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They left the nightmare...and entered Hell. Captured Union soilders cope with life inside the Civil War's most notorious prisoner-of-war camp. A powerful, compeling tale of war and will, with Emmy Award-winning direction by John Frankenheimer and a cast including Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now) and William H. Macy (ER, Fargo) Year: 1996 Director: John Frankenheimer Starring: Jarrod Emick, Frederic Forrest, Ted Marcoux
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The film has no well-known "star" actors, but even so, the various actors perform marvelously. Their characterizations are as real as if they were really in the camp and suffering unto death.
This film was an eye-opener for me, for I never considered the fate of Civil War POW's. I will remember the conditions the men lived and died in for the rest of my life. I recommend it without reservation.
Haunting scenes of conflict and inhumanity included young Southern boys just starting puberty who were Prison Guards (just as ruthless as the Hitler Jugend under the Nazi SS in WW II Germany and the trial that brought the Raiders to justice. The Prison Commandant, Captain Wirz, was
even severely criticized by some of his own Southern Military Commanders for not using Parole or Prisoner Exchanges to correct the deplorable conditions. Ironically, Wirz did have moments of humaneness, when he informed the Union Authorities that the Prison was no place for young pre-adolescent boys (not in puberty) and arranged for them to be paroled, and escorted North under a White Flag of Truce to Union Soldier lines. Several boys were saved from certain death. Captain Wirz was Swiss (or German?) in nationality.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the famous "Lieber Code" - a rule book for Union Forces in Battle. The Lieber Code stated:
"the unarmed person is to be spared in person, property and honor as much as the exigencies of war will admit." This was applied to both civilians and prisoners. Violations of the "Lieber Code" under the command of Captain Wirz were cited that led to his Union military court martial conviction and execution. As proof the United States had a long history to take precautions to avoid harming civilians and prisoners during and after armed combat, the "Lieber" Code was cited during the famous International War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg, during the 1940s.
True, this movie is not a documentary and there is "Hollywood" influences. Nevertheless the master moviemaker John Frankenheimer directed this movie that enables any person with a basic grade school education to grasp the epic message of life inside the most notorious of the American Civil War's prison camps. Well done, and worthy of an Emmy and several 5 Gold Star Ratings! Evil is irrational and I will never understand how Americans abused or killed Americans during the Civil War. Never Again!
However, I think this movie should be viewed as a look into what all of the Civil War camps were like. The Union obviously had prison war camps also. Such as Fort Jefferson, Fort Delaware & Camp Chase to name a few. Many of the conditions in these camps were just as bad.......
However, Andersonville was the worst of the worst of all prison camps North & South. And this movie depicts the conditions extremely well....
My only gripe with this movie is the portrayal of Captain Wirtz. It was really over the top....