Andrew McLaglan is regarded as heir to John Ford in making Westerns. Worked as assistant to Ford in late 1940s and 1950s when JF made his acclaimed cavalry trilogy ("Fort Apache", "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon," and "Rio Grande"). During late 1950s and 1960s made a name for himself with TV Westerns: "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun Will Travel", "Rawhide", "The Virginian".


  • James Stuart - Charlie Anderson, the father and widower
  • Doug McLure - son-in-law Sam
  • Sons and Daughters: Glenn Corbett - son Jacob; Patrick Wayne - son James; Katharine Ross - Ann, wife of James; Rosemary Forsyth - daughter Jannie; Philip Alford - the youngest son Boy (16 years); Charles Robinson - son Nathan; James McMullan - son John; Tim McIntire - son Henry
  • Paul Fix - Dr Witherspoon
  • Dever Pyle - Pastor Bjoerling


Set in 1864 during American Civil War. A family of pacifists who live in the much ravaged Shenandoah valley attempt vainly to stay out of the war (don't like slavery and don't like interfering Northerners).

James Stuart plays a prosperous Virginian farmer Charlie Anderson who tries to keep his large family (6 sons, a daughter and various sons- and daughters-in-law) out of the Civil War but is unable to because of the location of their family farm in the stategically important Shenadoah Valley. Most of the fighting took place in the corridor between two capitals - Washington and Richmond. To the West of the corridor, the Shenandoah Valley became important because it was a route for Union forces to be sent to reinforce units in the south and west; a route for Confederate forces to encircle and attack Washington from the West; the fertile valley farms were an important source of supplies for the South especially later in the war when the South was suffering from the war of economic attrition. In 1862 Stonewall Jackson's activities in the Valley tied down 2 Federal forces, inflicted 7,000 casulaties, seized much needed supplies for the South, inspired the South with his successes and frightened the North with the possibility of an attack on Washington. In September 1864 Union forces under Sheridan pursued Confederate forces with the express intention (under orders from Gen. Grant) to strip the valley so thoroughly that "crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender." The result was the destruction of railroad lines, crops and barns belonging to both unionists and secessionists were burned and herds driven off or slaughtered, and the Valley was finally kept out of the hands of the South.

Charlie refuses to support South in Civil War because he is opposed to slavery and refuses to support North because he is opposed to war, thus he tries to remain neutral. When conflict takes place in Shenandoah valley his pacifist views are challenged: youngest son Boy is taken prisoner by Union soldiers; son-in-law Sam has Confederate sympathies and is called up; son James and daughter-in-law Ann are killed (murdered?) by Confederate looters; son Jacob is killed by Confederate guardsman. Events thus force Charlie to take a stand.

Things to Note

Film raises a number of questions and items of interest to classical liberals:

  • the prayer Charlie says at the dinner table - "we worked for it, so it's ours"
  • How does one keep one's integrity in an impossible situation (heroism)? More specifically, how does a pacifist remain true to this/her principles in total war? In modern war is it possible not to take (or be forced to take) sides?
  • the breakdown of the traditional laws of war in total war. Should armies continue to respect the lives and property of non-combatants or is everybody now an enemy?
  • the consequences of economic warfare - crops, barns, livestock must be seized for one's own use or destroyed to prevent the enemy use of them. What happens to those caught in the middle? If one's intention in fighting is to protect life and property (or the principle of life and property) is economic warfare an appropriate means to this end?
  • what claim does the state have (whether north or south) on Charlie's family? War requisition just a fancy name for "horse thieves".
  • Charlie's attitude towards war, when does it concern him? personal revenge?
  • why does he hijack the train of POWs - "it's not the kind of train I favour"
  • the suggestion that atrocities are an inevitable part of modern war - rape, killing of innocent bystanders
  • who benefits from war? politicians? glory-seeking soldiers?
  • the traditional depiction of "good" anti-slavery North vs "bad" pro-slavery South is not so clear cut. Perhaps both sides had their good and bad aspects. "Bad" North: pro-tariff protection, war opportunity to drastically expand state power (taxation, conscription, inflation, censorship), creation of unitary state by coercion, opposed right of exit or secession. Good" South: pro-free trade, right of exit.
  • the dilemma the Civil War caused for classical liberals on both sides of the Atlantic. Radical Abolitionists in America (Garrison) wanted North to secede from South because of tainted pro-slavery constitution. "Cooperheads" opposed conscription and censorship. British liberals divided over free trade issue - importance of Southern cotton to British factories.
  • the film was made in 1965 - the year American ground troops were sent in numbers to Vietnam. Is this film a prescient warning to the American people about the problems of taking sides in this divisive conflict?