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"Gods and Generals" and Remembering Who We Are as Southerners
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Lest we forget, it has been nineteen years since the film “Gods and Generals” was released to screens across the United States—to be exact, on February 21, 2003—almost ten years after the release of the blockbuster film, “Gettysburg.”

“Gods and Generals” was based on the historical novel by Jeff Shaara, while “Gettysburg” was based on a work by his father, Michael Shaara. An intended third installment, “The Last Full Measure,” which would have carried events of the War Between the States to its conclusion, was shelved after critics savaged “Gods and Generals,” citing what Wikipedia termed its “length, pacing, screenplay, and endorsement of the controversial neo-Confederate ‘Lost Cause’ myth.”

Undoubtedly, “Gods and Generals” is more episodic than its prequel, which indeed centers its action around one pivotal event in the war, the epochal Battle of Gettysburg. And, yes, it is long—the director’s cut is four hours and forty minutes in duration. Yet, “Gettysburg” in its original version is only slightly shorter. But given its thematic unity it succeeds, perhaps, as more theatrical and digestible by a public attuned to simpler plots and more compact storylines. Whereas in “Gettysburg” the viewer watches as events unfold steadily toward an eventual climax that we all know is coming and at the same time manages to engage those who experience it as if—somehow—it is happening now for the first time, “Gods and Generals” is somewhat reminiscent of a mini-series with episodic segments attempting to offer viewers an impression of how the war actually began and how, in its first two years, it was fought.

In a certain sense, then, “Gods and Generals” is akin to a docudrama. I think here of such filmed efforts as “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970) and the two-part drama “Hiroshima” from 1995 (which is over three hours long but in two parts). And I believe this is the best way to judge it and to see it. For throughout its episodic nature it does exactly what it sets out to do—give a broad and panoramic view of major events occurring (albeit mostly in Virginia) in 1861 and 1862 while attempting to infuse life and believability into the history it portrays.

Both films now are roundly condemned as defending “white supremacy” and engaging in “neo-Confederate ideology,” and the celebration of “the myths of the ‘Lost Cause’.” And “Gods and Generals” gets the worst of it. Yet, in many ways, given its unfolding denouement and diverse focus, it succeeds admirably in painting vivid pictures in intimate, and at times endearing, detail of major historical characters.

Some reviewers have written, and I think rightly so, that “Gods and Generals” is in large part a biographical look, a kind of portrayal of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Indeed, much of the film revolves around him, his beliefs, his code of ethics, his brilliant and unparalleled generalship, and his remarkable humanity. Indeed, Stephen Lang’s portrayal of Jackson has been lauded, if begrudgingly, by some reviewers even if they dislike the film.

Then, there is Robert Duvall’s incarnation of Robert E. Lee, and, for me, he simply is Marse Robert, and far more impressive and “real” than Martin Sheen’s assumption in “Gettysburg,” which I found unnatural and too stagey.

I recall viewing the film with friends from work when “Gods and Generals” first showed up in the theaters. Back then we were able to take time off from our jobs to go—but that was 2003, and with the passing of nineteen short years since then I doubt that we could get the same benevolent permission to leave work for such an activity today. And that says a lot—far too much—about how the times and the country have radically changed. From the rumbles of political correctness so visibly apparent, yet not completely dominant, of twenty years ago, to the insane and hysterical full assault on everything, and anything, in and of our Southern heritage, we have descended into a hellish cauldron in which our culture and our people face virtual extinction.

All the more reason to return to films—and they are rare—like “Gods and Generals,” which actually assist us to both see and hear history without the accumulated ideological and poisonous dross that infects almost everything coming out of Hollywood these days. Given the extent of advancing “cancel culture” in our day, we need to treasure films like “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg,” as well as others such as “The Conspirator” (2010) and dozens of movies made before this age of cinematic putrefaction.

What I’d like to do, then, following the accusation that “Gods and Generals” is overly long, episodic and perhaps too diffuse, without a certain thematic unity, is to take seven pivotal scenes from the film, each around two or three minutes in length, and offer them in succession (though not necessarily chronologically). Each scene and representation offers, I would suggest, a “key” to the underlying objectives of the movie; that is, what it is attempting to portray, both cinematically and historically. Certainly, there are other significant scenes and moments in a four and half hour film that can be highlighted; but those I have chosen, I believe, are essential in understanding the personalities and critical issues “Gods and Generals” hoped to examine when it appeared in 1993.

