The movies GL, GW, BN and novels WL, RB (the works) portray men motivated to fight the Civil War by a complex mixture of ideology and patriotism, seeking glory, courage, honor , and comradery as well as vengeance, often holding naive expectations of an easy, quick victory, with varying emphases. In GL, Shaw’s quest for glory dominates as he volunteers his African American regiment for a suicidal mission to prove their valor, as well as to fight for freedom for slaves, the only work emphasizing emancipation, particularly as a reason for African Americans to fight. GW and BN emphasize southern men defending the Old South from Northern subjugation. WL emphasizes Jake’s drive to become an honorable southern man/comrade by joining bushwhackers who, in seeking vengeance, dishonor Jake’s image of a southern man. RB emphasizes Henry’s individual rationalization for his acts as he seeks courage and heroism. Excitement/Naive Expectations of Victory/Glory
Naive notions of an easy, quick victory for their side, and the glory it will bring, drive characters throughout these works to enlist and fight in the Civil War. Believing in their sure victory, the characters are excited about the prospect of war and seek adventure through service in the military, as well as glory. The clearest example of this appears in RB. The novel begins with a Northern youth, Henry, who romanticizes the idea of war, thinking of it in terms of Greek poems and ancient history, daydreaming of battles between heroes in Greek tales he read in school. At first disappointed in his belief that the wars of old, such as ancient Greek struggles, can no longer be found, his enthusiasm for the Civil War begins after hearing news of Northern victories. Motivated to enlist by news of victory along with romantic notions of war, he seeks to emulate the Greek heroes that he admires. Leaving home, he’s disappointed when his mother gives him practical advice rather than a poetic speech, having expected her to demand he return “with his shield or on it” in Spartan fashion. The Civil War is but a game for him to live his boyish fantasies when he first enlists. This same light attitude towards war is seen in BN. While Southern men seem to take the war seriously, the Stoneman brothers in the North embark from home in a jovial and playful mood. While making make no remarks to confirm that they see the war in the same way as Henry, it is clear they do not realize the seriousness of the war.
In GW, young Southern men also appear excited by the idea of war. During Ashley’s engagement party before the war is announced, the men seem eager for war to start. One man claims that a Southern man is as good as 10 Northerners. The young men all voice a firm belief that the South will win an easy victory, ignoring warnings by elders that the North has vastly greater resources. Their supreme confidence in their superiority functions as part of their motivation, seeking war to satisfy their desire for victory and the glory that comes with victory. In GL, Commander Shaw is the only character who appears primarily motivated to achieve glory in the war. When Shaw first sees his men fight, he is inspired by how well they fought. Unlike the other works, however, glory in battle for Shaw serves more as a means to an end rather than a goal itself. His interactions with the reporter suggest that he wishes to use glory to prove to the North that his African-American regiment is just as capable as a white regiment. Shaw’s concept of, and desire for, Glory is best seen in the final segment of the film. Inspired by his men’s ability to fight, he volunteers his regiment for a suicidal mission in which they will essentially act as human shields in the hope that they will be...