The filming of the documentary film: Chinese serving in the American Civil War ----- Men without a Country
Independent Documentary Film Producer and Director, Montgomery Hom, gathered a handful of scholars who had done research on Chinese serving in the American Civil War, and requested them to discuss the topic in his Documentary Film. The shooting started on 12/10/2000 and 12/11/2000 in North Potomac, Maryland, close to the Dulles International Airport of Washington, D.C., and it will continue some time later in San Francisco and perhaps also in Los Angeles. The official title of the film will be "Men Without A Country: Chinese in the Civil War." If everything goes well as planned, the Documentary Film will be shown some time in 2001, in the PBS stations Nationwide.
Montgomery Hom formed Waverly Place Productions to develop and produce historical and Asian American theme works for film and television distribution. He made"We Served with Pride: The Chinese American Experience in World War II", a culmination of 20 years of personal research and the collection of WWII military artifacts. The film had premiered at the Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institute in late October, 2000. Hom is an alumnus of San Francisco State University majoring in Broadcasting and Film. He has also lectured on the subject of the Chinese American experience in WWII, and received recognition for his historical contributions from the U.S. Congress, Department of Defense, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Hom has appeared on NPR Radio, KPIX-CBS News, KRON-NBC News, and the San Francisco Examiner.
My trip to Washington, D.C. is Historic for two reasons. First, this piece of history is not widely known, and even among Civil War Scholars, whose hundreds and thousands of Civil War books flooded the Market in recent time, hardly touches on the subject. It is very gratifying that there is someone who would pick up the bat and hits a home-run, and I hope with bases loaded. Secondly, by a co-incident, 12/11/2000 is the day that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the oral argument on the case, Bush vs. Gore, to decide who would be the next U.S. President, a very important chapter of American History. I believe this is the first time ever that a film is made to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War. Thank you, Monty, for spreading the news. So I would like to characterize this journey is quite Historic.
I arrived in the Studio at noon on 12/10/2000. Tom Lowry had just finished the filming and Monty Hom said everything went well. I did not have the opportunity to hear what Tom had said, but Monty said Tom talked about Edward Day Cohota from the Massachusetts Regiment and Confederate John Fouenty of Savanah/St.Augustine and he did a great job. Tom was very helpful and shared the photographs he found with Monty, including a picture from Pennslavania that is believed to be Hong Neok Woo dressed in Union soldier uniform (Courtesy of Mike Musick, National Archieve, Civil War Division, Library of Congress), picture of Fort Stanton (in New Mexico), plus many more for Monty's Documentary Film. Tom is a retired physician from California, and now, residing in Northern Virginia, close to Washington, D.C. He had written many Civil War articles and several Civil War books: "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell --- Sex in the Civil War", "Civil War Bawdy Houses of Washington, DC", "Tarnished Eagles --- The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Colonels", "Don't Shoot that Boy! --- Lincoln and Military Justice" and "Tarnished Scalpels --- The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Surgeons." Tom is also the co-author of the article on Chinese in the Civil War, printed in the North and South Magazine, April, 1999.
The next day on 12/11/2000, I was next to be interviewed. Monty's crew,Patrick Shen, Director / Editor, set up the stage while Andrew Heeney, Lighting Director, adjusted the lighting effect with great care and tested the color / brightness / shadow several times until the overall lighting effect was just right. Andrew's job also included monitoring the sound volume and tone quality of the guest speakers. Only after everything were adjusted correctly and only then, they asked me to proceed. First I brought up the most famous Chinese serving in the Civil War, Union Corporal Joseph Pierce, whose picture was inducted on the Wall in Gettysburg. Next I discussed Union private Antonio Dardelle, who was just as well known. Both came from Connecticut. I brought up the issue of Chinese names and its translation, and the historic background of why the Chinese people immigrated to America. I also touched upon various Chinese serving in that war. I explain the reason of building the "Chinese Serving in the American Civil War" website is to spread the news. I would like people to know this little-known history, and the Chinese pioneers have contributed to this Country, to preserve the Freedom of the Nation. I would like the Chinese-Americans and Asian-Americans to be proud of their early fellow Asians serving this Country, a Country still full of Opportunities. And that is the only goal of my website. I could draw my own experience, and identify myself with those Chinese veterans. I came to America as an immigrant and managed to attend College / University here. Only in America would provide such an environment for people who want to excel, could have the opportunity to excel. I could relate my experience with those compatriots, and only I have more choices today than they had in the last Century.
