The first assistant director of Gods and Generals, Donald P.H Eaton, is also an author of a four-set of books, lovingly dubbed “The Sherman Quartet”, which deal with the final months of the American Civil War, and all the nitty, gritty aspects of what was going on in Georgia at the hands of General William T. Sherman. The series contains such intense titles as Till They Beg for Mercy, A Cathedral in Hell, Desperate Battle, and Union (coming out in the fall of 2013), all of which have garnered rave reviews for their unflinching look at war, and the manner in which they are written, a style that differentiates them from other novels on the subject. These stories, all based on true accounts, delve into what the history books leave out, as the battles are not fought on lush, green, distant battlefields, but in the towns and amongst a struggling, southern populace. Sherman once said, “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to refine it…the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”
This quote perfectly describes his mindset in trying to end the war–the almost no-mercy like attitude, in burning and destroying everything in his path. If that gets your wheels in motion, I have recently confirmed with the author of the series that the idea is currently being pitched to executives at three major networks for a 10-12 hour miniseries project. In talking with him, he wants to enforce the fact that this is far away, and that hopes of getting this series on television by 2015 are growing slimmer, but that does not mean this will never happen. In fact, he and his team are quite confident. The executive producer for the project is Charles W. Fries, nicknamed the “Godfather” of TV movies, of which he has nearly 200 credits to his name. Also on the production team are partners Ave Butensky, the former president of Viacom’s Television Program Group, and Allan B. Schwartz, the former 20th Century Fox president of Specials and TV Movies.
When I asked Eaton for a quote or two to describe the story, he responded with the following, “Imagine yourself in a city with an enormous enemy army only miles away and you have no means to defend yourself. Imagine that in one short day, everything you have ever known of home, family, comfort and love with be turned to smoke, rubble and ash all around you. Imagine yourself in Columbia, Georgia, February 17, 1865. By sunrise the next morning, you will have nothing but the clothes you are wearing. It is winter. You are a woman. You have no shelter. You are a slave. If war is ‘hell’, as Sherman wrote, then it is also theater. War is never about geography. It is never about economics or even policy. It is only about people: The people who make war; the people who fight war and the people who suffer war.The theater’s stage for Sherman: The Final March is the four hundred mile path from Savannah, Georgia to the Confederate capitals of Richmond and Raleigh. The characters are Generals and common soldiers, Presidents and politicians; Civilian victims and looting ‘Bummers’; Runaway slaves and vengeful owners; Traitors, partisans and guerrilla warriors; Beautiful women willing to exchange sex for comfort and security and mere boys who fight because they are afraid not to. Although it is the ‘people’ who concern us most, the ‘theater’ provides a dramatic and, in fact, little known backdrop. The last four months of the Civil War have been called the most critical and important months in American history: “There probably never was a time so full of peril, so packed with action, so frightened with significance…” Sherman: The Final March is the story of those four winter months and the people who lived through them or died trying.”
And also, “It is worth noting that, with this being the 150th anniversary of that war, public interest in such stories has never been greater. But it is not the ‘history’ I think that draws them so much to it. It is the rich personal drama of victory, defeat and even tragedy that came out of it. Capturing that accurately in this series was my goal while still maintaining a dramatic and human perspective. The audience will be there and the critics will be pleased. It will be a prestigious effort and do honor to the men and women, black and white, who participated, suffered and died for either side during that time.”
Finally, when asked how his series might be different from other projects, both past and present, Eaton says, “If you ask any ‘average’ viewer to describe a ‘generic’ Civil War scene, I think most will come up with a green field, summer day, lines of men in clean blue uniforms ramrodding their muskets and shooting at similar advancing lines of men in butternut and gray. Slow-motion bullet hits and not-quite-believable hand to hand combat while a bunch of generals watch from their saddles. The last four months, Jan – April, 1865, weren’t like that. It was winter. Both armies were ragged. Flooded rivers had to be crossed. Entire towns were burned down. Union soldiers had repeating rifles. Partisan guerrilla terrorists fought in the snow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lee surrendered, but that did not end the war. Confederate General Joe Johnston still had 20 – 30,000 men to put up against Sherman outside of Raleigh. Jefferson Davis had his Government and Treasury in two trains fleeing a burning Richmond in the rain at night! Boy soldiers had to learn to kill or be killed. The series is replete with such unknown or little-known things the average viewer never even knew about and it’s all dramatic and it’s all fact-based in the story.”
To follow the project on Facebook, please click here. For inquiries with author Donald P.H Eaton, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try my best to put you in touch.