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Cavalry Bugler

Legend has that it in July 1862 Union General Daniel Butterfield had enough.  The military bugle call at the time, a calling derived from a French bugle melody, found its way into the mouthpiece of every bugler.  Used in reveille, lights out, and the honoring of the fallen, the French tune irritated Butterfield to no end.  Thus, he conceived to compose his own bugle call.  At Harper’s Landing, Virginia, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Lee Laming writes, “There he made what may be his most lasting contribution to the military.”[1]  Laming is astute in this observation as Taps, the bugle call credited to Butterfield, has survived the Civil War.  Historical memory has remembered Butterfield and the story of the creation of Taps well.  However, Taps isn’t the only military song of the Civil War to have a colorful history.

One of  the most famous military songs to come out of the Civil War is not “Taps”, and maybe even more shocking, not even Northern.  The Confederate ‘national anthem’, Dixie, is well known today and has entered the American psyche as a powerful statement of rebellion.  In fact, the song is so famous, it is played by the modern United States Military Academy Marching Band.  The song was composed in 1859 by Dan Emmett who composed a lot of music for minstrel shows and appeared many times in blackface.[2]  Emmett, a native of Ohio, said in composing the piece, “Like most everything else I ever did, it was written because it had to be done.”[3]

The tune, in historical memory has taken on epic proportions.  In Gone with the Wind, the song is heard as a rallying cry after the fall of Fort Sumter, and again after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.  In the latter, the camera focuses on a band corps playing the tune to strike up pride in the Confederate cause.  The scene becomes disagreeable as a young band member sheds a tear as he plays.  In reality, the song found its origins exclusively on the minstrel stage, and not in the hearts and minds of Southerners.  The Lost Cause pride in the anthem is laughable when considering the true first lyrics of the song and not the longing to be back in the South:

Dis worl’ was made in jiss six days,

an’ finished in various ways,

Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie land.[4]

When singing the song today it is only fitting when beginning the Confederate anthem to sing in the original minstrel fashion, and remember the stereotypical black dialect written by Emmett:

I wish I was in de land ob cotton,

Old times dar am not forgotten,

Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie land.[5]

The racial undertones of Dixie come through when examining the lyrics of the piece, which seems to be seldom done.  Historical memory concerning the song has forgotten these undertones and instead focuses on the upbeat nature of the piece, made even more impactful by nature in which the song has been played in recent years by bands belong to the United States military.  However, as memorable as Dixie is, it would be inappropriate to leave out the fact that the Union had a similar prideful tune, minus the racial undertones of course.

 

Battle Hymn of the Republic was composed by an individual that can be considered the exact opposite of Emmett.  Composed in in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe, Howe may actually be considered less of a composer and more of a lyricist.  Around this time she heard a group singing John Brown’s Body, a popular marching song of the day.  This tune proved to be so popular that numerous lyricists wrote variations on the lyrics.  Howe’s lyrics, as the legend told by her goes, were composed while her infant slept.[6]  Published in 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly, the Battle Hymn of the Republic evoked pride and nationalism.  Interesting to note, Howe herself was an abolitionist and devout evangelical.  Her lyrics and the song, like Dixie, have survived the years and entered into American memory, serving as a song of rally during the World Wars.[7]

 

 

While Battle Hymn of the Republic remains in the repertoire of military bands this day, few recall the biblical passages associated with the song.  The lyric, “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;” most assuredly comes from Revelations 14:19 which reads, “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”  The translation, this blogger asserts, is that Howe contends that the institution of slavery has laid over the land for too long and the wrath of God has festered and has now been unleashed upon the South.  Not all marching tunes of the Union, it should be noted, were steeped in abolitionism.

 

 

Another famous rallying tune for the Union was a very old song to the soldiers of the Civil War.  When Johnny Comes Marching Home was an Irish folk song of the seventeenth century and, interestingly enough, was at first an anti-war song.[8]  In 1863, Patrick Gilmore wrote the lyrics to the Irish folk song and became the song we know it as today.[9]  Being a folk song, the tune is less of a military march and more of popular tune.  Much like Johnny Comes Marching Home, Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel, composed in 1863 by John Thompson was less of a marching song.  Thompson’s composition, as Historian Chandra Manning notes that the song, “Mocked the Union Army’s failure to capture Richmond in 1861 and 1862.”[10]  Unfortunately, this wonderful backstory has faded from memory and now resides only with historians.

