Sunday, October 25, 2009
I have been a fan of the movie Gone With The Wind since the first time I saw it in the 1960s in Houston, Texas. It tells the story of the War For Southern Independence from a distinctly Southern point of view, and is a classic that is considered the all time ticket seller in movie history. As much as I love the movie, until recently I had never read the book upon which the movie was based, Margaret Mitchell's epic adventure first published by Scribner in 1936. The author won the Pulitzer Prize the next year and it has sold over 30 million copies since then. Even today it reportedly sells about 200,000 copies a year.
As good as the movie is, in my opinion, the book is even better. You get a lot more historical background in the book, more characters, a fuller explanation of the character's motivations than in the movie, and more detailed descriptions of the time and places depicted. The book is well written. Margaret Mitchell was obviously a master story-teller with the written word. A native of Atlanta, Ga. born in 1900, Mitchell knew one of her Confederate veteran gandfathers and heard numerous stories from other veterans and female members of her family that lived through the war. She had an excellent grasp on the history of the Atlanta campaign, around which of the book revolves. She died an untimely and tragic death in 1949 when struck by a car while crossing the street in Atlanta.
Mitchell tells the story from a woman's view point, which is both the civilian side of the war and reconstruction. I've always been most interested in the battles, generals, soldiers, etc., and haven't really read much about the war from a civilian view point. I learned a lot about the civilians and how they interacted with the armies by reading Gone With The Wind. The book tells that side of the war and reconstruction much better than does the movie. The agonizing hardships suffered by women, children and the elderly is heart-wrenching. It also shows just how dedicated the majority of the population of the South were to the cause of Southern Independence, and the lengths to which they were prepared to sacrifice for it. The soldiers of the South held Southern women in high esteem because they knew how much they had sacrificed, as well as the men in uniform.
I also appreciate what the book and movie do to make sure the traditional Southern view of the war are kept alive in popular culture, generation after generation. Political correctness has become so vile, poisonous and deceptive, lies about the South and the Confederacy are now accepted by many people as the truth, because they've heard only one side of the story -- and that is the biased Northern side.
But most of all this was just a very enjoyable book about engaging characters, exciting action and a dramatic story from one of nation's most important periods of history.
GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell; 1936, Scribner (Simon & Shuster) New York, N.Y.; 1048 pages; $28 hardback.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I went on a field trip yesterday, 10 October, with fellow members of Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390, SCV, and friends, to Confederate Memorial Hall and Museum and the National World War II in New Orleans. These two museums are studies in contrast. The Confederate Museum is very traditional, in fact the oldest museum in Louisiana, and the World War II museum is very modern. While different, they both are world-class museums that do an outstanding job of telling the story of the respective wars they interpret.
The Confederate Museum was built in 1891 specifically to be a museum and meeting hall for the city's Confederate veterans. Most of the exhibits on display were donated by the veterans themselves, family members or collectors. The building itself is a historical artifact. It is of magnificent romanesque style architecture with a widow's peak tower detail. It is rightfully on the National Register of Historic Places and is without a doubt one of the most historic buildings in New Orleans. Inside are showcases, paneling and other historical and architectural details that are gems of style and tradition. There is stunning stained glass window of Father Abram J. Ryan, "Poet-Priest of the Confederacy."
The exhibits on display make up one of the world's greatest collections of Confederate military memorabilia. They have the uniforms of generals P.G.T. Beauregard, Franklin Gardner, Daniel W. Adams, and Albert G. Blanchard. There are over 100 original Confederate battleflags and a number of restore flags are on display. There are many family artifacts from the President Jefferson Davis family, including a crown of thorns woven for Davis during his captitivity, by Pope Pius IX. There are numerous, rare, ambrotypes of tintypes of Confederates soldiers, rifles, pistols and swords. There are many paintings and sculptures of famous Confederate generals, some by world renown artists. Besides the uniforms of on display of Confederate generals, there are also many that were worn by ordinary Confederate soldiers. The scope, content and quality of the artifacts are simply breath-taking.
Just across the street and around the corner is the National World War II Museum, which was first open June 6, 2000, as the National D-Day Museum. It is now rapidly expanding on 4 November will open a new building that will have a 4-D theatre, four star restaurant and additional exhibits. On the ground floor, the museum has on display World War II vehicles and a reconstruction of a World War II Higgins boat, the boat that Eisenhower said won World War II for the Allies and which was manufactured in New Orelans. There are also a half-track, Sherman tank, an American Jeep and a German staff car. Hanging from the ceiling are German, American and United States aircraft from World War II.
The visitor follows a path that takes him through exhibits on the beginning and causes of the war, the D-Day landings in Normandy, France and other campaigns in Europe and the Pacific. Exhibits include uniforms of all the main armies engaged, weapons, personal artifacts such as letters, watchess, etc., and of the technogical advances that helped win the war, such as the code-breaking machines. One of the most impressive displays was an actual Medal of Honor that was posthumously awarded to a sailor in the war.
What makes the museum so modern is the vast collection of audio-visual displays, including many documentary newsreels, personal reminiscences of veterans, and electronic map displays. Also there are huge blow-ups of famous photographs from various theaters of the war. These work well for a museum about World War II, which was the first major war in history that could be filmed, complete with sounds and the spoken word by participants near the time the events happened.
Louisiana has a lot of history and these two museums puts the state in the world-class category of importance.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
(NEWS from beauvoir.org)
BILOXI, Miss. - Great news from Beauvoir! The contract has been signed to begin construction on the new Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum. The Beauvoir Board approved low bidder is J.C. Duke and Associates, General Contractors of Mobile, Alabama. The cost is Ten Million four hundred eighty eight thousand dollars, to be completed in 550 days. The groundbreaking event is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 2 p.m. This is the 120th anniversary of the death of Jefferson Davis. More updates will follow.
The statue of Jefferson Davis with his son Joseph and Jim Limber is scheduled to arrive at Beauvoir on Wednesday, October 14, 2009. This statue was commissioned by the National Sons of Confederate Veterans and Donated to Beauvoir. The statue will eventually be placed in front of the new Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum. (scroll down to see photo below!)
The 23rd Annual Beauvoir Fall Muster is coming October 17th-18th.! The War Between the States comes to the Last Home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the weekend of October 17-18, 2009. You can experience the sights, sounds and smells of the 1860’s, as you witness the epic struggle that transformed the Nation. Come and Join Us! Civil War Battles on Saturday and Sunday. See the Photo Gallery page for pictures from last year's event.