ECW Weekender: I Heard the Bells: A Civil War Christmas Film

With thanks to ECW’s friend John Kanaster of Battlefield Tours of Virginia for contributions to this piece

A poet’s voice is silenced by grief. It was not just any poet but America’s poet, who helped shape a new nation’s character: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most famous poet of his time. Today, we would call this literary lion a celebrity. He spoke out against slavery and inspired the nation with Paul Revere’s Ride.

During the Civil War, Longfellow was silenced by grief upon hearing the news of his son’s wounding during the late-November Mine Run campaign. Charles Appleton Longfellow served with the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, which led the vanguard of the Federal left wing down the Orange Plank Road. In fighting around  New Hope Church, the young Longfellow was seriously wounded.

Shattered by tragedy, the elder Longfellow picked up his pen and found inspiration, and the enduring result has become one of the most famous Christmas poems of all time, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” This true story has become the new limited-release Christmas film, I Heard the Bells. Sight and Sound Films, a small faith-based production company, brought this story of hope to the big screen on December 1, 2022.

Launched during the 159th anniversary of the Mine Run campaign, the movie stars Stephen Atherholt as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Jonathan Blair as Charles Appleton Longfellow. Rachel Day Hughes graces the screen as Fanny Longfellow.

This Civil War-themed Christmas film has very limited release dates and times in theaters. (For instance, in some places, it’ll only be available this weekend.) You can check out the trailer here.

For more on the Longfellows’ story from ECW:

“I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day…”

A New Find for New Hope Church

And, with our thanks to John Kanaster, don’t forget to check out his own site, Battlefield Tours of Virginia.

4 Responses to ECW Weekender: I Heard the Bells: A Civil War Christmas Film

  1. I’m confused about whether Longfellow was silenced or shattered or inspired by his grief. It still looks interesting.

    1. Longfellow was all three–initially shattered and silenced, it took two years and a lot of war, including Charley’s wounding, to bring him inspiration. This is truly a wonderful story, and the film is pretty good as well. Heather Sheen’s cockades are a nice touch, as are the beautiful interior shots. The 54th and Charles Sumner even make appearances! Merry Christmas, everyone.

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