Wicked Spring (2002)




Director:     Kevin Hershberger.

Cast:     Brian Merrick (Harrison Bolding), DJ Perry (John Sunderlin), Terry Jernigan (James McDavid Hogg), Aaron Jackson (After Stand Kennerly), Curtis Hall (Augustus Elliot), Mark Lacy (Pietro Brolo), Anthony Hornus (Colonel William Holden), Lindsey Ingram (Virginia Gordon), Rebecca Lawlor (Parthenia Sunderlin), John Pagano (Confederate Major).

mixing of gray and blue on the very confused battleground at the Battle of the Wilderness


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Harrison Bolding is sworn into the Army of the Confederacy.  He is upset that he has to leave the young woman he wants to marry named Virginia Gordon.  Up north John Sunderlin has to say goodbye to his wife and his young daughters. 

Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-May 7, 1864.  We do not know where in particular the battle takes place. 

The Rebs attack and force the Yanks to run.  But the fighting, taking place in a woods, becomes so confused that soldiers from both sides start to become lost.  Harrison's friend Jim is gun-shot in the gut and goes down.  Harrison risks his life to grab his wounded friend and bring him out of the line of fire.  A medic looks over at Jim's wound and turns away (for he can do nothing for this kind of wound). 

News arrives to the Union General (probably Hancock) that their flank has been turned.  The General demands that his troops hold the line. 

Jim dies.  Not long afterwards a large Confederate soldier named James McDavid Hogg, running from the battle, trips over the kneeling Harrison.  Hogg tells his comrade to drop his pack like he is doing and run.  Harrison does what he is told.  There is mass confusion. 

Night arrives.  Hogg and Harrison run into a soldier hiding on the ground.  The fellow's uniform is blue, but he is a Confederate.  Hogg demands to know who is the soldier.  The fellow answers: "A friend."   The guy gets up and approaches the two men, while they approach him.  The fellow says his named is After Stand Kennedy and he is not yet sixteen years of age.  He agrees to accompany the two men. 

Two Union soldiers, John Sunderlin and Augustus Elliot, are helping a badly wounded Italian-American comrade named Pietro Brolo (called Pete) walk to find their unit.  The two groups of soldiers approach each other.   Neither group knows the side to which the other group belongs, because most of the fellows don't have on much of a uniform and the uniforms themselves are confusing.  But with a bit of yelling messages back and forth they agree to call a kind of peace so that no one shoots another and they can camp together. 

The men get a fire started.  Their biggest concern is the health of Pete.  But nobody seems to know how to stop his bleeding.  The irritable Hogg knows, but doesn't want to help.   Finally he offers a suggestion.  John asks him to come forward if he knows something.  Hogg declines.  The fellows try to get a tourniquet around his leg without much success.  Finally, in a fit of irritation at the bumbling of the other guys, Hogg places the tourniquet correctly on the leg.

John and Harrison start to become very friendly.  Harrison has a lot of unopened letters from his sweetheart.  John asks him why and Harrison has to admit that he can't read.  Then John offers to read the letters to him.  The letters are very touching for both men.  John then offers to Harrison to write down a letter to Virginia with Harrison's own words.  Harrison is very reluctant.  He is afraid John will laugh at his sentiments.  John tells him he won't laugh.  The letter that Harrison dictates is pretty good, especially since he has not had experience in writing down his emotions. 

The next morning Hogg wakes up the earliest.  He walks around the camp and it suddenly dawns on him that his hunch that one or more of the fellows at the camp is a Yank is true.  Hogg grabs his rifle and wakes everybody.  Pointing his rifle at the three Yanks, he tells everyone that he is taking the Yankees prisoner.  Harrison and After Stand do not like what Hogg is doing, but he is a huge guy and holds a rifle at the ready.  They tell him not to do it, but he responds that the prisoners will be his ticket out of the battle.  Hogg forces the two healthy Yanks to help carry Pete.  And he keeps poking at them with his bayonet to get them moving faster. 

Hogg's actions force the yanks to fight back.  In the confusion Harrison grabs Hogg's rifle and forces the evil man back.  Hogg says to Harrison:  "I'm going to kill all of you."  There is quite the fist fight between Hogg on the one side and Jim and Harrison on the other.  Meanwhile Augustus is trying to sneak away. 

The fighting continues while the two armies start approaching each other.  There are stray shots here and there and the very frightened Augustus runs back to the group.  The group finds itself in no-man's land between the two armies.  And since they do not have uniforms that can be distinguished, both sides will shoot at them.  A rebel soldier shoots Harrison in the right shoulder.  John finally disables Hogg.  But now both sides are shooting at will. 

After the battle is over, we see the six men (three Yankees and three Rebels) dead on the ground.  

Good movie.  The story was interesting and worth watching.  The director says that he did his best to make everything as accurate as possible in the film.  Now that I have praised the film, I'll just say I wish I just would have had a bit more information on the battle.  The information is not necessary, but since it is set in a real battle during the Civil War, I would have enjoyed having some more background information.  The acting was good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

Battle of the Wilderness, May 5 - May 7, 1864.  Known especially for the confusing of the lines between Reb and Yank groups in the woods.

Location:  Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, central Virginia (70 square miles). 


1867 (May 2)

The northern Army of the Potomac under the leadership of U.S. Grant (with 101,000 men) crosses the Rapidan River. 

The army converges at Wilderness Tavern (the place of the southern attack on the Union right flank at Chancellorsville, May 1863.)

Robert E. Lee (with 61,000 men) wants to fight in the Wilderness to limit the effectiveness of Union artillery. 

1864 (May 5)

The battlefield.  Imagine the battlefield as a time clock. 

At one o'clock is Wilderness Tavern.  At 11 o'clock is Grant's and Mead's Headquarters.  At three o'clock is the Orange Plank Road.  On the inside of the clock around 3 o'clock Union General Winfield Scott Hancock faces southwestward against Confederate General A.P. Hill.  At 6 o'clock is an unfinished railway line that heads southwestward to Parker's Store.  North of the unfinished rail line is the headquarters of Lee.  Then around 10 o'clock Generals Sedgwick and Gouverneur K. Warren face southwest to confront the Confederate troops under General Richard S. Ewell along the Orange Turnpike.   

At position 10 o'clock on the time clock, to the south Ewell holds back Warren.  But (at position 3 o'clock) Hancock drives Hill back, although Hill still stays in the area. 

1864 (May 6 )

Hancock with about 40,000 men drives Hill back more than two miles while inflicting heavy casualties. 

Delayed by hours, Longstreet's 20,000 troops from around the area of Gordonsville arrive.  The troops already on the field had been fighting for six hours and are exhausted.  Longstreet's fresh troops push Hancock back to the original starting point of the battle and then back another mile. 

Hancock regroups along Brock Road. Longstreet cuts the Union forces in half by pushing through to and around the unfinished railroad.  But since Longstreet does not have enough men, the fighting begins to peter out.  Longstreet is badly wounded by friendly fire and is out for several months.

A Confederate division under Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon assaults the Union right and partially turns it making it possible to take 1,000 Union soldiers prisoner. 

Darkness falls ending the battle.

1864 (May 8)  --  Grants marches 10 miles to the southeast and fights the rebs at the Battle of Spotsvlvania Court House. 

The South lost about 1,500 killed and about 8,000 wounded.  The Union suffered about 2,250 killed and somewhere between 10 and 12 thousand wounded. 


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