Using the Film "Andersonville" in the Classroom
OverviewPopular media, such as books and films, have long been used to teach the story of Andersonville. The 1996 film "Andersonville" continues to be a popular classroom tool. This material is intended to assist teachers in clearly identifying historical reality versus Hollywood illusion and aiding students to think critically about the portrayal of historic events.
This material is intended to assist teachers in clearly identifying historical reality versus Hollywood illusion and aiding students to think critically about the portrayal of historic events.
BackgroundIt is important to remember that Andersonville was produced for entertainment, not necessarily education. At nearly three hours hours long, the Andersonville film conveys a fictionalized narrative history of the prison, through the eyes of prisoners. The strength of the presentation is its striking visual recreation of the prison compound and the level of historic authenticity seen in background details. For younger audiences, this film may not be the best choice. For shorter and more concise presentations of the park themes, please consider requesting a loan of one or both of our park films.
After viewing the film as a class, these questions will allow students to analyze what they have seen as compared to the historical context:
1. How were Josiah and his comrades captured and brought to Andersonville?
2. Why do the men have a hard time recognizing Dick Potter?
3. Describe the creek area and explain why Dick Potter tells the men to avoid it.
4. What is the deadline? Why are the Confederate guards so young?
5. What factors might have led men to form the Raiders?
6. What kinds of things do the men use to build their shelter and to dig an escape tunnel?
7. Why isn't their escape plan successful?
8. Captain Wirz explains to Col. Chandler why conditions are so bad. What reasons does he give? Do you think that the men inside the prison agree with Captain Wirz's assessment? Why or why not?
9. Explain why the Regulators form and how they handle the Raiders?
10. During the Raiders' trial, the defense lawyer argues that there is no law at Andersonville. Do you agree with this statement? If so why? If not, what laws do apply?
11. Describe the symptoms of scurvy as you see them appear in Martin Blackburn.
12. The prisoners spend much of their time talking about exchange. Why do the prisoners say the exchange system stopped?
13. Describe the food that the prisoners get. How do they prepare it? What diseases occurred in the prisoners as a result of their insuffi cient diet?
14. Based on what you see in the film, who deserves blame for what happened at Andersonville? Captain Wirz? The Confederate government? The Raiders? The prisoners themselves? Explain your answer, citing evidence from the film.