The Civil War
has been subject to a great deal of historical whitewashing. The South is commonly romanticized as a land of Southern Belles
, wise old colonels, Good Old Boys
, and Southern Gentlemen
. So whether it be by actual Southerners, Hollywood filmmakers who don't want to alienate a market, or writers running off Popular History
, the Confederacy, and the army in particular, gets portrayed in an unexpectedly positive light considering that they're the bad guys in American history class.
The Confederate soldier won't care about slavery. They fight out of duty to their state, right or wrong
, and are noble, honest, and loyal. The officers will be Southern Gentlemen
of the highest degree. The Confederacy might be presented as a tragic underdog. At the least, they will be a Worthy Opponent
. Portrayals of ex-Confederate soldiers will show them as proud of their service, and will sympathize with their bitterness over losing the war.
There is of course historical basis for the trope of the sympathetic Confederate soldier. General Robert E. Lee was famous for siding with his state of Virginia despite wanting the Union to remain whole and being offered command of the Union army, and frequently gets cast in the role of Reluctant Warrior
and Worthy Opponent
Though real examples obviously existed, this trope is generally employed to avoid having to confront the uncomfortable nature of the South in the Civil War era, instead glorifying the Confederate military and glossing over the unpleasant parts.
See also Southern Gentleman
, My Country, Right or Wrong
, and Worthy Opponent
- The backstory of Firefly is basically the Civil War IN SPACE!!, with the Alliance as the Union and the Independents as the Confederacy. Malcom Reynolds (The Captian of the ship and ex-Sargeant of Zoe) and Zoe both fought for the Independents and still believe they were on the right side. As the show is a Space Western, they correspond to examples of ex-Confederates in Wild West stories, with any unpleasant aspects of the Confederacy conveniently left out of the parallel.
- Robert E. Lee, of course, gets this treatment in Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South where he's a Reasonable Authority Figure as CSA President and works to free the slaves soon after the war ends.
- John Carter of Mars: John Carter is a former Confederate officer from Virginia, created in the 1910s when this trope was popular (see The American Civil War page for background).
- John Carter rolls with this and gives him a sympathetic backstory where he served as a cavalry captain and became disillusioned with fighting for a cause after he returned home to find his farm burned and his wife and child murdered. Carter's character arc in the film is overcoming his reluctance to fight for a cause after losing faith, which, by implication, glorifies his cause as a Confederate and leads to a Family-Unfriendly Aesop.
- The titular cowboy of Jonah Hex is a former Confederate soldier-turned Western gunslinger, and still wears his grey uniform. Though he's an Anti-Hero, he has a strong code of honor and is a definite good guy.
- Used to excellent effect in the graphic novel The Skin of the Hadrosaurs, whose protagonist is a Confederate officer fleeing from a group of Union troops whose commanding officer is hellbent on killing him. He meets a paleontologist who is entirely neutral in the conflict and who joins up with him, and the two end up stumbling across a lost land of dinosaurs. The Union soldiers follow them however, and their officer kills the paleontologist, prompting the enraged Confederate to fight him to the death to avenge the murdered scientist.
- Sergeant Pencroft in the movie adaptation of Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island. He is initially a hostile character who tries to stop the Union P.O.W.s led by Captain Harding from escaping, but gets taken prisoner following their successful getaway. As the movie progresses, though, he becomes friends with Herbert and even helps rescue black soldier Neb from a Giant Enemy Crab, suggesting he doesn't care about slavery or race, and never once tries to betray or sabotage the group. It gets to the point that, his accent aside, a viewer could be forgiven for forgetting he was even an enemy soldier to begin with.