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GONE with the WIND (2 of 2)

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Gone with the Wind, continued

We fast forward two years to the Battle of Gettysburg. The scene in Atlanta becomes one of sorrow and weeping over families having lost sons in battle.

Rhett Butler has become one of the heroes of the war, making money as a blockade runner. The writer, Margaret Mitchell, gives Rhett Butler a new way of thinking. He is no longer the sophisticated and detached cynic. He is angry about what he had expected to happen. He goes off to "join our brave lads in gray." He says he "always had a weakness for lost causes, once their really lost." (Is that how he made his million? )

Soon the Yankees approach under the command of General Tecumseh Sherman. The movie narrates in text:

Heads were high, but hearts were heavy, as the wounded and the refugees poured into once happy Georgia.

The text on the screen describes Sherman's purpose: to "split the Confederacy" and "leave it crippled and forever humbled."

Actually, Sherman, in his march from Atlanta to the Sea, was trying to bring a painful war to an end as quickly as possible. War was horror, he believed, and he wanted to convince Confederates sooner rather than later that they should give up their fight. Following his army were desperados, including some lost Confederates who had given up on the war, taking advantage of an opportunity to loot. (Read more Yankee propaganda.)

The war ends.

Home from the lost adventure came the tattered Caviliers. . . Grimly they came hobbling back to the desolation that had once been a land of grace and plenty.

Ashley returns in cliche fashion to his wife Melony and his infant son, at Tara, with Scarlett still passionately in love with him. Ashley speaks of the life he has lost,

a world worse than death... no place for me...the South is dead. The Yankees and the carpetbaggers have got it and there's nothing left for us... In the end what will happen will be what has happened whenever a civilization breaks up. The people who have brains and courage come through and the ones who haven't are winnowed out.

Mitchell has a hard time keeping her characters in character. Ashley continues:

At least, it has been interesting, if not comfortable, to witness a Götterdämmerung.

A what? asks Scarlett.

A dusk of the gods. Unfortunately, we Southerners did think we were gods.

For heavens sake, Ashley Wilkes! Don't stand there and talk nonsense when it is us being willowed out.

Scarlett and Ashley are left to endure but they had an evil to face that the occupied Germans and Japanese did not have at the end of World War II. Text on the movie screen describes it:

And with them (the U.S. Army) came another invader... more cruel and vicious than any they (the gallant cavaliers) had fought... the carpetbaggers.

The version expressed on this site is that with occupation of the South by the U.S. Army came people to help run the occupied states, and teachers who wanted to help educate blacks. They were called carpetbaggers by hostile Southern whites. Most of the teachers were women – some of them sent by churches. Some Southerners verbally assaulted the white teachers, and white communities made the teachers dependent upon blacks for a place to stay.

Those Southerners who worked with the "carpetbaggers" were called "scalawags." In time, myth was to turn the scalawags into "white trash," but some of them were from families of status and wealth and not afraid of a higher status for blacks than what the Southerners had been accustomed to. And some of these "white trash" had been among the South's few Republicans before the Civil War.

The movie showed a street corner huckster promising a mule and forty acres, which in reality was not promised. But there was the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, called the Freedmen's Bureau. It was a bureau run by the U.S. Army, with numerous field agents to issue emergency rations and to help black and white refugees dispossessed by the war to return home – while former slaves had no home to return to.

Many in the former Confederate states saw Northern "fanatics" as responsible for the mess that their society was in, and agents of the Freedmen's Bureau were assaulted, shot at, and in a few instances killed. Some Southerners yearned for preserving what they called "white man's country." A number of secret white societies formed, one of which was called the Ku Klux Klan.

In the book, just after the war, Scarlett is assaulted. Her friends, including Ashley, make a retaliatory raid on an ecampment of recently-emancipated Blacks. Scarlett learns that Ashley Wilkes and others involved in the raid are members of the Klan. Margaret Mitchell has Scarlett disapproving the Klan, and under pressure from Rhett and Ashley the local chapter of the Klan breaks up. But in the movie the Klan is not mentioned.

The movie ends with Rhett and Scarlett finally living together but only for a while. Butler leaves Scarlett after saying "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Scarlett, asks "Where shall I go? What shall I do?" and decides, "Tara! Home. I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow is another day!"

Too bad that plantation owners in the United States did not give up slavery as did their cousins in Canada: peacefully accepting compensation the people whose freedom they had bought, extending free enterprise by offering wages as compensation for labor, which they eventually had to do.

Let us cheer up with a parody on Gone with the Wind by Carol Burnett, in two parts on You Tube.

More Reading

The United States, North and South to 1840

Ante-bellum and Civil War in the United States

The South immediately after the War

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