Edward Milligan went third and he discussed his research on the Chinese in the Navy. Actually there were more opportunity for the Chinese and Asians to serve in the Navy. Ships went to the Orient and recruited locals to join the crew. The recruits provided labor and served as Landsman on various Battle Ships and Relief Ships. Ed did a great job in explaining the historic context of the Civil War Navy. Uncle Ed (his email name) is a retired Army Officer and a Professional Researcher. He also did research on the "Avegno Zouaves" of the 14th Louiaiana Infantry, Company I, whose commander mentioned there were Chinese serving in his unit. Researching Chinese serving in the Navy is a very tedious and time-consuming job. A researcher has to look at the muster roll frame by frame until he finds a possible name and cross reference with the place of birth records. Edward indeed did a great job in panning those gold nuggets from piles and piles of sand and stones. Magnificent job! Edward also helped to provide pictures of the Navy scenes, including pictures of sailors and several ships for the film. He described his finding on John Wyhie in the ship Harvest Moon and several other discoveries. He also mentioned about the history of Asians in Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Edward is the co-author of the article on Chinese in the Civil War, printed in the North and South Magazine.
(Webmaster's notes: The following are the update activities subsequent the 12/11/2000 documentary filming in the Maryland Studio.)
Monty continued filming in San Francisco and possibly in Los Angeles. He next interviewed the Award-winning Novelist and Historian Ms. Ruthanne Lum McCunn, whose acclaimed works had been translated into several other languages. Ruthanne talked about the Chinese serving the Confederacy: Christopher Wren Bunker and Stephen Decatur Bunker. The Film project wants to balance the presentation on the participants, the Union soldiers and the Confederate soldiers, on both sides of the War. Ruthanne also added a lot of insights and plenty of historic facts to the program. According to Monty, "Ruthanne's interview was awesome." She was very informative about the early life on many of the Chinese boys who came prior to the Civil War. She also provided a wealth of information on the laws during that period and also pointed out the fact of the law passed in 1792, an alien law preventing many immigrants from being citizens. Therefore, many of the Chinese who received citizenship prior to 1882, did so sort of illegally or had a sympatheic judge in their favor. Hence, many Chinese had their citizenshp revoked. Ruthanne really provided the important Chinese backgrounds on many of the Chinese who served. Ms. McCunn wrote a piece of scholarly work, Chinese in the Civil War: Ten Who Served, written in 1995 (c), copyrighted, and it was printed in the year 1996, in a well-known Scholarly Journal, Chinese America: History and Perspectives.
Monty also was able to interview the Great Granddaughter of Edward Day Cohota, and getting some unpublished privately-collected heirloom photographs for his film. The pinacle to Monty's filming was Cohota's great grand daughter, Sharon O'Connor. Through her, Monty has all the origianl documents, photos, news clippings and above all, Cohota's moving letter, Cohota wrote, for thirty years fighting for citizenship! Sharon was great and provided the Film project with great spirit and insights to her family and great grandfather. It was great to know that Cohota had a keen sense of humor. In one story, Cohota name his two dogs, I know, and U Know. When a person would ask what is the name of the dog, Cohota would say, " U Know"......it was a great running joke.
The Film Project will also give credit to Australian researcher, Terry Foenander, who is one of the early pioneer researchers on Chinese/Asian serving in the American Civil War. He had contributed a lot, and I mean really, a lot, to the subject. His pioneer spirits influenced other subsequent researchers to walk his pathway. Thank you, Terry.
Very exciting new from Monty: Famous Civil War artist / oil painter, Don Troiani, is going to be lending his excellent work for Monty's program and will also do the video box art!!!! Wow!!
The Film Project also managed to obtain the help of Irving Moy, who had done extensive research on Joseph Pierce. The historic documents about him will be displayed on the film. Additional live movie shot on showing Pierce's tombstone, and Pierce's former residences will also be shown. Great news on beefing up the Documentary. Monty also attempted to contact the descendents of Pierce, and Monty will interview Pierce's descendent.
Monty also works on a project to re-gain the U.S. Citizenship for Edward Day Cohota through some Special Bill, and it has to pass by the Congress and signed by the President, in order to get that.
