“While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be.” (Dr. James McPherson)
150 years ago America fought one of its bloodiest war: the Civil War (1861-1865). 4 years, 3 weeks and 6 days of conflicts between the Northern states and the Southern states, an endless nightmare for the people who survived everyday and lost everything.
The American Civil War started in 1861, April 12 precisely, because of the differences between the North and the South and the matter of slavery. The tension was guaranteed by the election of Abraham Lincoln who was against slavery; the event troubled the South that seceded from the Union to become the Confederate States of America. That’s when the North couldn’t accept the South’s behavior fearing that it would discredit democracy and fragment the States. Lincoln tried to suppress the insurrection caused by the Southern states, the ones who opened fire on the federal garrison and forced it to lower the American flag in surrender. By the end of 1861 several battles had taken place: in Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and even South Carolina. Things got serious in 1862, after huge battles such as Fredericksburg in Virginia and Atlanta in Georgia, in 1864 what started as a “limited war” became a “total war” in order to silence the South and restore the Union. Immediately, Robert E. Lee’s army of Northern Virginia fought the Union Army of the Potomac (commanded by a series of useless generals) until Ulysses S. Grant came to Virginia to become general in chief of all Union armies in 1864. After some devastating battles, Grant brought down Lee at Appomatox in April 1865. Then, General William Tecumseh Sherman led his army towards Georgia and South Carolina, destroying their economic infrastructure while General George Thomas virtually destroyed the Confederacy’s Army of Tennessee at the battle of Nashville. In 1865 all the principal Confederate armies surrendered, especially when the Confederate president Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia on May 10. Soon, the war ended and only from that moment onwards it was possible to rebuild a United Nation based on freedom and respect.
These are the moments that serve as a background for the 1939 movie Gone With The Wind, adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel and set in Georgia in 1861. The main character is Scarlett O’Hara, a selfish and spoiled girl who lives in her family’s cotton plantation in Tara, Georgia. Everyday she deals with lovers who would like to marry her, but her heart is all for Ashley Wilkes, a neighbor who’s engaged to Melanie Hamilton, the woman he’ll marry and the only one he’ll always love. At the Twelve Oaks party she meets an intriguing man: Rhett Butler, who states that the South has no chance to win against the North. Bored and bitter, Scarlett marries Melanie’s younger brother, just before he leaves to fight in the Civil War. When he dies, Scarlett moves to Atlanta with Melanie and starts playing games with Rhett, who’s clearly in love with her, not knowing that she still wants to marry Ashley. Meanwhile the Confederacy is not fighting easily, on the contrary many of the men of Scarlett’s town are killed after the battle of Gettysburg. Eight months later the city is besieged by the Union in the Atlanta campaign and Rhett returns to help Scarlett with Melanie who needs medical assistance, since she’s gone into premature labor. However, he doesn’t leave them in Tara, he kisses Scarlett and then runs away, that’s when Scarlett on her journey back home finds her world turned upside down: Twelve Oaks is burned, deserted and completely ruined, whereas instead in Tara she finds her family, even though everything is falling apart. Her mother is dead, her father’s mind is having troubles, the all land is deserted and with Tara destroyed by Union troops and the fields untended, Scarlett vows she will do anything for the survival of her family and herself. Her father dies, her whole family and servants have to work in the cotton field and while her on-and-off love affair with Rhett and Ashley goes on, she marries another man who soon dies and leads Scarlett right into the arms of Rhett; in fact the two are married in a couple of days and also have a daughter named Bonnie Blue. Their happy marriage doesn’t last long, after fights and episodes of violence, they become like strangers, she even suffer a miscarriage and their daughter dies after falling from her horse which causes the final estrangement of the couple. At the end of the movie, we see Scarlett realizing that Ashley never loved her and that Rhett was the only one who truly loved her; she begs him to stay and start all over again, he’s tired of her tantrums and leaves her alone by saying his famous quote “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” while she promises herself that one day she’ll win back his love.
“After all, tomorrow is another day!” (Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With The Wind)
Written by Ludovica Buda