So, let’s take a look via Youtube at the scenes I have in mind. Although they take only a total of about 18 minutes, seen in succession they form a natural progression of themes in “Gods and Generals,” and an enticement to go back and spend the time to view the entire film, with perhaps a keener appreciation of its objectives and how they relate to the whole.

First, there is the magnificent scene with Robert E. Lee (played with absolute realism and believability by Robert Duvall), refusing command offered to him of the entire Federal army intended to suppress the “cotton states” and succinctly stating his reasons why (April 1861) (3:55):

Then, in logical order Lee’s acceptance (after he had resigned from the US Army and after Virginia had seceded—so there is absolutely NO question of treason at all) of command of the troops of the independent State of Virginia (2:51):

Both clips in a few well-chosen phrases give the viewer a basic refresher in constitutional theory as understood by the Framers of the Constitution—and enunciated by Lee and the Virginia assembly, essentially framing why there was a war and why Southerner were completely justified in resisting the usurpations of a reckless Federal government, intent on violent anti-constitutional subjugation.

The third clip shows General Jackson before the First Battle of Manassas, invoking the assistance of Almighty God, and connecting the Confederate cause with Godliness and the necessity to defend those God-given rights conferred on his fellow citizens. The Youtube excerpt captures Jackson’s fervent faith, a faith that was shared by his fellow Southerners (1:50):

Now, we see General Jackson’s depth of patriotism and devotion to the Cause, and his comprehension that what the new Confederacy was attempting was truly a “Second War for Independence.” One cannot help but be moved by Jackson’s address to the First Brigade. His words resonate today as they did back then (2:31):

Here we have what we may call the Confederate General Staff as assembled at Frederickburg for Christmas, 1862. And once again Stonewall Jackson, interacting with a young girl, is moved to encapsulate many of the sincere wishes and longings of Confederates under arms in defense of their homeland and their families (3:29):

Next we have General Lee (Duvall), before the Battle of Fredericksburg, poetically recalling his history, his family, and fundamental beliefs that course in the veins of every thinking Southerner whose memory has not been destroyed or polluted by the dominant American culture (1:10):

As a final scene in my series, and a defiant reminder of the importance of our heritage and our present duty, I pass on perhaps the most inspiring moment in the film—“The Bonnie Blue Flag,” as sung by the assembled Confederates in winter quarters. Even as “Dixie” is, in a sense, “the national anthem of the South,” “The Bonnie Blue Flag” represents an exultant and militant Southland and its citizens, ready always to do their duty to family and country, under the guidance of and obedience to Almighty God (2:28).

Thus my vision of how we can see and comprehend some of major points in “Gods and Generals,” and relate to the film historically, by becoming part of it, seeing with the eyes of its characters and fathoming what they were able to recreate historically. Not just a “re-enactment,” but a window into the lives and minds of our ancestors, and a path to a greater understanding of what they did and why they did it.

(Republished from My Corner by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. GETTYSBURG is a good solid piece of work, but GODS AND GENERALS is crap. It’s overly sentimental and romanticized. A piece of historical nostalgia-mongering.

    • Replies: @GenFranco
    , @Tucker
    , @Director95
  2. ug-huh. Next time, Southron Cavaliers,

    win, don’t lose.

    the winners – and right now that’s Jews and Congoids-

    get to keep their monuments and build new ones.

    You?

    kiss your statues – and your white ass –

    goodbye.

    • Thanks: Angharad
    • LOL: 36 ulster
    • Replies: @P. Cleburne
  3. Right_On says:

    Ride with the Devil (1999), a revisionist western by Ang Lee, has a Confederate-friendly theme. To save on precious steel, The South had used brass for the non-stressed parts of their firearms. The movie’s cinematography has fun making the revolvers glint like precious gold.
    https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ2LsfJ4KXj__hj7h1t0u8VUXTVv9npdbaxyA&usqp=CAU

    • Replies: @36 ulster
  4. 36 ulster says:
    @Right_On

    Ang Lee is a favorite of ours. We liked Ride with the Devil very much. His version of Sense and Sensibility, featuring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant, is a masterpiece of acting and cinematography, featuring a subtle but effective soundtrack.The scathing reviews of Gods and Generals, which I now realize had nothing to do with the quality of the film, warned us off from viewing it. Time to give it a look and listen.

