Class Notes

For my Civil War in Memory class, we watched the 1940 Raoul Walsh film Dark Command staring John Wayne and Walter Pidgeon. The film was very different from Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind in that it did not portray slavery in a positive light. The story takes place in Kansas and begins with the Bleeding Kansas years where the men were fighting over slavery. The “bad guys” in this film were southern and the Northern citizens were upset with them because they did not have to work for a living but instead lived off the labor of slaves. The one “good” southerner was John Wayne’s character from Texas, but his patriotism was for the Union. This film was made as the world was falling into war and it seemed more like a pro-patriotic film. Where most films of this era seem to support the “Lost Cause,” this one was saying the Union and patriotism were the most important thing at the time and they all must stand together. While this film was completely inaccurate when it comes to the war, we are watching it to learn how the war was portrayed in different times, not to actually what happened. In that light Dark Command shows that at least not all of America had accepted the Lost Cause as truth.

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