Civil War Epistolary and the Hollywood War Film

  • John Trafton


In 1895, the same year as the early film exhibitions from Edison and the Lumière brothers, and the reemergence of Brady’s photographs from their hibernation period, Stephen Crane, a 22-year-old bohemian New Yorker—a man who had never witnessed combat in his life—published The Red Badge of Courage. The novel was heralded as a graphic and compelling account of the Civil War, told through the eyes of a young Union private and based largely on accounts from veterans, historians, and a popular postwar anthology, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, a collection of essays and personal diary entries from both Union and Confederate veterans (Morris 2007, 137). Crane’s novel, the story of Union private Henry Fleming’s soldiering life, narrates the Civil War in first person and is informed by the emotive capacity and authoritativeness of first-person accounts of soldiers who fought the war. Firstperson testimonials, preserved in the letters and diaries of Civil War soldiers, evoked in Crane’s novel, serve as competing histories to the ones written by historians and journalists. These competing histories can be read as counterhistories—alternative accounts that challenge the work of war journalists and even pictorial accounts—on the basis that a firsthand account serves as a more authoritative narrative of events.


Memory Bank Violent Video Game Hibernation Period Narrative Strategy Emotive Capacity 
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© The Author 2016

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  • John Trafton

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