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Archive for December, 2007


Another Cannon
Judging by Sunday’s NFL highlights, most of the east coast was pummeled by snow storms. Not us here in Harrisburg. We got ice. It really wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Nevertheless this week we are continuing with our weather themes and highlighting National Park sites that relate to Ang Lee’s film Ride With the Devil. Yes, that was his first film after The Ice Storm, it’s at the top of our netflix queue, and it’s about American history!

You see, long ago in our Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield review we lamented that in 1862 “Missouri became a void filled with guerrilla warfare, raiding vigilantes, marauding cavalry forces and years more of bushwhacking havoc. Somebody should really make a movie about this period of American history.” Turns out someone did: Ang Lee

Problem was no one went to see the film. Perhaps if he’d gotten Springfield, Missouri’s (home of Wilson’s Creek NB) most famous son to star things would have been different. That’s Brad Pitt if you’re wondering. We’re patiently waiting for his The Assassination of Jesse James…’ release on DVD. Why is that relevant? Because Ride With the Devil’s revolves around Missouri bushwhacker Paul Quantrill’s riders one of whom was Jesse James.

Quantrill was a Missourian and so were his riders. That’s where things get complicated. Missouri. Oh, Missouri. During the Civil War, from 1861-65, no state was more compelling, more vexing, more fascinating or more insane. Pro-Union (as in the Army), pro-Confederacy, pro-union (small u, as in the country’s unity), anti-union, pro-slavery and anti-slavery interests mixed and matched and varied from county to county, person to person.

Will the movie’s characters be tortured by these complex contradictions? How can a supposed summer blockbuster movie portray this angst? And how can a movie make heroes out of Quantrill’s band and their shocking and murderous 1863 raid of the men and boys of Lawrence, Kansas. An even better question is how did the University of Kansas get a BSC football bid over the University of Missouri when the Tigers beat the Jayhawks during the regular season! Just goes to show that history’s geographic grudges never subside, now we just settle our differences with less killing.

Click Here to Read More about Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

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