Civil War returning to the Big Screen

Free State

Double-barreled shotgun, circa 1864. Photo courtesy STP Entertainment.

The upcoming film Free State of Jones is based on a true story of a rebellion within a rebellion, telling the tale of a former Confederate soldier who leads a small faction against the Confederate government to declare independence in his corner of Mississippi. In the trailer, it appears that Jones leads a force made up in large part by former enslaved Americans and disenchanted Confederate veterans.

Tap RootsWhile the film itself seems to be based on a screenplay rather than a novel, the story of the rebellious Newton Knight is told in Tap Roots, a 525-page doorstopper written in the 1940s by James H. Street, a Mississippi native and journalist for the Associated Press and the author of several popular novels about the Civil War era set in the South. Street died all too young at the age of 50, but he had an impressive literary output. All of his books, fortunately, are now available as ebooks. I plan on adding Tap Roots to my Kindle soon.

The upcoming movie also puts me in mind of the classic William Styron novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner. Again based on a true story, Styron imagined the life of Nat Turner and the real-life rebellion that he led in the 1840s.

The trailer reminds me a lot of a film set during another Revolution, The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson. Any good thriller needs a good villain, and The Patriot demonized British forces, much as The Free State of Jones appears to turn the Confederates into villains.

Of course, any Civil War movie will be popular with us history buffs, and I hope to be one of the first in line to buy tickets to see The Free State of Jones when it hits theaters in May.

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