Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Flag and a Lie - W. P. Inman in Cold Mountain

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

So for the second installment of the Cold Mountain review I give you W. P. Inman, or just Inman, if you like.

Inman is what you might expect of a typical Confederate soldier. He does not own slaves, he is a young man, he is a skilled laborer. While he does not seem to have any particular attachment to southern nationalism - if (and when) the war breaks out - he fights...I suppose because it is what everybody else does.

But Inman soon sours on the war - primarily because he realizes (as do all others in the film) that this is a war fought by the working man to protect the rich man's slave. And there you have it in all its simplistic glory: a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.


Seriously, that argument is so tired and cliche that I am surprised anybody still gives it two hours of their valuable time. The truth is, Inman would have had a stake in preserving slavery as well, even though he was not a slaveholder himself. Why you ask?

Well, for one, in a society such that he lived, Inman always stood the chance of one day owning a slave (or more than one) himself - and thereby climbing the social ladder to the upper classes. This "worker of wood" could have expanded his trade and really carved out a nice life for himself in North Carolina. In a democracy, social mobility is a big deal - something that could have been very appealing indeed.

But even if he were not so ambitious, the institution of slavery meant that Inman always stood above another class of people in a stratified society. Not to mention, with slavery intact, he would never have to compete with an entire group of workers who could potentially under bid his labor.

My guess - in the real world of 1860, Inman would have been very happy to support a slave-holding republic, with all that that encompassed.




  1. I'd argue that Inman doesn't "soon sour on the war." It isn't until late 1864--while recovering from his Crater wound--that he decides to desert. This is entirely in keeping with the large numbers of Confederates who were going home or crossing to Union lines at that stage in the war.
    Saying that ordinary Southerners had a stake in the slaveholders' republic doesn't mean they all supported it to the very end, which I'm sure you well know.

  2. Are you serious? If you read the book,it is clear that the independent mountain men largely went to war because they had been convinced the northerners were invading to take their land. It's a lot simpler than you seem to understand. And, given that it was a volunteer force, many left when it became clear they were being asked to invade the north, not just defend the south, and that is not what they signed up for. And,their families were starving and wasting away without them on their mostly subsistence farms in the mountains. Most of the mountain people had no desire to climb any kind of flatland social order--they tended to have more of a Jeffersonian notion of independence and self reliance, which seemed threatened by advancing northern troops.

  3. Yes Mary - I am serious. I read the book and watched the film very closely. And trust me, I am well aware of men in mountainous regions and their connections to the Confederacy. I am a descendant of these very people (or rather, the Northern Alabama variant), who by the way, owned slaves and supported secession. My point, which you should have picked up if you were paying attention, was that the author casts all Confederates as the same...with the same opinions on the issues - that they were somehow duped by the slave-holding class into fighting a war to protect a rich man's wealth. This is repeated over and over and over again in the book and the film - and it is absolutely not correct. Yes, some people felt this way - but most did not. I have read their letters and diaries and can attest to this point with numerous examples. I used Inman to make my point precisely because the author used him to make his. It was done for the sake of argument....perhaps a subtle one, yes - but a valid one.
    Thanks for the comment, by the way - always happy to argue with you :)

  4. Of course I know that - but I will say that most supported the institution throughout the conflict, and would have happily reinstated it given the chance. My point was to illustrate how the author of Cold Mountain cut all Confederates from the same cloth. Certainly you can see the flaw in this line of reasoning.
    Thanks for the comment, by the way - come back and argue with me anytime!

  5. Brilliant use of a *novel* as historical evidence.

  6. Well I'm guessing that you are very stupid to think inman wouldever want slaves? He is a man that can do for himself! If wanted a slave he would have gotten one don't u think?? Another thing is I don'tthink one word in the Moive nor bookaid anything about him having or wanting a slave. I don't think u watched eather book pre Moive because anyone can clearly see inman is sweet, hardworking man, and only cares for ada. He puts everone before him self. So if you really want to lie more?? Because u aare making you self look pathetic, then go ahead. ;)