A group of teenage cadets sheltered from war at the Virginia Military Institute must confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley.A group of teenage cadets sheltered from war at the Virginia Military Institute must confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley.A group of teenage cadets sheltered from war at the Virginia Military Institute must confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley.
Touching yet authentic portrayal of a terrible episode in the Civil War
Unlike the reviewer in "The Village Voice," I found this film to be moving and touchingly old fashioned. The "love at sight,' for example, between one of the cadets and a southern girl rings true and is a familiar, though often sad motif to those of us who work with teenage boys and girls. The jocular and sometimes hostile relations between the older boys seems authentic, as does their possessive and protective feelings toward the boyish 'Sir Rat.' To return for a moment to "The Village Voice" review: the arrogance and 'know it all' attitude of the reviewer toward the South reminded me why my southern relatives refer to this conflict as "The War of Northern Aggression." It is precisely this air of superiority which contributed to the Southern break with their brothers in the North. I do, however, find the modernist desire on the part of the producers to distance the cadets from their region's stance on slavery to be forced. I feel that history and a better story would have been served to portray the boys as fighting for Virginia and their nation, the Confederacy. Part of the southern lore surrounding the Battle of New Market is that Breckenridge wept when he ordered the cadets into battle. I can believe that he cried when he gave the order. What a terrible burden it would be to send boys into battle! I can't believe that the northerner commander would not have felt, at least, a twinge of conscience when he ordered his troops to fire upon and engage with the cadets. The film's portrayal of that man as a ruthless murderer ordering his men to kill boys does not ring true. The fact that the cadets fought like lions might have surprised him and his men--but those of us who have worked with this age group know that teenage boys would make fearsome opponents. In the end, I applaud the film makers for their efforts—they did much more than produce a period piece bedecked with false whiskers—they gave the viewer insight into this brave but terrible episode in the Civil War, or the War Between the States, as my southern relatives would ask me to write.
- Feb 16, 2015
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