Friday, January 09, 2004

More on Cold Mountain

Since my post on Cold Mountain, others have had quite a bit to say about the movie and the way in which it deals with slavery. Over at Gene Expression, Razib saw in the initial enthusiasm displayed by young men in the movie a foreshadowing (and perhaps a projection into the past) of the war-lust that would sweep Europe at the beginning of the Great War (the intellectual responsibility for which I discussed in another post), as well as an opportunity to discuss the fighting efficacy of professional soldiers vs citizen conscript armies. Lincoln Cat laments the inattention paid to the black contribution to the Union cause, not just in terms of numbers under arms - with over 180,000 blacks, or more than 1 in 5 black males, having served in the Union Army by war's end - but also by various acts of insubordination that served to undermine the home front in the Confederacy, while over at National Review, Mackubin Thomas Owens interprets Cold Mountain as being the antithesis of the "Lost Cause" school of historiography that seeks to argue that the Confederacy was driven to rebel not by slavery, but merely "for our rights and privileges under a government established over us by our fathers and in defense of our homes." (an interpretation of history I find perverse in its disregard for the truth).

What is interesting about Mackubin Thomas Owen's article is that it not only acknowledges that the "Lost Cause" is a myth, but that, in pointing to the disproportionate burden placed on the Confederate army by desertions from its ranks (compounding the difficulties caused by black insubordination and desertion pointed out by Lincoln Cat), as well as the way in which the Confederate Congress' own 1862 Conscription Act undermined the argument that theirs was a struggle against "oppressive government", it goes where no National Review article has gone before, by implying in a not-so-subtle way that the Confederate cause was a bad one, on behalf of the ignoble institution of slavery, rather than an early and honorable manifestation of libertarian impulses, as the neo-confederate apologists on the Lew Rockwell website like to argue. The world is surely changing for the better when such a piece can appear on NRO - though I'm sure Owen's article will have elicited a flurry of indignant letters and email messages from the usual "Southern Heritage" contingent.