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Portrayal of Union Soldiers & Veterans


I held off watching the show because of the main character's background--what seemed essentially another Josie Wales, noble ex-Confederate surrounded by a sea of crass & wicked Union men.

Wasn't quite that way, of course.

But it does leave to me to wonder why films in general portray the Union in such a negative manner. Exceptions are few--Glory, Horse Soldiers, The Undefeated (sort of). Is it a liking for the underdog? The cult of Lee & Jackson & Forrest?

Even in Hell on Wheels, which does portray Grant sympathetically, the Union troops are mostly scum (as, in fairness, many of the other Confederates). As in other movies & shows, none seems to have fought to preserve the country, or end slavery. Bohannan claims to have ridden with Nathan Bedford Forrest, & while he admits the massacre of Union injured on a hospital train, he seems to have forgotten that Forrest was also responsible for the massacre of surrendered Negro troops & their officers. In a sense Bohannan was directly responsible for the Swede's ordeal, because it was that policy of slaughtering captured Negro troops that led Grant to stop the prisoner exchanges, & thus lead to camps such as Andersonville. During S2E7 when the Swede describes Andersonville to Bohannan he had the opportunity to point that out, but didn't.

Many years ago I recall a review of Ride With The Devil in which a critic wrote that Hollywood's sympathy for the South suggested "it might have been right".

But right about what? When it comes to nation-building might makes right. If you fail to win the war of secession or independence that follows your attempt to create a country then you weren't right. You were wrong. If the Colonies had lost the War of Independence would the King have granted us our independence anyway, based on the Declaration of Independence's eloquence? Or would the Founding Fathers have all hanged?

The Noble Confederate of so many films is depicted as never actually fighting for slavery, but to keep his home free of an overreaching government. Confederate apologists to this day point out that the average grayback wasn't a slave owner. But so what? The founders of the Confederacy made it very clear that secession's main goal was to preserve slavery & white supremacy. One need only read their words in speeches & founding documents. If the US went to war today to preserve a vital resource such as oil it wouldn't matter that most of those in the military would have had no connection to the oil business.

I guess bottom line is that Hollywood seems to buy into the Lost Cause mythos at the expense of those who fought & sacrificed to keep the nation from fracturing beyond any meaningful recognition.

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