Another Goofy Scene From Gods and Generals

We are almost finished with Gods and Generals.  I’ve actually never scene most of the second half since I walked out of the theater just before intermission when it first ran in theaters.  There is an interesting scene involving Stonewall Jackson and Sandie Pendleton in which they discuss just what is at stake if the Confederacy fails in its bid for independence.  Jackson makes it clear that if the "Yankees" lose they still get to all go home with their "profits" from the war effort.  This is obviously an attempt to reduce the cause of the United States government to one of profit and greed as opposed to the Confederacy which was attempting to save a "nation" as Jackson suggests in the scene.  Unfortunately, this contrast seems to be alive and well in many Civil War circles to this day.  We love to contrast the "Old South" of peaceful plantations with the industrial North.  The point of the movie in contrasting the Confederacy and the United States in such a way is to suggest that the latter’s cause did not rise to an abstract level of political principle, but was rooted in the physical world of ego and greed.  Let’s forget that the overwhelming number of Northerners farmed for a living and that not everyone in the South yearned for a society void of industry.  Many young Virginians argued that limited industrial growth would place the Commonwealth back in its rightful place as a national leader.  Such generalizations about regions and the people who reside therein is what animates Gods and Generals and that is why it is such a dangerous movie.  It simply reinforces these stereotypes and gives the back of its hand to more complex dialogue. 

Another strange scene takes place on the Rappahanock River between a lone Confederate and Union soldier who exchange tobacco and coffee.  There is not one word spoken as the two men sample the others offering.  Somehow the viewer is supposed to believe that everything that needs to be said can be conveyed visually.  I remember being so frustrated with the characters in the movie Pearl Harbor that I found myself actually rooting for the Japanese.  In this movie it is easy to imagine Turtledove’s AK-47’s entering the story and eliminating the characters on both sides.   

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7 comments… add one
  • Anonymous May 4, 2006 @ 18:48


    Hmmm; you’re the guy who examines social myth and prejudice in forming public memory. Perhaps revisiting Adams in terms of pre-war prejudices that helped bias sectional and class debates isn’t such a bad idea.

    I’ve always felt that John C Calhoun’s proSouth writings were more propaganda than honest intellectualism. Here is an american nationalist who promoted strong federalism and industrial protectionism who gets jilted by Andy Jackson and vehemently claims that the South is being attacked by the very programs Calhoun championed.

    Calhoun may couch his arguments in Constitutional theory, but he summons the Yankee demon to sell his arguments.

  • Chris May 4, 2006 @ 16:33

    Pearl Harbor was a bigger waste than G&G I felt. Here was an opportunity to get us inside one of those ships. To give us the events from the sailors point of view, and instead we’re in the air with pilots when they were the least involved in the event. That’s Hollywood. What’s sexy, cool and will sell… at least that’s what they think. As William Goldman said, “Nobody knows anything…” out there.

  • Ken Noe May 4, 2006 @ 15:34


    I didn’t find myself rooting for the Japanese–I actually sort of liked _Pearl Harbor_ in a nostalgic, 40’s movie, Late Show sort of way–but if it helps, I rooted for the Soviets against Ralph Sampson’s UVa basketball team in 1982.

    Hokie Hi,


  • Eric Wittenberg May 4, 2006 @ 13:56


    You had the same reaction to that awful Pearl Harbor movie my wife and I had. As we left the theater–mercifully, the end had finally come–I commented to my wife how said it was that the Japanese had to go and bollix up a perfect good love triangle. 🙂


  • Kevin Levin May 4, 2006 @ 12:36

    Dave, – Thanks for referencing the Adams book. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at it, but I remember having a number of problems with the thesis. First, Adams too easily stereotypes both New Englanders and Midwesterners. And so I found it very difficult following any supposed connections between such stereotypes and military command in the Army of the Potomac. Adams wants us to believe that the reason so many in the A of P feared the ANVirginia had to do with a belief in their inherent superiority. That’s a bit too much for me. I don’t doubt, however, that certain regional stereotypes were present at the end of the antebellum period.

  • David Kelly May 4, 2006 @ 11:25

    Geez, and I forgot to mention Stephan Foster. His parlorizing of minstrel music prewar.

  • Dave Kelly May 4, 2006 @ 11:19

    Just happened to take Michael CC Adams, Fighting for Defeat, to work last night. Firt two Chapters discuss the myths of sectional difference suggesting the cavalier South romance was well established ante bellum: the North being its own worst enemy for buying into social romance.

    ‘nother words the myths may have been at the root of sectionalism, and the participants in the history did in fact foster them in the first place.

    That makes it a bit more difficult to explain historically if the real characters affect the roles in historical time.

    Don’t know if you’ve read Adams. He discusses the pre war literary world to show how the models influenced popular culture.

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