  5. Anon[214] • Disclaimer says:

    Americans’ remembering who they are? Laughable. Americans are like the English who have created a fantasy about having a wonderful history.

    Who are Americans in a historic sense and modern sense?

    Historically, Americans are a people that were gifted a resource rich continent that was protected from foreign enemies by thousands of miles of ocean. Very soon after getting this paradise they allowed a hook-nosed clique waltz into their capital and take control of them and the continent.

    With Woodrow Wilson the clique started a long line of corrupt and infantile presidents who would lead the sucker Americans to do the clique’s bidding both domestically and foreign.

    The clique wanted to crush Germany under the Keiser; they got their sucker Americans to go do the job for them. The clique wanted to crush Russia under the Tsar; they got their sucker American taxpayers to fund their Bolshevik brothers.

    The clique wanted to crush a reemergent Germany under Hitler; they got their sucker Americans to do the job for them. The clique wanted to crush an emergent Japan; they got their sucker Americans to do the job for them.

    The Western clique fell out with their brothers in the Soviet Union; they got their sucker Americans to try settle this falling out in Vietnam.

    The clique wanted to control countries in the ME; they got/get their sucker Americans to go in and bomb these countries back to the Stoneage.

    Modern Americans are a bunch of witless cretinous assholes whom the clique thanks for all their historical bloodshed by throwing them in jail at will, forcefully injecting them and their children with experimental gene serums, and arranging for a very low IQ paederast to rule over them.

    LMAO: Recently the clique instructed their American FDA to inject 6-month-old American babies with the experimental gene serums. And piece-of-s*it Americans will not only accept this, they’ll eagerly take their 6-month-old sprogs to clinics and have them injected. And then scratch their stupid heads as their sprogs die from blood clots or descend into mental illness.

    To sum up Americans: They are pieces-of-sh*t that will eagerly bomb a Third World country back to the Stoneage when the clique snaps their fingers. But when the clique brings millions of negros and other dross into their country across their southern border, Americans look on with their thumbs up their cowardly asses.

    When the clique throws conservative protestors in jail without trial, sucker Americans also look on with their thumbs up their cowardly asses. The Arabs never give up trying to free their colleagues from the clique’s prisons in Israel, but Americans in their own country are too cowardly to attempt to free their colleagues from the clique’s Washington gulags.

    Americans are loser cowards who estimate themselves by their successes at winning wars against goat herds armed with WW1 rifles. With any luck Putin brings it on to you, I can think of a dozen American cities I’d love to see nuked.

    If you are out there God, hear my prayers.

    PS: Please don’t be abusive to me in response because I’m extremely fragile.

    • Replies: @GenFranco
  6. Traddles says:

    I agree that Robert Duvall was better than Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee. Lee had a strength of character and quiet charisma that inspired his soldiers and many others, which Duvall captured. “Gods & Generals” is flawed as a movie, but is worth seeing. It’s not “crap,” as another commenter said.

    “Stonewall” Jackson was more complex than some might think. He showed concern and compassion for black people in his community, organizing Sunday school for them, etc. As historians have mentioned, he was a bit of an Old-Testament-like figure, but he showed and practiced more humanity than the Woke do. And as I recall, after the Mexican War, he was a spiritual searcher, and had friendly conversations with a Catholic priest, considering conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. He ended up becoming a Presbyterian.

  7. GenFranco says:
    @Anon

    Everything you said makes the confederate case for what happened to the USA after the Northern invasion and occupation of the South.

    Since you are fragile I don’t want to injure your delicate nature, but restating confederate talking points as a way of denigrating the southern cause is not a very effective strategy.

    • Agree: P. Cleburne
  8. hhvictor says:

    A film critic noted everyone in the movie gave a speech except the horse.

  9. GenFranco says:
    @Priss Factor

    Gods and Generals is accurate, so it is considered “nostalgia” by elites. It is hard to portray the only unique civilization this continent ever produced without a little romanticizing. People who balk at the courage, honor, and decency of the South (yes, even with slavery) are usually those who will stand around while a lunatic shoots up a school or (at best) grumble while children are groomed in the on-going pedofication of amerika.

    • Agree: P. Cleburne
  10. @Haxo Angmark

    You think it’s settled and “over”? You think the status quo is permanent? You believe everything the tv tells you?