The Film Project is fortunate to have a new contributor, Irving Moy, who has done extensive research on Joseph Pierce (See Part 15, 16 and 17). Monty invited Irving to participate and the following is a summary of his contribution. Irving wrote script on his dialogue on (1) Pierce Research; (2) Pierce Civil War; (3) Pierce Post Civil War and (4) Pierce Reflections. He also took video shot of the Amos Peck Homestead, Pierce Home on 17 Meriden Street, his gravesite and gravesite of his sons and the picture montage he did of Pierce. He hope it came out well enough for Monty to use some of it. Irving also provided addresses of Pierce's descendents to Monty who wished to interview at least one of them. Irving also provided documents about Pierce to Monty for the Documentary Film.
The filming of the documentary was not quite completed yet. I introduced my friend, Ms. Shaie-Mei Deng Temple to Monty. Ms. Temple would speak about the Chinese serving in the American Civil War in Louisiana, where she lives. Ms. Temple has her own documentary film crew to do the shooting, with the Confederate Civil War Museum in New Orleans as background.
I introduced the Joseph Pierce's great grand-daughter, Patricia Pierce W. Haight to Monty Hom, and Monty interviewed/filmed her in October 2002.
Footnote: My friend Terry Foenander from Australia, one of the earliest researchers to look for Chinese serving in the American Civil War and one of the most knowledgeable persons on the subject, declined to appear on Monty's documentary. We respected his decision, but I have to say that Terry has contributed a lot and his contributions would be acknowledged in the documentary and in this web site.
The entire production is going to be part of U.S. history. I'll will let you know when the film will be released for next year. Our final interview for the film will be with Congressman Michael Honda. The final portion of the film, next year will be filmed as the US congress gives the citizenship to the families, then we will have a big premiere in Washington DC. Then, A ceremony in Valentine, Nebraska to Honor Edward Cohota!!
Check this out:
The new one-hour Docu-feature explores the lives and experience of the little known Chinese and Asians serving in the Civil War from 1861-1865. Often overlooked by leading historians in the Civil War and historical fields, Chinese soldiers and sailors who served were small in numbers but were extremely significant during the period.
Through countless hours of research and interviews with leading authors, scholars and descendants of the Civil War veterans, the film will be an important imprint for the history of Chinese and Asians in early America. Many pieces of early Chinese history were uncovered during the extensive two-year research period. For example, the late Ms. Shaie-Mei Temple, a historian from New Orleans, helped to unfold a rich history of a once thriving Chinese community in the Bayou. A number of these men from New Orleans served in the Confederate forces during the war. Until most recently, it was thought descendants of the Chinese Civil War veterans did not exist.
However, in the film, two of the most significant and recognizable Chinese men who served, Private Edward D. Cohota 23rd Massachusetts Infantry and Joseph Pierce, 14th Connecticut Infantry not only have their experiences well told in the film but we are very fortunate to have their descendants share with us, a rare intimate look at the lives of two very important Chinese men of the 19th century. In fact, one of the descendants came forward most recently having heard about the film through the efforts of one of our interviewees, Mr. Irving Moy, historian.
As part of the efforts for the film, we are working to include major recognition of these forgotten soldiers as most never received citizenship. Edward D. Cohota is the thread throughout the entire film. His documentation as a soldier and citizen is most complete. In fact, he is the best-documented Chinese Soldier next to Joseph Pierce. Cohota bears significance because he re-enlisted in the Army for another 30 years after the Civil War. When he retired in 1894, he was told he was not a citizen and could not be due to the Chinese exclusion act of 1882. Cohota fought for his rights to citizenship until his death in 1935. He never received it.
In October of 2002, Congressman Michael Honda of San Jose, California took on a request on behalf of this film to create a House Resolution to recognize the Asian American soldiers who fought in the Civil war and subsequent conflicts before the 20th century to ultimately receive honorary citizenship. As it stands the resolution has taken on a strong start it will be introduced in the final 107th session of congress in November 2002.
I seek your support in this effort to help recognize our Asian American heroes. I strongly urge you to contact your district congressional leaders, particularly Republican representatives so we may have a bipartisan vote on this issue.
Please contact Elizabeth Lee, APA Congressional fellow, Congressman Honda’s office. Ph: 202-226-4289, or Elizabeth.Lee@mail.house.gov Elizabeth is our point person in Washington D.C.
Feel free to contact me for any information regarding the project. I will be happy to oblige. Once again, I look forward to your support and hope you will become part of this important legacy. Stay tuned for a premiere date in 2003.
Montgomery Hom, Executive producer
(Congresman Michael Honda's Letter)
Webmaster Gordon Kwok
email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
December 19, 2000
Revised November 9, 2002
Revised and uploaded on January 31, 2009