Monday, October 27, 2014

Warriors of Honor DVD - A Crew Review

Warriors of Honor is a documentary from New Liberty Videos that chronicles the lives and military careers of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from their years as Cadets at West Point through their eventual deaths. Two unique features of this film we had the opportunity to review are that it; 1- tells about the War Between the States from a Southern perspective, and 2- it focuses on both Lee’s and Jackson’s personal Christian faiths and how that faith guided their lives and their military careers.

Civil War Documentary
Having grown up in the North, I freely admit that both Lee’s and Jackson’s lives received scant coverage in most of the Civil War history books I have read, whether those I read growing up in school, or in what has been easily accessible in my adult life. When you live in the North, you must dig to hear much outside of the Yankee perspective. I have found it often true that the victor writes the history books, so this video was an engaging look at the Civil War from the other side. This 80 minute DVD does an excellent job of reminding viewers of how vastly different the cultures of the North and the South were before the first seven states seceded and the war began.

This video does an admirable job of covering both Lee’s life and Jackson’s life throughout a chronological timeline of the war, interspersed with information about some of the major battles. It focuses mostly on the battles where Lee’s or Jackson’s troops were victorious. At the beginning you may wonder why the video seems to spend more time on Jackson’s life than on Lee’s. I believe this is due in part to Jackson’s death at age 39 just past the mid-point of the war. Overall, the film covers both lives in detail, including the reading of many letters the men wrote to their wives, family members, fellow commanders, and their pastors.

Visually, this DVD holds your interest through a combination of historic photographs, modern photos and video clips shot at historic sites, video clips of re-enactors portraying the battles described in the film, and pen and pencil drawings of scenes from the war. While this video is geared for general audiences, because of the graphic nature of many of the historic post-battle photos, and the theme of the Civil War, I would recommend it for ages 12 and up. If you have already been studying the Civil War with your younger children, you could watch it alongside your 9-11 year old children and pause it as necessary to discuss. Either way, unless your student had already seen many of Matthew Brady’s famous pictures of the carnage of the war, I would preview the entire film before watching it with your children. Since only black and white still photography was mastered at the time of the war, it does cut down some on the gruesomeness factor. You will hear historic letters being read by the narrators that include details like “the field appeared to be crawling” with the vast numbers of wounded men. 

Warriors of Honor retails for $19.95 from New Liberty Videos. We found it to be a well-presented history of both Robert E. Lee’s and Stonewall Jackson’s lives. Because of my personal ignorance about these Generals’ lives and their Christian faith, I found myself stopping the DVD several times to look up dates and names that were mentioned in the film. I would love to see New Liberty Videos put together some sort of PDF outline and/or study guide to go alongside this video. Something that included the names of the officers mentioned, whether they were Confederate or Union, and a listing of their wives (if mentioned in the film) would help those unfamiliar with Civil War history have an even better experience with this documentary.

Through watching this documentary I learned that both Lee and Jackson believed they were following God’s path for their lives, as they believes that God had ordained the Confederacy. While I am encouraged to know that both were men of prayer, and that they made sure regular services were held for the benefit of the men under their command (as well as their own benefit,) I still ponder the idea of what they were fighting for. I understand that these two men did not appear to be fighting for slavery, rather for individual state’s rights, yet with 3.9 million slaves recorded in the 1860 U.S. Census, I still personally would have sided with the North. More than 150 years after Stonewall Jackson’s death, this video makes me want to speak with him and ask him questions about how he reconciled fighting for States’ rights while denying personal freedom rights to all of those still in slavery.

Overall, I heartily recommend this video. You will probably learn a lot about these two great Generals and their lives, as I did. I learned that after Stonewall Jackson’s death, his brigade continued to fight together until Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. 

Because Emily (16) is studying US History this year, she watched this video alongside Kurt and myself. Kurt found it quite interesting as well, and he and Emily had a long discussion about it afterwards. I asked Emily to share her thoughts on the movie with you.

The documentary Warriors of Honor is interesting because it was created to cover an unusual topic, Christian faith. While most Civil War films cover simply the battles themselves, or general stratagems, this one talks about what spurred on the life and military decisions of two of the greatest American Generals, Robert E. Lee and ‘Stonewall” Jackson. The movie talks about their families, military positions, campaigns, and choices. It talks about how Lee prayed for hours before accepting the role of General of the Confederate armies, how Stonewall prayed before and after the battles despite remarks and mockery from fellow officers, and the great love and mercy which both showed to all around them, including their enemies. The movie covers the timespan from a little before the war to R.E. Lee’s eventual death after multiple terms as President of a small college renamed in his honor. It gives an interesting look at something not often seen in textbooks or films and displays two of American History’s finest men in a new light. This was a movie I enjoyed immensely and would share with friends and family to watch over and over again.

I was encouraged near the ending of the film where it quoted people from both the South and the North who heralded Lee’s life as a fine example of a Christian leader. The year after Lee’s death, the small college he had been President of, Washington College, changed its name to Washington and Lee College. The college is currently known an Washington and Lee University.

Schoolhouse Review Crew members received six different videos from New Liberty Videos, click on the banner below to read all the reviews.

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