"Disneyland" Willie and the Yank: The Mosby Raiders (1967)
Director: Michael O'Herlihy.
Starring: James MacArthur (Cpl. Henry Jenkins), Nick Adams (Sgt. Gregg), Jack Ging (Lt. John Singleton Mosby), Kurt Russell (Pvt. Willie Prentiss), Peggy Lipton (Oralee Prentiss), Donald Harron (Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton), Jeanne Cooper (Ma Prentiss), James T. Callahan (Sam Chapman), Robert Sorrells (Pvt. Starkey), L.J. Andre (Uncle Ferd), Michael Forest (Gen. J.E.B. Stuart), Steve Raines (Sgt. Maddux), Michael Pate (Capt. Blazer), Michael Kearney (Homer Prentiss), Robert Random (Pvt. Lomax).
film about young boy who joins the Confederate Mosby Raiders -- Mosby captured Union General Stoughton March 1863
Virginia, 1861. Private Willie Prentiss is manning a Confederate outpost by the river. He is just a boy. Across the way Corporal Henry Jenkins mans a Yankee outpost on the other side of the river. The two have been at the same post for so long, that they have come to know each other and are friendly. They take turns firing their rifles at targets on the other side of the river. With Willie is Private Lomax who's a little older boy than Willie. Lomax doesn't like the friendly game of shooting with a Yankee. It's Willie's turn to shoot. He fires his rifle and he nicks the star like target. Two Confederate soldiers hear the shot and start riding hard to the picket post.
All of a sudden Willie notices Lomax standing at very stiff attention. He looks around and sees Sgt. Maddux coming his way. Maddux starts scolding the boy saying that he told Willie numerous times not to have any truck with those Yankees across the river. He says if he catches Willie talking to the Yanks, he's going to have Willy court-martialed. Now he and the officer with him take off.
Henry calls over to Willie. He wants to exchange some coffee for some tobacco. Willie wants to exchange with Henry. So Henry gets on a tiny raft and is pulled over across the river. Before Henry gets very far, the two rebels see another confederate soldier coming their way. Lomax says it's Sgt. Maddux again. Willie starts yelling at Henry to go back. Meanwhile, Lomax has picked up a revolver and now starts shooting at Henry. Willie doesn't want Henry hurt so he runs to the picket post and jumps on Lomax. They both struggle for the revolver and it goes off. The bullet hits Maddux. The man goes down.
The two boys check on the man. It's not Maddux, but the lieutenant. Lomax is extremely scared even though the lieutenant has only been grazed on the side of his head. He starts to blame Willie for the accident. Lomax wants to run away, so Willie tells him him to "git" out. Lomax doesn't say anything more, he just starts running away as fast as he can.
Henry starts shouting for Willie and Willie goes down to the river asking Henry to pull him over.
Over at the Yankee post, Willie is very sullen. He says they're probably going to hang him for shooting a lieutenant and then abandoning his post. But Henry has an idea. He and his friend will say that they shot the lieutenant and captured Willie. Then Willie can take off headed south to join up with a different unit where no one knows him. Then Willie can tell the rebs that he escaped from two Yankees at the picket post. Willie kind of likes the idea. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of another soldier, who tells the Yanks that the company's been transferred to the middle military division: Fairfax Courthouse with General Stoughton. The messenger sees a tobacco pouch and realizes that the two at the picket post got hold of some fresh tobacco. He goes over to the pouch of tobacco and there sees a Confederate hiding behind the small wall. The man pulls out his pistol to shoot the reb but Henry and his friend jump on the man to stop him from hurting Willie. When the man simmers down, they tell him that the reb is a tame one and is of no danger to them.
Willie stands up and tells the messenger that he was born just seven miles away from Fairfax Courthouse. He knows the town well. Henry tells the messenger that they got to get Willie headed south and they have to do it tonight. They dress Willie up in blue and put a bandage around his head as if he is wounded. Then they place him in the back of a Yankee hospital wagon. In the morning, Willie jumps out of the back of the wagon and rolls down the hill. Two Yankees come to look for him, but he stays well hidden. He moves toward a hole in a log, but finds that a skunk is in there and he slowly backs out. One of the Yankees comes to investigate the hole. He tells whoever's in there to come on out. Willie sneaks up behind the Yankee and uses his boot to push the man into the hole, where he gets sprayed by the skunk. Then Willie runs over and jumps on the Yankee's horse and starts riding away.
Willie is chased by the other Yankee who keeps shooting at Willie. He finally hits Willie, but Willie keeps on going and the Yankee gives up the chase. He is hurt and slowly rides the horse back to his home at Frying Pan Church, Virginia. He reaches home and his brother calls out for help. His uncle and his mother Sally rush over to Willie. Everyone is shocked to see Willie in a Yankee uniform.