    Just like every other time in history, the process will be; Collapse, cleansing, partitioning and reconstruction (of the places we decide to keep).

  11. Angharad says:

    “Gods and Generals” is a BRILLIANT film, from an artistic and craftsmanship standpoint. Alas – it obscures the reason the South lost.

    Dixie’s attempt at invoking their Constitutional RIGHT to secede was doomed from the beginning. The primary reason, which has been anecdotally addressed, here and there. The South did not have the industrial base, nor the demographic base, to WIN. Period. The North could MAKE things to a far greater degree than the agrarian South could. This is Reason #2.

    Reason NUMBER 1 is the South has been JEWED from the beginning, and still IS. Jews ran the slave trade (still do). Atlanta was the Southern jew STRONGHOLD. Charleston – the slave trading CENTER. Oy Vey! Da Yankees burnt Atlanta! Don’t vorry Goyim – we have a few pennies left and we’ll buy up your burnt land so you can have a meal or two…The Confederacy allowed Judah Benjamin to run their TREASURY. Talk about a kosher chicken in the Goyim henhouse. How did the war end for Benjamin? And Jefferson Davis? Who knows how they ended up? Tell me if you do.

    Southern Evangelicals worship JEWS, not God. They are the most devoted of willing slaves. White Southern men have fought war after war to benefit Jewry, and Jewry defecates on Southerners more than anyone. Will Ang Lee, or any one else, make a film that details these issues?

    Southrons STILL blame the dreaded “Yanquis” , instead of the jews that have abused them and exploited them and destroyed them from the beginning. I used to feel sorry for Southerners – but now I think they are as stupid and defective as the jews say they are.

    • Agree: Tucker
    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
    , @Anonymous
  12. Vinnie O says:

    I have been living in Northern Virginia for 40 years because I had jobs with The Government. I still consider myself to be a Land of Lincoln (Illinois) kinda guy, and I would NEVER consider becoming a Southerner. Southerners have a SILLY view of History: a RIDICULOUS notion that The South, with its now HUGE population of Northerners, will somehow go back to Mint Juleps and Robert E. Lee. Confederate Sympathizers are just people to laugh at. Because, as the man above says, they’re “stupid and defective”. But as long as they live outside the I-95 corridor, where MODERN Virginia lives, I really don’t care what they think, y’all.

    • Troll: Hibernian
  13. Tucker says:
    @Priss Factor

    I refused to watch Gettysburg due to the casting of the ultra obnoxious liberal Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee.

    As for ‘Gods & Generals’, I had little interest in watching it when it first came out, but years later, being a fan of Robert Duvall, I decided to order the series on DVD.

    I have to agree with Priss Factor. I was so disgusted and turned off by the almost comical and contemptuously sarcastic, mocking tone of the acting in Gods & Generals that I turned it off after only watching the first 20 or so minutes. I was left with the impression that the Hollywood gang was using that mini-series to shovel manure on the White Southern people who I grew up with and make them all look like the typical anti-White, anti-Southern caricatures that Hollywood constantly tries to use whenever depicting Southern Whites. You know the theme. Low IQ, moonshine slurping, toothless, degenerates who probably hump their sisters and who can’t read or write, etc.

    I was disappointed even with Duvall. He probably didn’t realize the treacherous agenda he was hired to help promote, because I believe him to be a proud Southerner in his regular life.

    • Replies: @Hibernian
    , @Priss Factor
  14. Hibernian says:
    @Tucker

    Martin Sheen was great as Captain Queenan in The Departed.

  15. @Tucker

    I refused to watch Gettysburg due to the casting of the ultra obnoxious liberal Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee.

    I thought, ‘no way’ , but he was quite good.

  16. Priss, was that clip before or after Lee’s ignominious defeat? I hope it was before as, after Lee ordered his men into a slaughter at Pickett’s Charge, the survivors should have strung him up from the nearest tree.

    I’ve been a critic of Lee ever since he lost Gettysburg (a battle the South should have won) and therefore lost the war. In a prior comment (#30) from Mr. Cathey’s 5-29 article, I pointed out how Lee was personally responsible for thousands of Southern deaths (including thousands of civilians) for prolonging the war for nearly two more bloody years, when he should have laid down his sword.

