April/May 2005 | Volume 56, Issue 2
How Bruce Chadwick (“Actor Against Actor,” August/September 2004) could include movies whose plots are post-Civil War (The Searchers, The Ox-Bow Incident) and omit the excellent Ride With the Devil from his list of the 10 greatest Civil War movies is a mystery. Ride With the Devil is a superb portrayal of the guerrilla war along the Missouri-Kansas border as seen from the perspective of young Confederate bushwhackers. Their motivations, the historical context, and the course of action are accurately depicted. Moreover, the complexities and nuances of the characters are authentic as to time and place, a quality often lacking in any type of historical work these days. The movie gets right such period details as dress and weaponry, and the guerrilla fighting is as real as it gets in movies—especially the vastating raid on Lawrence, Kansas, in 1863.
Although it was hailed by most critics and Civil War devotees who saw it, Ride With the Devil was largely over-looked and did not do well at the box office despite the presence in the cast of Tobey Maguire and Jewel (who does not ruin the movie). Some have suggested this stemmed from the movie’s generally sympathetic attitude toward Confederates, which is politically incorrect in many venues today.