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The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert Adams
Directed by Julian Adams, 2007

Despite its misleading title (Robert Adams wasn’t the last Rebel of any kind), this earnest little melodrama by first-time filmmaker Julian Adams is about a real person, cotton planter Captain Robert Adams of South Carolina, who served with the Army of Northern Virginia in the Charleston Light Dragoons. Director and leading man Julian Adams is the great-great-grandson of the Confederate cavalryman.

Unfortunately, familial fealty doesn’t produce great movies; money does, and director Adams didn’t have much of it to work with. Even shooting mostly on location in South Carolina and the participation of hundreds of reenactors can’t overcome a pedantic plot full of Lost Cause sentimentality and wooden acting by most of the cast. Only ancient Mickey Rooney, playing grandfather David McCord, shows thespian panache.

Captain Adams was not an exceptional Southerner; in fact, he probably represents a well-to-do everyman who takes leave of his prosperous plantation and devoted family to preserve his forever amber lifestyle built on love, honor, duty, courage, perseverance, loyalty and sacrifice.

Told primarily as a flashback, the story proceeds through several energetic battle sequences until Captain Adams is captured and sent to the Andersonville of the North, Elmira prison in upstate New York. Intrepidly, he masterminds an escape and falls in love with a Pennsylvania farm girl whose family inexplicably feeds and arms the escapees. Meanwhile, his wife, Eveline (played by Gwendolyn Edwards), waits at home. A Yankee who came South as a governess and piano teacher, Eveline fell in love with Adams and married him on the eve of the war, leaving her caught between the convictions of her mind and the sentiments of her heart.

Seen mostly on the festival circuit, the film won several prizes and the DVD version contains a documentary on the making of the film. Titled “Once Upon a Time in the South: Behind The Last Confederate,” it fills in the family’s history and ends with shots of the graves of Robert and Eveline Adams, again underscoring that this movie is a most unusual family affair.

Originally published in the March 2012 issue of America’s Civil War.