Civil War historian Larry Stephens continues his interview from yesterday discussing his new historical fiction film, For Home and Country, available at email@example.com.
For his movie, For Home and Country, Larry extensively researched the theme of Southerner pitted against Southerner in the context of the Civil War. He reveals how he became interested in this topic below:
“Much of the South has always been overshadowed by the legacy of the Civil War. Whether we are talking about strained race relations, economic stagnation (due to local people blocking progress, or making newcomers feel unwelcome), or families simply wanting to honor their Confederate heritage by dressing up in hoop skirts and Rebel uniforms on certain holidays of the year, much of the South is still affected by the war… You don’t see this in progressive cities like Atlanta, Nashville, or Charlotte, but take a drive into the more rural sections of the Deep South and you will see another side.
I’m not maligning the Old South because there is something endearing about a slower pace of life and maintaining certain traditions. However, as an outsider who actually lived for five years in a particular town in Alabama, I can truthfully say that the people there were “stuck in the past.” As recently as last year, a prominent city official from this same town stated that he knew he had raised his kids right because he didn’t have to worry about them marrying outside their race. The minority groups in this same town still live in destitute poverty, and local officials want to do everything in their power to keep new businesses from moving in because it will “change our community forever.” All of this is a carryover from the Civil War, and more importantly, it reflects an “Old South” mentality. I’m not picking on this one town because this is actually a pervasive attitude that still governs much of the rural South.
More to the point, I became interested in the Civil War in the Southern Appalachians because you had large numbers of mountain folk who never wanted to fight for the Confederacy, or anybody else for that matter. They just wanted to be left alone. They did not own slaves and had no vested interest in the larger Southern economy which revolved around slavery and cotton.
It may surprise folks, but there were over 40,000 Southern men from East Tennessee and western North Carolina who actually put on the blue uniform and fought for the Union, and some historians have estimated that as many as 200,000 men from the Appalachian South hid out in the woods to escape the Confederate draft. This is an astonishing number when you consider that the total number of men who served in the Confederate Army approximated 800,000. My film, which is entitled For Home and Country, is about Southerners fighting and killing each other… This is a relatively new theme in Civil War scholarship, and only a handful of books and films have ever addressed this subject. So I became intrigued with this topic, and decided to develop it into a film. Incidentally, my Gatewood book (John P. Gatewood: Confederate Bushwhacker) actually delves into this same area, though the focus is on East Tennessee
and North Georgia.
For Home and Country is about a middle-aged farmer living in Randolph County, Alabama, who just wants to sit out the war. He is drafted against his will, but decides to do his duty anyway and serve in the hope that the war will be over soon. However, a letter from his wife in late 1864 informs him that there are outlaws terrorizing their homestead and burning the homes of their neighbors. Our protagonist makes the fateful decision to desert the colors and go home to take care of his wife. In the course of making his way back, he encounters many difficulties, but the real problems begin when he arrives back in Randolph County and realizes that he is on a “hit list,” drawn up by the local authorities. The film is actually based on a true story, though most of the characters in the film are purely fictitious. However, the villain in the film was actually a real person who went around doing horrible things in the name of the Confederacy. I won’t tell you how the story ends, but I think folks will really get their money’s worth when they view the film, which is just under an hour in length.
It was very easy to assemble the cast because there are many native Southerners who are very good actors and who are interested in their own family history. People wanted to help me almost from the beginning because they were intrigued by the story… so most of the actors simply did it for free. When you stop and think about it, almost everyone born and reared in the South within the last 50 years or more, had a family member who was either in the war as a Confederate soldier, a Union sympathizer, or a slave. And there were a few thousand free blacks living in the South at the time of the war, but they were treated almost as inhumanely as the slaves, and many of them had to flee the region just for the sake of their own safety.”
Copies of the film are available from Larry for $8 ($4 shipping) at firstname.lastname@example.org