Ride with the Devil was released in 1999, and I frankly don’t know how I missed it. But I just finished watching it on the Starz movie channel and thought it one of the best Civil war movies I’ve seen
Directed by the celebrated Ang Lee, the movie is adapted from the Daniel Woodrell novel Woe to Live on. The story follows Daniel Rodell (Toby Maguire), a teen who joins a group of Kansas Irregulars in 1861. At its core, it’s a coming-of-age story, as Rodell fights his way through the war, losing family and friends until he finally ends the war on his own terms.
Sure, there’s a “love story” here, but it also offers a lot from a wargamers’ perspective. As it focuses on “irregular” cavalry operations, there are no set piece battles as in Glory or Gettysburg, but the skirmishes come across as quite authentic. And inspiring. I have this urge to go right out and buy some 28mm Civil war cavalry figures to do a skirmish game.
While I’m sure that the historical stickers among wargamers will (as usual) have a long laundry list of “errors” in the movie, there wasn’t anything that jumped out and ruined the movie for me (one critic I read pointed out that in that period, women didn’t’ have inseam pockets in their skirts — big deal). In particular, I loved the period language: formal and rather flowery by modern standards. While people may not have really spoken in that manner, it is right in keeping with the phrasing in period letters I have read.
If you haven’t seen it, I think you should seek this one out.