In this final week of my Civil War Memory course I am showing sections of some of my favorite and not so favorite CW movies. Today we watched the first part of “Gods and Generals” up to First Manassas. I was curious as to how they would respond given the course content. Within about ten minutes they understood that much of it is straight-ahead Lost Cause. Virginia is depicted as pretty much pro-secession and pro-Confederate and slaves are shown as obedient servants. Given what they know about “Stonewall” Jackson they thought the movie did a pretty good job of capturing his religious zeal, but they couldn’t stop laughing at the overly-dramatic dialog and music. It is pretty funny. One of my students asked if the movie spends as much time on how white northerners viewed the war as it does on the white south. Good question. Another student noticed that the first time you even see a “Yankee” is on the Manassas battlefield, which reinforces the notion that they were invaders set to destroy Virginia rather than fighting to preserve the Union.
Here is one of the segments we viewed this morning. I particularly love the parlor scene. The ladies just happened to finish stitching the flag for the two boys just as the song is finished. The mother’s address which follows is a bit too long-winded, but the doozy is the kiss goodbye from the house servant. Mort Kunstler could paint any of the scenes in this movie. Gotta love it.
Tomorrow I am going to show some scenes from the movie, “Ride With the Devil”, which does a much better job of capturing some of the complexity and confusion of war in Missouri. We will also have a chance to talk about how race is dealt with in the movie.