Are we in need of another Civil War movie?

With recent Civil War based movies not being up to snuff (Gods and Generals and Cold Mountain), one wonders if any good Civil War movies will ever be made, or if one could have success. I believe, if done right and without Ted Turner financing, that such a movie is possible. I think, however, that a new Civil War movie should focus on the Western Theater because all too often Civil War films focus on the East, even when exciting things were happening in the West. The two films that come to mind that deal with the Western Theater are the classic John Wayne film The Horse Soldiers, which is based on Grierson’s Raid in Mississippi in support of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign, and The Blue and the Gray, which is actually a miniseries dealing with the entire war and its effect on a family with sides serving both sides of the war. Both of these works are dated and the time has come for a great new film on the war.

With that said, I would like to submit the following suggestions for interesting plots for a new Civil War movie:

  1. Vicksburg-this idea would attempt to replicate the greatness and balance that was Gettysburg, but with a focus on one of the most important battles in the West. The only issue with this idea would be compacting a lengthy siege into a two or four-hour long movie, but the effort would be worthwhile, as I would love to see someone Grant and Sherman on the silver screen again.
  2. Gunboats-this concept would focus on the story of the Union gunboats patrolling the Mississippi and her tributaries in support of the various campaigns in the West. This film would fill a niche, as there really have been no good films on the navy in the Civil War, and no, the movie on the Hunley does not count. One wonders who would make a good David Farragut.
  3. Grant-sorry Confederate sympathizers, you have your glorification film for Stonewall Jackson (Gods and Generals), now it is the Union’s turn. Much like the dismal Ted Turner glorification of the South, this concept would focus on Grant the general, while providing a supporting cast of other prominent characters to discuss a period and section of the war, particularly Grant’s career through Vicksburg, focusing on Shiloh and Vicksburg. It would be the Gods and Generals that we all would have liked to have seen.
  4. Georgia Howling-this idea would not show well in the South, but it would be a hit with all hard-core Union men and women. As the title suggests, this film would deal with Sherman’s “March to the Sea” and would be more focused on the history and not a love story (this is not to say that Gone With the Wind was not a great film).
  5. Antietam-yes, the other ideas have a Western focus, but I want what was omitted from Gods and Generals. Antietam has such historical significance, but militarily was a draw that it is worthy of a film. Since I do not really care about George McClellan, I can come up with some interesting ideas for who would play him. In any event, this battle is one that should be adapted to film.

So, there you have it, five ideas for possible great Civil War films. While I could have thought up more, I decided to limit it to five. One honorable mention would be a film based on a novel. One of the best novels I read on the war as a boy (well before Newt Gingrich wrote his wonderful counter factual history trilogy) was Rifles for Watie, which follows one Kansas soldier’s adventure fighting the war in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and Arkansas. While the general Stand Watie was a real person and some events in the book actually happened, it would be nice to see this great work of fiction adapted to the screen. After all, we have Gone With the Wind and Cold Mountain, so why not Rifles for Watie? If you have your own ideas for great Civil War films, share them by leaving a comment. Who knows, maybe one of these ideas can become a film someday.

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8 thoughts on “Are we in need of another Civil War movie?

  1. I just came across this website – ironic. I am currently reading “Rifles For Watie” for somewhere in the 5-7th time, in the process of scripting it for the screen. It is an idea I had the first time I read the novel, probably close to 10 years ago now, and now I feel with the right further research, I am ready to script it. I am looking for some help from those who have a similar passion for making the “right” Civil War Film….

    • Please make this wonderful book into a movie. I teach 6th grade in a Christian school. We study the history of the Western Hemisphere which thankfully, permits me to teach American history. We read Johnny Tremain and Rifles for Watie. My students were able to read Johnny Tremain and then watch the movie. They learned to write a compare/contrast paper, etc. I have looked for a movie to watch when we are done with Rifles for Watie – NONE! Please make one!

  2. I love rifles for Watie- i love rifles 4 watie i always dreamed of it turning into a movie as a kid and i read at least ten times and I just love the god damn last 50 pages- how he escapes- is honored- and the best RETURNING HOME- man that is just the best book ever- when drops back his friends then steps right onto his front yard- man those are memorable moments- if you guys like need any help im there – i can write a damn good script.

  3. I agree whole-heatedly about “Rifles for Watioe” as a movie.
    It’s got adventure, it explains all the turmoil of Bleeding Kansas, it shows why the Indians held a grudge against the federal government and why they joined the South.
    It has romance, and a chase scene at the end.
    Most important: it shows that soldiers on both sides were regular people, doing thier best in a situation which was way out of their control.

    What a spectacular book.

    Can’t wait to see the move (someday: sigh).

    And Daniel Sauerwein is spot on about Grant: the guy who won the continent-wide war deserves enormous credit for getting the job done. While Lincoln was surrounded by boot-lickers and ego-maniacs who were all bark and no bite, Grant was all bite and no bark.
    Well worth a movie depicting the grandeur and personal honor of one of America’s greatest heroes.

  4. I have read, “Rifles for Watie”, many, many times and have always wondered why it has never been made into a movie. It deals with a theatre of the war not often written about and the story itself, I believe, would appeal to most generations. It covers history, adventure, romance, and even the background to the War and the position of the Indian nation. What more do you need?

  5. i have also read “Rifles for Watie” many times and the first time i read it in high school i though that it would make a great movie! if any one were ever to make a movie i would deffinitly be ine of the first in line to see it. i cant write to save my life but anyone who can has my full support.

  6. I’m from England. I first read the book when eleven years old in 1961. It was the most compelling story I had read. I knew then it was a serious book. I am 62 and have just re-read the book. I am still astonished and moved by its authenticity and humilty. A magnificant story so very well told.

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