Glory is a drama movie that was based on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and is told from Colonel Gould Shaw’s perspective. Colonel Shaw was the commanding officer of this army division during the Civil War and this division was unique in that it wholly consisted of African American soldiers, very few of such divisions existed throughout the United States (Desson, para. 1).
The movie was released in 1989 and directed by Edward Zwick, among the main actors were Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. Glory’s plot was created from a script written by Kevin Jarre, based on letters written by Shaw, and from a couple of books.
Why the Film was Made
Glory underscored the role played by African American soldiers during the American Civil War that took place between 1860 and 1865. The participation of African Americans was significant since this was the first time black persons were allowed into the US military. The most common theme in this film is racism. The North, which was rich in a number or resources, opted to incorporate volunteer African Americans into its military in the war against the south.
This move created tension between the white troops and the Black American soldiers. This hatred is plainly visible in the letter sent to the Union Army mentioning that no quarter will be shown to any black soldier or officer leading black soldiers, and if caught the soldiers would be executed on the spot. After their participation in the American Civil war, black soldiers later used again in the Plains Indian Wars.
One of the reasons why the American Civil War occurred was due to the slavery factor: while the South still supported slavery, the North was against the practice and had passed several legislations to end it. In the film, black soldiers are frequently berated. During the war, the role played by the blacks was overlooked.
Hence, the main motive of the producer was therefore to highlight the contribution of African Americans during the Civil War, especially to the northern army. Black soldiers show steadfast support for the North Americans and even when told about the Southerners plan to execute all of them, Colonel Shaw expects them to desert the camp, but to his dismay, all of them stay put.
Glory was not a new movie at all, It only exposed the side of the war that few knew about. Although the movie was produced in 1989, the actual events in the movie occurred in the 5-year duration between 1860 and 1865 during the Civil War. The film itself gives clues to illustrate that the duration was one of roughly four years starting from 1860 to 1865.
This is seen at the beginning of the film when Mathew Broderick, who is acting the role of Colonel Shaw, is already locked up in a battle with the southern army and comments are later made that depict that the soldiers he was leading comprised of many hardened men.
Then as the movie progresses, Colonel Shaw mentions that his soldiers had been training and had been at war for 3 years, and the last fight was up against one of the few areas held by southern troops (Glory). This leads to the notion that the war was coming to an end, and had taken approximately four years.
Apart from the evidence presented in the movies, the movie is also evidently founded on the screenplay written by Kevin Jarre and based on personal letters written by Shaw. The movie portrays the exact situation as was in the 54th Volunteer Infantry.
The pictures of southern mansions and streets during the duration of the actual war are matched in the movie, besides, the producers also try to match the clothing and tools used in the actual war and during the duration. This further shows that the Glory was not something new, but a compilation of works and events that had occurred earlier. However, it presented of the Civil War that was rarely known: the role of African Americans in the war.
Relevance of the Film
Glory was quite a relevant motion picture back in the late 1980s and even today and persons interested in the American history find/ will find the film very informative. The movie tells us of the strategies that were used by the Union forces that ensured that they won.
From the movie, we learn that the Union army had far more advanced training and an efficient transportation network (rails and roads) that assisted in availing the appropriate resources to their troops within the shortest time possible. Before the war began, the South had suffered due to their poor network, and this worsened when the war began.
Glory informs viewers of the architecture, clothing and tools used during the duration of the Civil War. War historians will also find the movie relevant as it shows the strategies and methods employed in these early wars. For instance, we see Colonel Shaw leading an attack of Fort Warner using a small number of soldiers for which he suffers heavy defeat, and later enlists the help of the black soldiers who had only previously been used in menial work. The film shows the tactics employed by both the Union army and the southern army.
Why we should See the Film
We should watch Glory for a number of reasons. Firstly, for anyone interested in how the Civil War progressed, then the movie is a must watch. Glory illustrates that a relationship exists between agriculture and war. Watching the film, it is quite evident that agriculture and the agricultural landscape have a great influence on how and where soldiers fight.
For example, the south suffered greatly as a result of their participation in the war because a significant proportion of the productive population was at war, hence experienced labor shortage. Moreover, the Union Army burned their lands and produce as they progressed and freed the slaves they had greatly depended on, further damaging its economy (Zwick and Fields, 1989). The movie also shows Union troops took the war loot and transported it back to their land.
The north did not suffer agriculturally and this is evident in the film when a party at the residence of a general uses fresh vegetables as finger food, and in another instance, soldiers slice water melons with their swords during practice.
Secondly, the film offers a vivid description of events that took place in America during the Civil War, for instance, we learn that during the war, President Lincoln was preparing the Emancipation Proclamation order that would ultimately lead to the freedom of more than 3.1 million if America’s 4 million slaves. Many escaped slaves joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and were later incorporated into the army.
Glory. Dir. Edward Zwick. Prod. Freddy Fields. TriStar Pictures, 1989. Film.
Howe, Desson. ‘Glory’ (R). The Washington Post, 1990. Web.