In January I made a list of the 10 best, in my opinion, Revolutionary War films. I neglected to include a film that deserves to be in the top half of that list; Mary Silliman’s War.
This 1994 film is based on the true story of Mary Silliman and her husband, General Gold Selleck Silliman of Fairfield, Connecticut as told in the biography, The Way of Duty, A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America by Joy Day Buel and Richard Buel.
Often forgotten when we think of the Revolutionary War is the involvement of non-combatants. In this case, General Silliman was not commanding troops but rather served as a state’s attorney. He was caught up in the intense conflict between the Tories, Whigs and those who tried to remain neutral. Silliman was abducted during the night by Tories and taken to Long Island and imprisoned.
His wife, wonderfully portrayed by Nancy Palk, rises to the occasion and works to obtain his freedom through various plans of exchange. Time and time again she is thwarted. Wonderfully depicted is the neighbor vs. neighbor clashes of civilians as well as conflict with those in authority who find General Silliman a convenient political bargaining chip.
This is a wrenching tale. Absent are the ranks of soldiers firing in battle. Instead, there is the struggle of a woman to overcome the myriad of obstacles in her way. Eventually, she very reluctantly resorts to desperate measures.
Halfway through watching this film my wife commented, “This is stressful!” She has never said that before while watching a film. Mary Silliman’s War is that kind of viewing experience. It is stressful, authentic and extremely compelling. The attention to authenticity is extraordinary. The viewer experiences a you-are-there feeling that is rare among films. And, the feeling is historically correct.
This is one of the best Revolutionary War films ever made. Some may say it is the best. Anyone interested in the Revolutionary War owes it to himself to watch Mary Silliman’s War. It is not often available at the usual places but it can be found at www.heritagefilmsinfo.com. Watch a two-minute clip above or click below to rent/own the film and watch it now on your computer or mobile device.
Mary Silliman really was a strong woman. After her husband’s death she made sure to carry on her and her husband’s shared vision for their sons – to get a good education, become successful in whatever they chose to do. Thanks for this article!
An excellent recommendation Hugh! Thanks –
Good stuff, Hugh. Went looking for a place to watch it and found that Amazon is renting a digital version for $2.99: http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Sillimans-War/dp/B0086L6UKO
OK, I admit it, I’m a 18th century guy…..I had no idea you could rent the film to play on computers and other gadgets. Here I thought a DVD was pretty hi-tech. BUT! The DVD would allow you to watch it multiple times for years and years. Thanks for passing this along, Todd.
I took advantage of Amazon’s instant video offering and watching Mary Silliman’s War on my iPad last night. Amazing. I would definitely put that at the top of my RevWar movie list. Thanks for introducing me to it, Hugh.
I had no doubt that you’d like the movie. It’s a true winner. It is one of the few things I can recommend with no reservations whatsoever.