They take him into the house, get him out of that Yankee uniform and put him into his bed. The doctor tends to his wound. His little brother comes in to see Willie with three of his friends. They are all in awe of Willie and they want to know everything about Willie's adventure and, especially, the Yankee uniform he was wearing when he was shot. Sally goes over to the boys and speaks very firmly to them. She tells them that she wants them to forget all about that blasted uniform and to never again say anything about it.
Willie has now been at home for a week. Now he is able to sit and eat at the family table. He's still feeling bad about what happened with the reb officer. He doesn't really like to talk about what happened. When a guest, Mr. Chapman, gives Willie some advice, he blows up on the man and says some mean things to him about being a military Quaker giving out way too much advice to him. Sally scolds her son and tells him to apologize to Mr. Chapman. Willie tells the man that he would be grateful if he would forgive him for his rude remarks. He says he's in a world of trouble and is very upset about it. He leaves the table, but mom and Chapman rush over to him asking to know what kind of trouble is Willie really in.
A young girl, named Oralee, comes riding up fast to the farm house. She goes into the house and tells the occupants that the Yankees are coming and that they better hide Willie. Chapman takes Willie back upstairs and puts him back in bed. He takes out a parole form he has had for awhile and fills it out for Willie.
The Yankees arrive. Chapman slips outside through a window. Yankee Sgt. Gregg comes into the house and says that from the look of her horse Oralee must have been in an awful hurry riding her horse over to the farm house. The sergeant is suspicious because there are five plates at the table. Sally says the Quaker minister stays at the house and he was eating breakfast with them. And then Willie is upstairs in bed home from being wounded at the battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg). He asks Willie for his parole papers. Willie has them and the sergeant seems satisfied.
As the Yankees start riding out, the dog brings out the Yankee pants or coat and starts shaking it. The sergeant notices it and comes back. He finds Willie trying to escape from the house. He brings Willie back to the kitchen and grills him some more. He thinks that Willie and his family are helping the Confederate Mosby and his raiders. They take Willie with them.
The sergeant sees a man being held up by what looks like some Mosby's raiders. He leaves Willie back with two soldiers and they chase after the raiders. The wagon driver shouts out that the robbers are Mosby and some of his men. He turns his head toward Willie and Willie sees that it's Mr. Chapman. Chapman gets the drop on the two Yankees and he and Willie escape.
As Chapman and Willie ride away, they run into Sgt. Muddux. The sergeant is really angry at Willie and tells him to get moving. They all head up the nearby hill. They go to a house in the woods, the headquarters of John Singleton Mosby. It turns out that the lieutenant that the two boys grazed with a bullet is Mosby himself and he has a small scar right where he received his wound. Willie starts apologizing for what happened, but Mosby tells him what he should do is sent Willie back to his unit where he could be hanged. Mosby then asks Willie if he knows anyone that is in worse trouble than Willie Prentiss is? Willie says no.
Mosby says, well, he is in a worse situation than Willie is. He has to keep the Yankees busy chasing him to take some pressure off General Lee and his troops to the south of them. What he needs is a man who knows the countryside of Virginia. But the only man he has available is a boy named Willie. Mosby says to the sergeant that he better take a message to Gen. Fitzhugh Lee and tell him he has found a man to serve as his guide.
So now Willie is the scout and guide for Mosby's raiders. They attack the group led by Sgt. Gregg. Henry and his friend are with the sergeant. In the shoot out Will and Henry see each other. Neither man fires at the other. They turn away from each other and concentrate on other enemies. The raiders take a lot of the Yankee horses. They take 16 horses in all.
Sgt. Gregg has to report to Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton and tell him Mosby took 16 of their horses from them. The General is not at all pleased with the sergeant.
The General now turns to his aide and says that Mosby's base is at Middleburg. So he plans to hit Mosby at Middleburg bright and early.
Sgt. Muddux shouts up to Willie to get moving because Yankees are on the pike. The Yankees now arrive in town. Gen. Stoughton demands a list of every man in town. A Yankee catches Willie in the stables trying to get his horse ready to ride. He makes Willie come with him. They run into Henry and he takes over from Yankee Haskell. Henry now chases Willies back into the stables. He is mad at Willie saying that he told the boy to go way south and find a peaceful job with a Confederate army. And now here is he is riding with Mosby's raiders. He adds that if Gen. Stoughton ever found out about Willie, he probably would hang the boy.
Sgt. Gregg calls out for Henry. Henry comes out of the stables alone saying there was no one else but him in the stables. Gregg says Haskell said something about a stable boy. The sergeant goes around to the back of the stables. He sees Willie on his horse and starts chasing after him. Willie knows the lay of the land and he leads Gregg right into a batch of quick sand. The horse panics and throws Gregg right into the middle of the quick sand. And there he is stuck and starting to sink below the mud level. Willie comes over and asks Gregg if he saves him, is he still going to tell Gen. Stoughton on him? Gregg tells him to leave him alone and let him die in peace. Willie starts to leave but decides to save Gregg anyway. He uses a rope and Gregg's horse to pull Gregg out of the quick sand. Then Willie takes both horses away with him.
