ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA. — Cannons boomed, shaking the leaves off 50-foot trees. “Ready, I need fire on that hill!” an urgent voice yelled. Weapons were reloaded. Exhausted infantrymen — black, white, young, old — were splayed around a muddy pit. “Watch your muzzles, gentlemen,” their leader called. “Don’t blow your friend’s face off!”
In a wooded grove in this town near Baton Rouge, La., a television crew was meticulously recreating the brutal Civil War battle of Fort Pillow, for a remake of “Roots,” the seminal mini-series about slavery. The carnage in the fight was significant: After Union soldiers surrendered, the Confederates disproportionately took white soldiers hostage as prisoners of war and slaughtered hundreds of black soldiers, sending survivors into the slave trade. This massacre was not in the original “Roots,” broadcast in 1977, which is exactly why the producers of the new one chose to include it.