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Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten

Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War

Gary W. Gallagher
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  • Book Info
    Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten
    Book Description:

    More than 60,000 books have been published on the Civil War. Most Americans, though, get their ideas about the war--why it was fought, what was won, what was lost--from movies, television, and other popular media. Renowned Civil War historian Gary Gallagher guides readers through the stories told in recent film and art, showing how they have both reflected and influenced the political, social, and racial currents of their times. Too often these popular portrayals overlook many of the very ideas that motivated the generation that fought the war. The most influential perspective for the Civil War generation, says Gallagher, is almost entirely absent from the Civil War stories being told today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0378-0
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    On October 4, 1993, a full house at Washington’s National Theatre watched the world premiere ofGettysburg, a Turner Pictures film based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novelThe Killer Angels. Because the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites had been given a few choice seats, I found myself, as president of that organization, in the row occupied by Ted Turner and a number of his employees. Jeff Daniels, Sam Elliott, and other actors who appeared in the movie sat in the next row back. During the four-hour epic, I was intrigued by reactions among what was...

  4. 1 A Contested Historical Landscape: The Civil War Generation Interprets the Conflict
    (pp. 15-40)

    Americans began their struggle to define the historical meaning of the Civil War as soon as four years of slaughter ended in the spring of 1865. Their quest frequently took the form of heated debates that continue despite the passage of nearly 150 years. Many of the debates carried out by the Civil War generation focused on details relating to military operations. Some pitted former Confederates against former Federals, as when partisans of Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee engaged in strident exchanges about manpower during the Virginia campaigns of 1864–65. Lee’s defenders sought to magnify Union...

  5. 2 Going but Not Yet Gone: The Confederate War on Film
    (pp. 41-90)

    The Lost Cause narrative flourished in films for nearly half a century before losing ground, and eventually supremacy, to the Emancipation and Reconciliation Causes. Much of the Lost Cause success grew from Hollywood’s two most popular and influential Civil War–related films—The Birth of a Nation, director D. W. Griffith’s silent-era blockbuster released in 1915, andGone with the Wind, producer David O. Selznick’s 1939 treatment of Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel of the same name. Between them, the films grossed approximately $2 billion, adjusted for inflation;¹ they also exposed generations of Americans to strongly positive depictions of the Confederacy...

  6. 3 Emancipation and Reconciliation but Not the Union: Hollywood and the North’s Civil War
    (pp. 91-134)

    Hollywood’s recent Civil War films fail almost completely to convey any sense of what the Union Cause meant to millions of northern citizens. More than that, they often cast the United States Army, a military force that saved the republic and destroyed slavery, in a decidedly negative, post-Vietnam light. The Emancipation and Reconciliation Causes, both of which strike modern Americans as more meaningful than the Union Cause, have fared much better. Ironically, the Union Cause received more attention during the era when the Lost Cause dominated Civil War films, in large measure because some notable movies featured Abraham Lincoln. Reconciliation...

  7. 4 Brushes, Canvases, and the Lost Cause: The Ascendancy of Confederate Themes in Recent Civil War Art
    (pp. 135-208)

    Works of art produced for the Civil War market in the past twenty-five years would warm the hearts of former Confederates who laid the groundwork for the Lost Cause tradition. To a quite astonishing degree, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the soldiers they commanded have emerged triumphant in the world of contemporary painters and sculptors. The subjects the artists select, as well as many of the interpretive materials that describe their pieces, mirror the original Lost Cause art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In some ways, recent artworks have gone beyond those of the Lost Cause...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 209-212)

    During the spring of 2003, the four Civil War interpretive traditions clashed over a piece of public art in Richmond, Virginia. Adherents of the Reconciliation and Emancipation Causes vanquished those of the Lost Cause, with the Union Cause typically relegated to a secondary position. Controversy centered on a statue depicting Lincoln and his son Tad during their visit to the Confederate capital on April 4–5, 1865. Commissioned by a nonprofit organization and donated to the Richmond National Battlefield Park, New York sculptor David Frech’s life-size statue (fig. 78) was dedicated on the 138th anniversary of the event. The bronze...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 213-258)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 259-260)
  11. Index
    (pp. 261-274)