 

 

Songs of the Civil War are numerous and varied and all of them have interesting stories.  Whether Union or Confederate, abolitionist or pro-slavery, the music of the Civil War is intriguing.  As it is played today, Civil War tunes are much different in terms of connotation, but knowing these stories will elucidate the impact of the Civil War on music of the day.  Concerning music, perhaps  Ulysses S. Grant said it best when he claimed, “I only know two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.”

 

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[1] Lanning Lt. Col., The Civil War 100 (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2008), 345.

[2] Steven H. Cornelius, Music of the Civil War Era (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2004), 30.

[3] Dan Emmett, quoted in Steven H. Cornelius, Music of the Civil War Era (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2004), 30.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Diane Ravitch, The American Reader: Words That Moved a Nation, Rev. 2nd ed. (New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000), 257.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mark Aldrich, A Catalog of Folk Song Settings For Wind Band (Milwaukee: Meredith Music, 2004), 36.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War, 1st Vintage Civil War Library ed. (New York: Vintage, 2008), 53.

*Posted on behalf of Mario Arellano.  Please direct your comments to him.*

Gone with the Wind (1939) highlights the evolution of gender roles.  First, gender roles began and remained traditional in that men displayed power and masculine characteristics whereas the women displayed sanctity and innocence.  Bruce Chadwick’sThe Real Civil War also speaks to the male gender issues not only during the Civil War but also during the many decades after.  Similarly, the women in the film maintained traditional gender roles whereas all sought the perfect man or someone to take care of them for the years to come.

During and after the war however, the women in the film realized their handicap and aimed to achieve more not out of pride but out of necessity. As time progressed, women in America aimed to achieve more by relying on the African American precedents, as well as their much earned right to establish themselves as citizens by taking on new roles and new challenges.  Moreover, female gender roles were evolving and continued to evolve following the American Civil War whereas opportunities to express one’s beliefs and opinions grew to the point that they would forever continue to evolve.   Indeed this was quite evident in the film.

From the beginning, the males in the film aimed to display an image of power and strength in arguing for the Confederacy going to war. They not only romanticized the idea, but they even went as far as to threaten Captain Butler when he made the comment about the North possessing more of the resources needed to fight a war.   In addition, Bruce Chadwick speaks to the issue of male gender roles claiming that Clark Gable’s character Captain Butler questioned the idea of crying on film because of the idea that it might tarnish his masculine image.*  This suggests that nearly sixty five years later, men still desired to display manly images of themselves similar to the men in film.

On the other hand, Scarlet’s attitude from the opening scene to the part where all the boys left for war tended to focus on the female desire to find love.  Her personal image is worth mentioning because she went above and beyond to acquire the attention of the boys at the picnic.  Hoping to win the heart of Ashley and secure her own future, Scarlet displayed a sense of innocence in order to win the attention of all the males at the party including Ashley.  Then later in the film after realizing she has nothing left to rely on because the war ruined her families land and Ashley was now married, Scarlet does something totally outside a females means in purchasing a lumber mill to provide herself and her family.  Prior to the war, the idea of a female performing predominantly male jobs remained unheard of.  However, as the times changed during and after the war, Scarlet was forced to take action in order to make amends.

Viewing the film from the gender perspective, it is quite apparent that the evolution of gender roles continued to change during and after the Civil War. Women accepted new roles out of necessity while men aimed to portray masculine characteristics to compensate the ongoing changes that women continued to take advantage of.

*Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2001), 186.

While reading The Reel Civil War by Bruce Chadwick and then watching the movie Gone with the Wind I found myself intrigued by Scarlett O’Hara and her fierce stubbornness to break the modern mold of traditional women while simultaneously sabotaging her own happiness. A woman with such strength and attitude did not fit the predominant southern belle image. The Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the Wind looks and dresses like a southern belle and her animosity towards the North is in accordance with that of a southern belle, but all resemblance stops there. Her personality which has won over millions of audiences’ hearts depicts the strong spirited and newly liberated woman of the 1920s and 1930s.