    A commenter named @Nsa clued me into a book “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War” by Edward Bonekemper. I bought the Kindle version but am only 1/4 finished. Bonekemper is unsparing in his criticism of the way that Lee conducted the war.

    I again ask Mr. Cathey, a Civil War expert, to render his opinion of Lee, devoid of sentimentality for the Lost Cause. I hope he responds.

  17. @Angharad

    You are correct that the North won because of its great advantages in matériel and logistics. This was understood and feared in the upper South, where Virginia and Tennessee initially rejected secession – voting in its favor only when it became apparent that remaining in the Union, after Lincoln’s call to raise troops to put down the “rebellion,” would put them at war against their neighbors to the South, with whom they had no quarrel.

    What happened to Davis? After a span as a prisoner of the Yankees, he was released without prosecution and spent the rest of his days at home at Belvoir. The Union was reluctant to air the legality and constitutionality of secession before its own courts.

    What happened to Benjamin? He escaped Union forces and fled to England, where he began a successful law practice, became a QC, a bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, and wrote a textbook on commercial law (Benjamin’s Sale of Goods) that is still considered a standard reference. He died in Paris and was buried at the cemetery of Père Lachaise.

    Davis visited Benjamin during the former’s trips to Europe, and they kept up a correspondent. After Benjamin’s death, Davis eulogized him as the most able member of his cabinet, and pointed to Benjamin’s subsequent career as vindicating that judgment.

  18. @follyofwar

    Lee was a capable commander of defensive battles: Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, etc.

    by the time he went over to the offensive, Gettysburg, summer 1963….it was 2 years too late.

    the South lost the war when it failed to exploit an early military superiority – esp. a better officer class –

    to seize DC and burn the place to the ground.

  19. Hibernian says:
    @follyofwar

    I’ve been a critic of Lee ever since he lost Gettysburg …

    Congratulations on your 172nd birtday!

    • LOL: Pierre de Craon
  20. Anonymous[124] • Disclaimer says:
    @Angharad

    Dixie’s attempt at invoking their Constitutional RIGHT to secede was doomed from the beginning…[because the] South did not have the industrial base, nor the demographic base, to WIN.

    I disagree. It had the best general and, some would say (as others would per WWII Germans), the best soldiers.

    Lee’s strategy was to hit-and-run, repeatedly bloodying the Union in a war of attrition. He believed the North’s public would weary and press Lincoln to sue for peace.

    Lee did NOT want to confront the North directly in a huge, pitched battle a la Gettysburg. He also hoped to get support from Britain and elsewhere as time went on.

    Alas, his underlings too often ignored him, slowly bleeding Southern men and materiel in poorly planned attacks.

    Then, as fate had it, Lee blindly ran into the North’s army in PA while his scouts were out foraging for food.

    Still, Lee could have retreated then and there.

    He also could have better monitored his cannon fire, which overshot Union positions, leaving them basically intact with fresh troops.

    Finally, he should have nixed Pickett’s infamous slow-walk-uphill “charge” into massed guns and cannon enfilades on the last day.

    Even so, the South fought on for 2 more years, winning many battles.

    Lee wanted to emulate Pericles. The latter had similarly urged Athenians to slowly wear down Sparta, never fighting it directly. That would have worked, even after the plague devastated walled-in Athens/Piraeus. Even after Pericles died 2 years into the 27-year Peloponnesian War. Sadly, over time, his followers stopped following his sage advice.

    For example, instead of sanely sending just 20 ships, Athenians rashly sent a veritable armada to invade Syracuse. There they lost an entire army plus 200 ships…and a treasure chest of silver.

    Later, they again acted rashly, losing 168 ships at the Battle of Aegospotami.

    Athens was a naval power. Losing nearly 400 ships was a fatal blow.

  21. @Priss Factor

    I agree with Priss – the film is bloated with too much useless dialogue. This could have been a great film about the military triumphs of Stonewall Jackson, and they sure had a talented actor to play the part of the dynamic, fearless soldier that Stonewall surely was.
    His greatest victory was Chancellorsville, but the film makers totally skipped his brilliant and risky flanking attack. Also omitted was his Shenandoah Valley campaign that tied down 80,000 federal troops that were needed for the Richmond attack (which failed).
    Nowhere did I hear his classic military axioms: Get there first-ist with the most-ist. And my favorite: Hit’em where they ain’t.
    Simple truths of warfare spoken by a true American Warrior.

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