One reviewer praises the combination of fact and fiction in this film: “But fact and fiction put together, in this case at least, makes “Glory” a thoroughly pleasant experience, a lightweight, liberal-heart-swollen high.” (Howe, 1990)

My own opinion sadly differs largely from the common one. In my opinion, the film was quite boring. The scenes seemed to be way too lengthy. I was hoping for a high pace but sadly this film gets even a lower score from me than “Patriot”. I can get it why the fight-scenes had to be so long but that still partly ruined the film for me. One of the scenes picturing Colonel Robert Shaw before the biggest fight riding a horse by the seaside seemed so awfully lengthened that I almost fell asleep during it. A review completely agrees with me saying that Matthew Broderick was “catastrophically miscast as Shaw” and the director “holds the camera on him for interminable close-ups in the vain hope that a thought will be readable on that bland countenance”. (Travers, 1995)

To sum up, “Glory” is not a faultless film which should be proclaimed as perfect but it achieves without a doubt its purpose of honouring the contribution of black soldiers in the Civil War, a topic which had remained quite untouched in Hollywood until then. The film has received many awards and massively positive feedback from the public. The actors are outstanding and the soundtrack is one of the kind. Despite all of these ups, there are still, in my opinion, too many downs which sadly ruin the film personally for me.

  1. Liebman, M. 2013. ‘Glory Blu-ray Review’, Blu-ray.com. Available at: https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Glory-Blu-ray/69725/#Review (Accessed: 21.05.2019)
  2. Webb, A. ‘Freeman Fights for Washington’s Glory’, The Movie Scene. Available at: https://www.themoviescene.co.uk/reviews/glory/glory.html (Accessed: 21.05.2019)
  3. Howe, D. 1990. ‘Glory’, The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/gloryrhowe_a0b24a.htm??noredirect=on (Accessed: 21.05.2019)
  4. Travers, P. 1995. ‘Glory’, Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/glory-99832/ (Accessed: 21.05.2019)

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