When Gregg gets back in town, he starts searching through Willie's stuff up in the loft of the stables. He keeps snooping around until he finds a hidden compartment containing Willie's rebel uniform. With Gregg is Henry. Gregg tells Henry that Henry told him that the boy was harmless, but now he knows that the boy is with Mosby's raiders. So Henry and he are going to find out where Willie is and bring him in.
Stoughton tells the mayor and the other town officials of Fairfax that they have been giving aid and comfort to a brigand. If Mosby commits one more outrage, he will be compelled to take action against those who have been sheltering him. He even goes so far as to say he may burn the town. Mosby hears of this, but he says it's all just bluster. General Fitzhugh Lee says to General J.E.B. Stuart that what Staunton says is true. He then tells Mosby that he has put his general in the position of endorsing the actions of a bunch of buccaneers. Fitzhugh Lee tells Stuart that he wants Mosby's raiders back with him. This time Stuart sides with Fitzhugh Lee and tells Mosby to bring his men in and then report to him for reassignment.
Mosby tells Chapman and Willie that they have to do something very bold in order to save the raiders. He is thinking of kidnapping Stoughton, but knows that Stoughton's troops surround Fairfax. Willie says the troops are not there at Possum Creek. That gives Mosby an idea. He tells Chapman to assemble the men at 9 p.m. and have them ready to ride. If it doesn't rain, they'll head south to Culpepper and reassignment, but if it rains "maybe something else".
At 9 p.m. Mosby says they are heading south to Culpepper and reassignment, but just then it starts raining. Now Mosby says they are headed for Fairfax first.
Meanwhile, Gregg and Henry are out in the rain still watching for Willie to show up. The rain makes them think that no one will be out tonight and they call their search off. As they head for home, they see Willie up ahead. Then they see Mosby and his raiders. Gregg decides to follow them.
Two reb stragglers catch up with the group coming up behind Gregg and Henry. The two Yankees have no choice but to catch up and join with Mosby's rangers. Chapman checks to see if everyone is there by counting the number of men that pass by him. He finds he has two extra men somehow. Chapman informs Mosby of the two additional men.
Someone, probably a reb, shouts out for the unit to identify itself. Gregg suddenly shouts out that it's Mosby and his raiders. Gregg and Henry try to get away, but they both are stopped. Only Henry escapes from the rebs and hides in the bushes. Mosby says that his men can't search for the second man all night and says they have to proceed forward quickly now.
After Mosby has gone, Henry comes out of hiding, but waiting for him is none other then Willie. He says he's going to take Henry as a prisoner of war. Willie takes Henry over to his home where pretty Oralee Prentiss lives. He tells the house occupants to keep an eye on Henry for the night and release him in the morning.
The raiders cut the telegraph wires. They reach Staunton's headquarters. They can waltz right through the encampment because the men have their ponchos on, the rain has darkened their hats and it's night time.
Oralee likes the Yankee that saved her cousin Willie's life. She feeds him some cake with a fork. Then she volunteers to read a book to him.
The raiders knock out the sentries around headquarters.
Henry loosens the ropes around his wrists. Oralee tells Henry that Mosby is fixing to kidnap Gen. Stoughton. So now Henry doesn't have to worry even about facing Staughton. So Henry stops fiddling with his ropes and gets set to enjoy the evening with Miss Oralee.
Mosby knocks on the headquarters' door and a captain answers the knock. Mosby puts a gun up to his face and tells the man: "Alright, captain, now let's go see Stoughton." Stoughton is taken completely by surprise. Mosby tells him he's taking him to see his old West Point buddy Fitzhugh Lee.
Oralee drives Henry into headquarters. Sgt. Gregg is there with a bandage around his head. He gets very suspicious of seeing Oralee drive Henry in and he says something about it. But he then dismisses the matter. Gregg tells Henry that they kidnapped Stoughton last night. Henry gets a big grin on his face and Gregg frowns at him.
Mosby brings in Stoughton to Fitzhugh Lee, who is shocked to see his old body right in front of him. Stuart and General Robert E. Lee are both present in the room.
Mosby comes out of the room and tells Willie, who is worried about getting hung, that a very famous gentleman wants to shake Willie's hand. Willie goes inside to meet Gen. R. E. Lee.
Henry goes to see Oralee. He gives her his mother's wedding ring. She takes the ring, but tells him that she can't ever see him again. He protests, but she says he should go. She adds that she's going away to Frying Pan Church.
