Copperhead is unlike any Civil War movie to date. It is a film of the war at home—of a family ripped apart by war, of fathers set against sons and daughters, of a community driven to an appalling act of vengeance against a man who insists on exercising his right to free speech during wartime. A story of the violent passions and burning feuds that set ablaze the homefront during the Civil War, Copperhead the movie is also a timeless and deeply moving examination of the price of dissent, the place of the individual amidst the hysteria of wartime, and the awful cost of war—a cost measured not in dollars but in fractured families, broken loves, and men dead before their time.
Based on the extraordinary novel by Harold Frederic, which the great American critic Edmund Wilson praised as a brave and singular book that “differs fundamentally from any other Civil War fiction,” Copperhead is the story of Abner Beech, a stubborn and righteous farmer of Upstate New York, who defies his neighbors and his government in the bloody and contentious autumn of 1862.
Copperhead is the great untold Civil War story. Far from the Virginia battlefields whose names etch our history, the war of Copperhead visits the devastation and unimaginable loss of a civil war upon a family and a community whose strength and very existence are tested by fire, rope, knife, and betrayal. This is the Civil War come home.
With Copperhead, director Ron Maxwell, who with Gettysburg and Gods and Generals established himself as our foremost cinematic interpreter of the American Civil War, takes on the War from a stunning and unexpected and richly, unforgettably humanist angle.