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Surviving Sewanee – The Samuel Mitchell Story

Movie Review – Surviving Sewanee

The Swing Shift

Copyright 2009

Randall Riley

Surviving Sewanee is an historical look at the life of Samuel Mitchell, a Union soldier who survived an horrific blast of exploding gunpowder during the Civil War and went on to father a family of his own.  His wounds were severe enough that he could have been forgiven had he just curled up and died.  With the limited medical techiniques available in the 1860’s, he faced a painful and lengthy rehabilitation and recovery. 

This movie was a labor of love by Randall Riley, a distant relative of Samuel Mitchell.  Through interviews, re-enactments, and painstaking research he is able to recreate the life of this amazing man.   I was very impressed by the professional production of this movie.  The locations are historically accurate and the characters are portrayed in such a way that it brings to life this period in history.

After the war, Mitchell struggles to find employment with his disfigured hand and limp.  Like many other soldiers from that era, promises of disability payments were not kept and eventually Mitchell and his bride left his home state of Kentucky for the plains of Texas to start anew.  Life is not easy as the couple raises children in a home built into the side of a hill.  Eventually, Mitchell’s wife dies and he does not remarry.  He raises his children alone, and they go on to have families of their own.

What really struck home to me was what links in the chain we all are… if Samuel Mitchell had not survived the explosion, would Randall Riley have been around to document this forgotten hero?  It must have been fun for him to bring his genealogy to life for us to enjoy.  I learned much about this period in history, including events that happened very close to me here in Kentucky.

For anyone interested in the civil war and how all of the pieces of our lives fit together, sometimes precariously, I recommend Surviving Sewanee.  You can find it here.


June 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment