Copperhead is a movie on Amazon Prime. I stumbled across it, and found it to be a gem.
It’s set during the Civil War, and that made me skeptical at first. Am I going to get a long condescending lecture on how slavery is bad? But I quickly saw that there would be more depth, here. For one thing, the movie is marvelously accurate for the times, in details throughout, concerning the everyday events of life. There are wonderful scenes of a sawmill powered only by creek-fed water turbine. The movie is gorgeous to watch even before getting to the human plot-lines.
As to those. The whole setting for the movie is a small town in up-state New York. There emerge for our attention two patriarchs in town. One a Bible-quoting abolitionist interventionist, humming The Battle Hymn of the Republic and urging the younger men on to do their bit for the country. The other is a copperhead – a dissenter to the rush to war that besets many of the townspeople who are loyal to the goals of Lincoln’s Republican party.
What you get are great dialog exchanges, such as that of the Republican with a less zealous neighbor. The Bible-thumping abolitionist is long on what he hates, short on what he loves. He demands to know his neighbor’s loyalty. The answer: God of the scriptures, of course. And you, my neighbor. What of the great cause? Don’t you love America? The Republican’s neighbor hesitates a moment, before responding. “I love my state. New York.”
Just so. It’s what the war was about. Slavery, in particular its possible spread to the territories, was the match that lit the tinder. But there was a significant conflict of vision about what statehood and the Constitution meant. Copperhead captures these subtleties. Well done.