Willie comes home to see his family. Oralee is there too. Willie goes up to see her. His mother warns Willie that Oralee is very upset and has been crying at the drop of a hat. Willie talks with Oralee and suddenly understands that Oralee went ahead and fell in love with a Yankee soldier, even though he is Henry. He is none too pleased about it. Willie adds that this is no time to fall in love with a Yankee. Oralee says she knows that and that's why she came here, so she wouldn't weaken and give in to him. And now here comes Henry is civilian clothing riding up in a buggy to speak with Oralee.
Oralee tells Willie that Henry shouldn't have come. Willie says he'll go downstairs and tell him to go away. Willie starts telling off Henry in the barn and threatens to bust him with a big piece of wood. But now Oralee shows up in the barn. Henry goes over to her and gives her the flowers and candy he has with him. The two hug and kiss.
Willie tells Henry that if he wants to marry Oralee he better wear civilian clothes to the wedding. And he mustn't let on that he's a Yankee. If they find out he's a Yankee, that might lead to a hanging.
Back with the troops, Henry hears that if any Mosby raider is caught, he gets hanged automatically.
Henry rides over for the wedding set-up. He catches Oralee in her wedding dress. Henry sets her down and tells her they have a new order. Any Mosby man they catch they have to hang him right there where they caught him. And that includes Willie too. Henry is afraid that if he does do his duty and Willie hangs, she will never forgive Henry. Oralee says they will have to go downs stairs and tell the folks that there won't be any wedding. When they do go down stairs, Henry decides he has to go through with the wedding. So, he just thanks the people for being so nice to him.
Gregg comes over to Henry and tells him that their commander has canceled his furlough. So Henry goes into see the commander. The commander says they have learned that there's going to be a big wedding at Frying Pan Church and they figure that there will be a lot of Mosby's raiders attending the affair. And he wants everyone of his soldiers at the home there in the town. He means to catch a lot of Confederate bigwigs at the wedding.
So now Henry decides to have the wedding tonight rather than tomorrow. He goes to the stable to get his horse, but Gregg is there waiting for him. He accuses Henry of trying to warn Mosby and the others about the impending raid. Henry asks Gregg if he's calling him a traitor? Yes. Henry now slugs Gregg several times and the fight is on. They knock each other around and then Gregg stops fighting and says that the groom is said to be a big rebel hero and he wants to know if that hero is Henry. Henry says he's a good soldier -- just as good as Gregg is. Gregg says that Henry is not going anywhere. He's going to be there at that wedding with his fellow soldiers.
The stable man has heard the whole conversation and now he rides out to tell Mosby of the situation. Mosby tells his men, including Willie, that they won 't be at that wedding. Mosby now asks Willie if the groom isn't a Yankee soldier from Fairfax? Willie admits it, but says the Yankee is not a bad sort of man. And Willie says he can ride to Frying Pan Church to stop the wedding. Mosby tells Willie that they are not going to call the wedding off. Mosby says they are going to attack the Yankee attackers.
Here comes the Yankees along with Henry. Mosby is waiting for their arrival. Captain Blazer and his men show up at the house. He has his men search the house for Willie and other Mosby raiders. Sally tells tells them that there are no Mosby men here. They search anyway. All they find is Oralee. Captain Blazer now is going to burn Sally's house down. Gregg selects Henry as the men who has to set the house on fire. Just about the time Henry is set to start the fire, three Mosby raiders rush in and kill several Yankee soldiers. Blazer and the men rush after the raiders who lead the Yankees right into the main force of the raiders. There's a big shoot-out. Henry and Gregg are wounded. The Yankees leave the field of battle.
Mosby brings Henry and Willie back to the wedding house. The civilians are very angry to see Henry. Mosby stands up for the wounded man and so does Sally, but the citizens are still mad. So now Willie stands up for Henry and says that Henry held his fire rather than shoot his friend Willie and that's when Henry got shot. He also says that the soldier laying there on the ground could have been himself. Now the citizens stop being angry. Mosby says he will leave the man in the care of Oralee. Oralee says she will take good care of him. The Mosby raiders, including Willie, now ride away. Sgt. Gregg is taken away as a prisoner of war.
Most films dealing with southern troops in the Civil War, I don't like. I don't like a racist people being glamorized and celebrated. But this film was different. It dealt with a friendship between a reb boy in the army and a young Yankee fellow. They became friends at their isolated picket posts. They didn't hate each other. In fact, they were such friends that they helped each other out of tight spots. And then the Yankee Henry falls in love with Oralee, the cousin of reb Willie, the friendship still goes on. The two males and the female overcome some very serious obstacles to maintain love and friendship throughout in spite of it all. Now that's a more inspiring message than just hate, hate, hate. So the story is inspiring. Kurt Russell does a very good acting job as the rebel boy in the film. He's cute and smart. James MacArthur (as Cpl. Henry Jenkins) and Nick Adams (as Sgt. Gregg) were also very good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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