The horror of the Civil War was the graphic and powerful subject of the 1989 Academy Award-winning film Glory, screened at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Monday night. The event kicked off the Civil War Film Series, jointly sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum to commemorate the country’s most deadly war through movies, talks and exhibitions. The museum recently launched an exhibit titled We Are Marching Along: Martha’s Vineyard and the Civil War which continues until April 2012.
Glory is about the heroic struggle of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the Union’s first African-American fighting regiment in the Civil War. The movie ends with the regiment’s nearly-complete demise in the devastating 1863 battle for Fort Wagner.
Sheldon Hackney a prominent academic and historian, Vineyard Haven resident and member of the museum board of directors, led the discussion before and after the film screening. Mr. Hackney asked the audience to pay particular attention to the prejudices depicted and expressed in the film, not only by the white Union soldiers who doubted the abilities of the new regiment of African American soldiers, but also within the regiment itself.
Mr. Hackney said the efforts and sacrifice of the regiment changed the way the Union viewed African-American soldiers. Nevertheless, he said segregation in the military did not end until World War II.
Mr. Hackney said the movie is historically accurate, although he did question one time sequence in the film around the battle of Antietam and another around President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Discussion led by Mr. Hackney continued after the film. Many in the audience said the deadly conflicts portrayed on screen left a deep impression on them. Mr. Hackney reminded all that 600,000 people died in the Civil War more than in World War I, II and the Korean War combined.
“This war devastated our country,” the former University of Pennsylvania U.S. history professor said.
Two more Civil War movies are scheduled for this month at the Katharine Cornell Theatre. The 1951 film Red Badge of Courage will be shown on Monday, July 11, at 8 p.m.; and the 1965 film Shenandoah will be shown on Monday, July 25 at the same time. Mr. Hackney will lead the discussion at both events.