15 November 2015 | ResoluteGrunt
Knowing Some History Helps
Perhaps a little historical perspective might assist some of today's viewers of this film. (Those viewing the film in 1939 would have been naturally much more knowledgeable of that history than most viewers today.)
The film "Stand Up And Fight" (USA, 1939) depicts a fictional story within a complex and multi-faceted historical background. The story is set in 1844 Cumberland Maryland, which became a key east-west point along the westward settler route through the Appalachian Mountains, and a key north-south point along the underground railroad assisting escaped slaves -- when the B&O Railroad opened in 1842, the nation's first Telegraph lines went operational, and the C&O Canal opened in 1850 -- all using rights of way along the same Potomac River that flows past Cumberland and on down past Washington DC.
Within this context the story concerns a pre-Civil War racket involving the capture and reselling of fugitive slaves in a key border location between abolitionist North and slavery South just as the railroad was beginning to compete hard against the stagecoach and wagon trains, and the canal was about to move huge quantities of coal out of the mountains. Most of the laborers building the railroad, the canal, the telegraph and the coal mines were uneducated and impoverished recent escapees from the British-oppressed serf plantation of Ireland.
Mid-way along that 120-mile Potomac River route between Cumberland and Washington is strategic Harper's Ferry, where the Shenandoah river meets the Potomac and where John Brown's Raid on an armory in 1859 began to galvanize large portions of the nation's public opinion on each side of the slavery/secession issue. At the time of Brown's raid, Harper's Ferry was in the big slavery (Confederate) state of Virginia, which was also the state just across the river in Cumberland in the abolitionist (Union) state of Maryland.
The American Civil War began in April 1961. West Virginia became a state a few months later following the Wheeling Conventions of 1861, in which abolitionist delegates from 30 northwestern Virginia counties decided to break away from Virginia. West Virginia immediately became a key Civil War border state and was formally admitted to the Union in June 1863. West Virginia was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state, the first to separate from any state since Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820.
The north-south terrain of the Appalachian Mountains is what enabled General Lee to move a huge Confederate army through the Shenandoah all the way north into Pennsylvania to meet a similar huge Union army at Gettysburg – far behind Northern "lines" – during the first three days of July in 1863.