The Power of Using Film to Tell Civil War Stories

Ever since I can remember, I have always had a love for movies and television. Nothing is better than sitting down in front of either the big or small screens, and seeing a well-crafted story come to life. And when the film media is used to tell important stories from America’s past, great things can be achieved.

I’ll never forget that weekend in the Summer of 1994, when I first saw Ron Maxwell’s Gettysburg for the first time. The power of what I saw on screen, from the epic battle sequences, to the beautiful performances by the stellar cast, forever transformed my views on history. The subject was no longer relegated to books, with still black-and-white photographs and maps. It was alive, and it was real. I wanted to learn more about the time in which the movie took place, and have never looked back since. That is the power that film has. If a historical film is written well, cast perfectly, and stays as true as they can to the actual history, then people will be drawn into the story, and want to learn more.

Recently, our reenacting group, the Southern Piedmont Historical Reenactment Society (SPHRS) did our Unit Recruitment Film. Instead of doing your typical “this is who we are and what we do, please consider joining us” video, we decided instead to go for the “cinematic.” Several of us involved knew that, in order to get our target age range, we would have to do something that is both exciting, and will engage those who view it. That way, we can get younger people, the lifeblood of our future, interested. We feel that the final product does just that. Just to show how our final product came out (And to do some shameless promotion for the video and group), the video is imbedded below.

With Grant vs. Lee, the opportunity is there to create something that is exciting, dramatic, and historically accurate, and will draw viewers in to see the stories of the men and women who fought and lived through our nation’s bloodiest conflict, and how a stronger, freer United States came to be from the maelstrom of civil war. Like Gettysburg before it, it will draw people to learn more about our past, and lead to a new interest in the most important chapter in American history.

About Steven Hancock

I am an avid student of American and World History, with a particular interest in the American Civil War. I am currently a student at American Public University, working toward a Master's Degree in United States History. I am also a Civil War Reenactor, donning the uniform of the common Union and Confederate soldier at reenactments throughout the year.
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One Response to The Power of Using Film to Tell Civil War Stories

  1. George Sleasman says:

    Agree 100 Percent Steve , Keep up the good work.

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