As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, when I spoke with Clive Young in March on NONFICTION, my radio show, I referred to a Star Wars fan film I’d seen of whose name I was not sure. I thought it was The Way of the Saber, but had to research it.
As it turns out, I was mostly correct: The 6-minute short, 2002′s Art of the Saber, by brothers Calvin, Clarence, and Cary Ho, employs the basic phoneme of SW fan film language—two men locked in light saber battle—invigorating it with flashy martial arts. But as opposed to then rehashing tales of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, the Ho brothers, instead, frame their somber work with the words of Union soldier Captain Sullivan Ballou’s famed 1861 letter to his spouse, Sarah.
One of the most captivating documents to come out of the Civil War, the note is powerful for the beauty of its prose, the depth of its feeling, and that its author, writing in noble contemplation of sure death, never saw his wife and children again. Ballou, above, 32, was cut down at the First Battle of Bull Run within a week of writing the text.
By drawing from Ballou’s pathos, the Ho brothers imbue their piece with the Captain’s sober dread, forging a story that is both new, timeless, and a powerful meditation on the cost of war.