Andy Hall has a thoughtful post that explores his favorite scene from Ron Mawell’s “Gettysburg.” I don’t have a favorite scene from any of Maxwell’s Civil War movies. For me they are more or less bearable. It just so happens that this morning another scene from the movie landed in one of my rss feeds. It’s one of those scenes that leads me to hope that Maxwell never raises sufficient funds to complete the final installment of the trilogy.
In this scene Lewis Armistead and George Pickett debate the merits of Charles Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. Now I have no idea whether Armistead or Pickett ever discussed Darwin’s theory, but it is possible given that the first edition of his On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. No doubt Americans in the scientific community were aware of it and while I doubt that the two had read Darwin’s book it is likely that they were at least aware of the controversy its publication caused.
The question that interests me, however, is why this scene is in the movie at all. It’s not enough to say that it satisfies the need for a night time scene set in camp. Perhaps it fits into the popular narrative that the Confederacy was fighting to maintain a pre-modern society that had already taken hold in the North. The publication of Darwin’s Origin is commonly referenced as one of those moments that signaled the birth of a modern age and as a threat to traditional religious thought, which would no doubt resonate with many who choose to see Confederate leaders as “Christian warriors.”
In the end, I don’t know why it was included. That said, I have little doubt that a significant percentage of “Gettysburg” fans believe that Robert E. Lee constitutes an argument against Natural Selection.