Here’s a link to view the movie, if you can stand it:
Now, I’m on record as stating that you can’t expect accuracy from Hollywood. Hollywood is about entertainment, not history. I’m not retreating one iota from that stand; however, for a historical movie to work there has to be enough accuracy to create verisimilitude. That’s a word I learned in high school. It refers to enough accuracy to make the plot believable. It has to seem real enough to us that we suspend our disbelief and involve ourselves emotionally in the film. There is just so much wrong with this movie that I found that to be impossible.
The movie starts with historical nonsense. The voiceover narration claims former Virginia Governor Henry Wise had changed his mind about slavery, which is simply something the writers made up out of thin air. It proceeds from there to even more nonsense: the claim that Wise took his son to a slave auction in order to show him how evil slavery was. This is where the filmmaker makes the statement that he’s not trying to defend slavery, that he agrees slavery was a wrong. We’ve seen this from lost causers quite a bit. “Oh, I agree slavery was horrible and I’m not defending it, but …” and then they go on to defend slavery. The movie also makes the ridiculous claim that Henry Wise opposed secession. This was the same Henry Wise who sent troops to Harpers Ferry and the Gosport Navy Yard before Virginia seceded because he was concerned they wouldn’t secede and he wanted to push them along.
The movie purports to tell the story of the VMI cadets who participated in the 1864 Battle of New Market in the Shenandoah Valley. We follow John Sergeant Wise, son of the former governor, through the fabricated lesson of the evils of slavery from his father into VMI, where he and his classmates are paragons of antislavery, even going so far as to volunteer to be hanged in place of a slave in order for him to be released. Quite obviously, slavery had to have nothing to do with the war since the confederates loved black folks and did all they could to help them. Riiiiiiight.
Of course United States soldiers are depicted as savage, bloodthirsty, and ready to destroy everything they could get their hands on, whereas the virtuous confederates stop to help all the black folks in trouble who were fleeing the marauding Yankees. The scenes in the White House are just silly, and Grant is shown vowing to “burn that valley to cinders” just out of pure spite.
When we get to the battle we see the VMI cadets impulsively charging a Union battery to capture the guns. In the movie, the battle is conducted in sunshine and blue skies, but as they cross a muddy field they lose their shoes. In reality, the battle was fought in a thunderstorm, which caused the muddy field, which cause them to lose their shoes. At the end we see the slave from VMI who is suddenly at New Market, crying over the bodies of the people who fought to keep him enslaved.
Neoconfederates will love this movie, no doubt. Anyone who has the first idea of what actually happened in the Civil War will want to have that hour-and-a-half of their life back. You’ve been warned, so don’t blame me if you choose to watch it.