Unfortunately there is little coverage regarding American women during the years shortly before and after the Civil War but according to A History of American Women by Carol Hymowitz and Michaele Weissman (this happens to conveniently be a fully accessible and free ebook on Google) women were independent during the war as is typically the case. Hyomowitz and Michaele state, “While the men were away fighting, women became managers, decision makers, heads of families, and income earners—roles that had usually been assumed by men.”* When the war began women readily “took up arms” at home and fought for the cause by providing many essential items such as clothing and food or becoming a nurse. Once the war ended many women were proud of their work. Hymowitz and Weissman state, “Many white Southern women saw themselves as the stronger sex. But though they acknowledged their independence, physical strength, and fortitude they never questioned the traditional image of woman as wife and mother.”** It appears the independent woman of the Civil War quickly relinquished the role given to her during the war, so why then did Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind create a southern belle character whose acquiescence does not conform to the typical southern belle of the 1860s and 1870s?

It appears that many southern white female writers began to include plot lines with a strong willed southern belle. According to the review of the The Belle Gone Bad—and Just Gone written by Carol S. Manning and reviewed by Emily Toth, “Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett, the quintessential bad belle, is smart, self centered, and mean when she has to be, and this is what saves her. It is also what makes the bad belle endlessly intriguing.”*** This new “bad belle” is indicative of women’s thoughts and feelings at the time the author’s wrote the stories.

Margaret Mitchell began writing Gone with the Wind the infamous love story in 1926 a time where women made many gains especially in the work arena and as a result they explored greater freedom in America than ever before. In the 1920s two types of women existed: the Gibson girl and flapper. Scarlett’s character combines the “bad belle” and flapper in to a synonymous character that intrigues and infuriates. According to the article Prosperity’s Child: Some Thoughts on the Flapper,” by Kenneth Yellis, in American Quarterly, during the 1920s their existed two types of women the Gibson girl (Melanie) and the flapper (Scarlett).****  Yellis expertly describes the dichotomy of these two vastly different types of women stating:

The Gibson girl was maternal and wifely, while the flapper was boyish and single. The Gibson girl was the embodiment of stability. The flapper girl’s aesthetic was motion, her characteristics were intensity, energy, volatility. While the Gibson girl seems incapable of an immodest thought or deed, the flapper strikes us as brazen and at least capable of sin if not actually guilty of it. She refused to recognize the traditional moral code of American civilization, while the Gibson girl had been its guardian.*****

It appears that whereas the bad belle Scarlett has no physical resemblance to the flapper her attitude fits perfectly.

Scarlett’s character takes a stand against the traditional roles of women, she even refuses to have any more children and seems withdrawn from the only child she had. In addition, she owns her own business, drinks, and will stop at no ends to ensure her own prosperity. Whereas most women were not at the point of giving up motherhood many were in essence sick and tired of the traditional and often boring role of women both historically and figuratively in literature. Women felt liberated during the Civil War and World War I having had the opportunity to break out of the traditional and mundane housewife role to realize their potential to provide and maintain for their families. In the Reel Civil War, by Bruce Chadwick, he admits, “Although about 25 percent of the women in America worked during the late 1930s and women had voted since 1920, they were still constrained, shackled by their role in the family and society.***** The 1920s saw greater advancements for women as compared to any other time in American history but ultimately women still felt frustrated as Chadwick admits and Scarlett O’Hara’s character proves. The proof lies with the stubborn and strong-spirited Scarlett who captured the hearts of women, their admiration depicts a desire to break the traditional mold. As a disclaimer I feel I should also say that whereas women admired her fierceness, her lack of caring for her child and any desire for future children along with her inability to find happiness were probably not sought after characteristics. It is her character as a whole that attracts audiences and the latter that makes a fantastic soap opera.

*Hymowitz, Carol, and Weissman, Michaele. A History of Women in America. New York: Bantam, 1984. chapter 9. (there were no page numbers online, sooo. . . sorry)

**Hymowitz and Michaele, chapter 9.

***Emily Toth. Rev. of The Belle Gone Bad: White Southern Women Writers and the Dark Seductress, by Betina Entzminger. South Central Review. Volume 22. Issue 1. (Spring 2005): pp. 120-122. JSTOR. Web. 13 June 2012.

