Civil War Fiction and Motion Pictures

By Stephen

In my last blog I mentioned the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the American Civil War would start  next year.   The subject of that blog was non-fiction books in the Fontana Regional Library system pertaining to the civil war .  This time I want to mention novels and movies set in the same conflict.

First to read on many people’s  list would be the classic Red Badge of Courage.  Stephen Crane’s book, first published in 1895,  has been in print ever since.   The movie version starred a real Medal of Honor hero, Audie  Murphy

Margaret Mitchell’s classic southern novel Gone With the Wind  shows the effect of the war on southern civilians, especially during Sherman’s march to the sea through Georgia.  This book was also the source for the epic motion picture starring Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable.

Before  Shelby Foote wrote his massive narrative history of the Civil War, he published a short novel, Shiloh.  The story portrays soldiers of both sides  in the bloodiest battle of war at that time.

Other modern novelists have taken America’s internal dispute as the setting for their books.  The Shaaras, Michael, the father, and Jeff, the son, have combined on a Civil War saga that started with Michael’s Killer Angels.  This book  was adapted for the screen with the title Gettysburg:  Gods and Generals. After his father’s untimely death, Jeff Shaara completed the series by publishing Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure.

Noted historical novelist Bernard Cornwell has contributed to the fictional bibliography of the Civil War.  The Starbuck Chronicles includes Rebel, Copperhead, Battle Flag, and The Bloody Ground.

PBS’s Jim Lehrer is an accomplished novelist as well as a well-known news anchor.  One of Lehrer’s novels No Certain Rest has as its setting Antietam National Military Park in the present and the battle in the past.

William R. Trotter has written two civil war novels: The Sands of Pride and The Fires of Pride  are a fictional account of the war in eastern North Carolina.  Trotter is also the author of  the non-fiction trilogy The Civil War in North Carolina.

Trotter’s non-fiction examination of  the Civil War in the mountains of West North Carolina became the basis of Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain, which was later made into a movie.   Unfortunately, Romania stood in for Western North Carolina, but the fratricidal aspect of the war in the mountains still stood out.

In addition those already mentioned, the list of motion pictures set in the Civil War is endless. My favorite is a John Ford-John Wayne collaboration, The Horse Soldiers.  Based on Grierson’s cavalry raid through Mississippi to Baton Rouge in 1863, this classic also stars William Holden.

Glory, the story of the heroism of the first Union all black volunteer unit,  54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry,  and their white commander fighting the Confederates as well as prejudice in the Union army.

If you are an Elvis Presley fan, his movie Love Me Tender is set in this period.

Two made for television movies about the Civil War period,  The Colt   and Lincoln, have been released in one DVD .    The latter is based on Carl Sandburg’s portrait of the president, the former is taken from a short story about a colt born in the midst of a battle.

See your librarian for other fiction titles and movies set in the Civil War.

One thought on “Civil War Fiction and Motion Pictures

  1. I’m looking forward to reading some of the Civil War fiction titles you included that I either haven’t had a chance to read yet or didn’t even know about! Your lists will be great to use in library displays and marketing for the Civil War Anniversary.


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