****Kenneth A. Yellis. “Some Thoughts on the Flapper.” American Quarterly. Volume 21. Issue 1. (Spring 1969): pp. 44. JSTOR. Web. 13 June 2012.

***** Yellis, 44.

****** Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2001), 223.

In observing the film, Gone with the Wind (1939), I found it very interesting in the way that blacks were depicted in the movie at that time. Even knowing that the roles of the actors were the roles of slaves during the Civil War Period, I still found it shocking to see how ignorant and dumb the blacks were portrayed in the movie. They appeared as to not have any real concern for themselves, their own family, or for the freedom from slavery. The only real concern of theirs that was shown in the film was the concern that they had in taking care of their owners and their owners’ well-being. The slaves were all mostly shown happy and as so ever loyal to the Confederacy.

Loyal and Happy Slaves – Gone with the Wind (1939)

One critic at the time, Lincoln Kirkstein from Film Magazine, wrote: “History has rarely been told with even an approximation of truth in Hollywood because the few men in control there have no interest in the real forces behind historical movements and the new forces that every new epoch sets in motion. Gone with the Wind deserves our attention because it is an overinflated example of the usual false movie approach to history.”* Kirksteins’ remarks make it apparent that the love/hate relationship between history andHollywood is anything but new in society. His remarks also solidify any notion one might have about the film being made as not to tell history as it happened, but to entertain and make the most profitable grandeur films in the process.

Even in the south, before filming had begun, controversy surrounding the historical integrity of the film was brought into question during the search for the actress who would play Scarlet. “Several chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy threatened to boycott the film because an English actress landed the role. Indignation grew so intense that it spilled over onto the floor of the Daughters’ national convention. Peace finally came when the group’s president-general, Mrs. Walter LaMar, assured the ladies that as a world traveler she had met many British women and found them most delightful.”**

Construction of Hollywood Sign

Hollywood and the film industry, it seems, has always tried and most likely will continue to exploit history for the simple fact that there is money to be made. As historians, it is our duty to continue to watch films that are based on historical events and to critique them based on their relevancy to history and to the truth. For it is in this critiquing by historians, that films that are based on history will hold on to true historical integrity and be a truthful memory for future generations.  

* Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2001), 189.

** Chadwick, 188.

The portrayal of Mammy in the movie Gone with the Wind describes a caricature of a slave woman from the South. This caricature is a model for how Americans during the late 1930’s envisioned Civil War era South. The mammy of the movie represented a house slave that was devoted to the plantation mistress. The portrayal of the mammy represented fictional characters in movies and in literature such as in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gone with the Wind.  As expressed in the movie, Mammy is a person that acts as a mother figure for Scarlett O’Hara, but is conspicuously absent at other times. When Scarlett visits Rhett Butler in jail, accompaniment by her mammy legitimizes her visit. As Scarlett walks through Atlanta, Mammy serves as her protector, knocking away other Negros in order to make sure her charge is untouched and unharmed. However, as Scarlett goes in to Frank Kennedy’s general store, Mammy stays outside.  She and the other house slaves portrayed ignorant people who live to do their masters bidding, and do not know how to behave until they are told how to behave.

Hattie McDaniel, after playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind, was typecast as a housemaid for many other roles. She was quoted as saying, “Why should I complain about making seven thousand dollars a week playing a maid? If I didn’t I’d be making 7 dollars a week being a maid.”[1]

Americans during the late 1930’s also looked to black characters in negative roles. The musical Porgy and Bess portrayed African Americans living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina.  The photo of the drunken black man appeared in The New Yorker in 1935. Still held in the grips of the Jim Crow era, African Americans were still being perceived as the fictional Mammie in Gone with the Wind.


[1]Donald Bogle. Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks: An interpretive history of Blacks in American films (New York, NY: Continuum) 1994, accessed from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/ on 6/14/12.  hhttphttp://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/Co

Growing up in the South, Gone With the Wind, was required viewing.  I first saw this film in 1967 at the age of eight.  As a teenager, I again watched this classic.  GWTW  was even shown in school classrooms to depict the historic era of the “War Between the States” and Reconstruction.  As described by Bruce Chadwick in The Reel Civil War, most southerners viewed this movie more as a documentary than a fictional romantic movie.  Chadwick goes on to address the “four-pronged presentation of the Plantation Myth . . . 1) All white Southerners owned plantations 2) White Southerners and slaves took care of each other 3) The North was responsible for the war and 4) the South was and is devastated by the war.” *  In addition GWTW presented the “Lost Cause” in a “matter-of-fact” methodology that seemed to acceptable to the majority of Americans; not just Southerners.  (Minority acceptance is another issue.)  The problems, viewed with a modern perspective, are glaring.  The humiliating depiction of African Americans is outrageous by today’s standards.  The villainization of the North and the depiction of the “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags” are over-the-top and insulting.  Even Southerners are viewed as naive, backward, and victims.  In Chadwick addresses many of these issues and how they were more acceptable in the 1930s and 40s.  However, several of his explanations fall short of convincing.  The author stated that the producer of GWTW , David O. Selznick, desired to keep the KKK out of the movie.  However, even as a teen, I understood that Ashley Wilkes and Frank Kennedy were riding with the Klan on the raid on the Shantytown.  Chadwick also downplayed the harsh treatment of “carpetbaggers,”  “scalawags,” and blacks.  The film certainly presented these groups negatively.  (Perhaps not as harshly as the novel.)  Even the street scene that Chadwick described blacks as nonthreatening is inaccurate.  The fact that blacks were taking up space on the sidewalk would have been considered threatening by southerners and others during the first showing of the film and, for many, in the 1960s redistribution.  The author’s description of the admirable Mammy as the one who ran Tara falls shallow when one considers that Mammy wasn’t allowed to dine with her white “family” or attend parties.  Mammy “knew her place.”

It is difficult to overstate the impact of Gone With the Wind upon the popular view and understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  As a southerner, growing up with the perspective of “The Lost Cause,” it is difficult for me to analyze this impact.  Did this film influence the nation and their view of these eras or did popular views of the time shape the presentation and depiction of the movie?

*Posted on behalf of Jamie Adams.  Please address your comments to her.*

When viewing Gone With the Wind several questions came to my mind, but one that really stood out the most is the term escapist.  I have recently come across this term in a previous class and developed an understanding of the word and how it pertained to different groups of people at various times in the past. I have read about Jewish women working in factories in the early 1900’s, Cubans playing baseball in a foreign America during the early nineteenth century, and Elvis Presley and his ‘extracurricular’ medicines; all of these dealt with the term escapism on their own terms in diverse ways. Now, the term presents itself again, but to a different era than the one I connected it to.  Escapist can have multiple meanings across various cultures and times, even to this day.

In the book by Chadwick, The Reel Civil War, he discusses escapism not only for the masses watching Gone With the Wind but also in the movie itself.  Chadwick states that the motion picture industry certainly addressed the Depression in some films, such as the Grapes of Wrath, Dead End, and a string of gangster movies, but it also produced a large number of escapist entertainment stories.*[1]   People flocked to new modes of entertainment to escape the unsympathetic reality of life resulting from the Great Depression. Many people from the South, men and women, were still recovering from the psychological and physical trauma of defeat from the Civil War where they were always skeptical of the government.  Then, the Great Depression engulfed the nation and society’s skepticism grew even more for many in the South.

The movie became an outlet of inspiration and many Southerners, especially females, could relate to Scarlett O’Hara’s ‘escapist’ moment in the movie.  Gone With the Wind was escapist, a finely woven, wonderful soap opera and a rich love story, but it was most importantly a film about the survival of a tough woman trying to keep home and family together in the middle of turmoil.*[2]  Hidden messages of escapism were all through the movie and how different people used them to cope with harsh times but the main escapist message was the even though times were tough in the Great Depression, they still had their families.[3]  Escapism can therefore be on an individual, group, or national level and have multiple meanings depending on what the person(s) is escaping.

I find this very relevant to today since the American economy is in a recession.  Times again are tough on families and we are still in a war, not at home, but still having effects of the home life of many people.  It makes me wonder what people today are using as their escapism?  Is there anything in the entertainment world that is inspirational and good for the morale of the country today, or are we clouded with too much information and is it positive in any way?

 

[1] Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (New York: Knopf, 2001), 224.

[2]  Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (New York: Knopf, 2001), 225.

[3] Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (New York: Knopf, 2001), 226.

What is escapism:  http://ezinearticles.com/?What-is-Escapism?&id=897426