Debating Darwin at Gettysburg

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. 🙂

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35 comments… add one
  • Doug didier May 9, 2012 @ 17:13

    The Origin of Species does not address human evolution..

    • London John May 9, 2012 @ 23:45

      “Darwin’s Sacred Cause” by Desmond and Moore deals rather fully with Darwin’s views on slavery and race.

  • London John May 7, 2012 @ 6:49

    I remember “The Killer Angels” as basically pro-Union. I didn’t notice that the film deviated much from the novel. Maybe Lawrence was a bit less central. I haven’t read G&G but from the film I’d guess Ben Shaara was blessed with a somewhat less talented son.

    I don’t suppose Confederate generals would have been aware of Darwin’s strong abolitionist and pro-Union views, or that he believed his theory of common descent of man refuted claims of inherent Black inferiority.

    • Forester May 8, 2012 @ 16:45

      It’s been 10 years since I read G&G, but Chaimberlain was definitely a major character in the book. Basically, each chapter started with the General’s name as a heading, alternating between three or for separate stories. Maxwell’s G&G cut a lot out, effectively giving us “Stonewall Jackson: The Movie” (which is fine with me, but I wish Lee and Chamberlain had more screen time).

      “The Last Full Measure” (sorry Kevin, but I do wanna see it filmed), was the most pro-Union of the three, and Maxwell claims it would be in the films as well. G&G chronicled the South at its peak, when it was victorious and romantic. TKA was the turning point, and LFM chronicled the ending of the war when it turned into a crusade for Freedom in the Union’s eyes. In fact, taking all the books in context, Chamberlain is ultimatley the hero, as he is a constant in all three and it is his views that eventually win out. Jackson and Stuart, major characters in G&G die (obviously), leaving Lee to carry on the Southern perspective while Grant rises to main character level. It really would be a damn good movie. Perhaps Turner can give it to someone besides Maxwell?

      • Kevin Levin May 8, 2012 @ 17:05

        I think it should be clear that my issue is not so much with the book as it is with a Maxwell-directed film.

        • Bryan Cheeseboro May 8, 2012 @ 22:43

          “I think it should be clear that my issue is not so much with the book as it is with a Maxwell-directed film.”

          I get that, Kevin. You know, Gods & Generals the movie has actually been quite fascinating to me. Not because I think it’s a powerful, dramatic movie; but because of the questions it raises: Did it flop because it was a poorly made film? Or did it flop because it so blatantly tried to pass off the Confederacy with slavery sanitized… and barely existing at all? Or was it because it tried to pass off this phony Confederate world to a post-Civil Rights America? And if period films, like Glory, which could not have been made before the Civil Rights movement, are actually a reflection of the time they are made in, what does G&G reflect? A post Civil-Rights White America that feels like it is losing its majority to multiculturalism and political correctness? Still, I find G&G the movie to be a great tool to teach people about how the war is remembered through the Lost Cause.

          Jeff Shaara himself said there are no plans whatsoever to make Last Full Measure into a movie. And I don’t know if he or someone else owns the rights to making the novel in a movie. But if that happens, Ron Maxwell and his very poor filmmaking should get nowhere near the production. Even if the movie is supposed to be very pro-Union, I think it would definitely show a Confederacy, glorious and honorable in defeat, and a minimization of slavery. If the Crater is featured, I think it would show very little or nothing at all about the murder of unarmed Black soldiers. And I think it would definitely feature Black Confederate soldiers. I don’t think Maxwell could resist that one.

          • Kevin Levin May 9, 2012 @ 1:41

            All of the above.

          • London John May 9, 2012 @ 4:52

            “Did it flop because it was a poorly made film?” Well it’s quite hard to believe it had the same director as Gettysburg; in the earlier film I felt the director had made the film he wanted to, but in G&G I thought he’d lost control and the re-enactors were just showing off their costumes to their hearts’ content.

            • Bryan Cheeseboro May 9, 2012 @ 8:37

              “Well it’s quite hard to believe it had the same director as Gettysburg; in the earlier film I felt the director had made the film he wanted to, but in G&G I thought he’d lost control and the re-enactors were just showing off their costumes to their hearts’ content.”

              Not hard at all to believe the two films were done by the same person. Ron Maxwell was the writer/director/producer of G&G, so no, I do not believe he “lost control.”

              Gettysburg has the a Lost Cause voice. It’s there; it’s not as loud as G&G but it’s there. The Army of Northern Virginia is depicted without any of the slaves who did its non-combat jobs. General Kemper’s speech to British observer Arthur Fremantle denies slavery as the cause and presents states’ rights as the “real cause” for secession and war; and before the battle, Confederates are confident just one more victory will win them independence. After the failure of Pickett’s Charge, the actor portraying Lee is shown questioning if the south has a chance to win the war at all. Confederate defeat in July 1863 is another major tenet of the Lost Cause.

              Had I been as aware of Lost Cause thinking when I saw Gettysburg in 1993 as I am now, I definitely would have wunderstood it was a very pro-Confederate slavery-denying movie.

              • Forester May 9, 2012 @ 14:54

                Sad to say, I watched “Gettysburg” on tape in 2002, and thought it was a P.C. pro-Yankee propaganda piece that downplayed the South. At this same point in my life, I was making customized black Confederates out of Lego men.

                Which is more sad — that I was making Black Confederates, or that I was playing with Lego men at age 15? :-/

                • Bryan Cheeseboro May 9, 2012 @ 19:38

                  How you could get a “downplay” of the South out of that pro-Confederate movie, I do not know.

                  BTW, someone who played a soldier in the 54th Massachusetts told me that BOTH Glory and Gettysburg were films that lost money.

                  • Forester May 10, 2012 @ 18:55

                    Because, Bryan, to a brainwashed Lost Causer, displaying the Northern perspective at all is downplaying the South. Also, I was watching it for hero worship, not history. I didn’t want realism, I wanted affirmation of the fantasies I had learned by word-of-mouth.

                    • Bryan Cheeseboro May 10, 2012 @ 21:35

                      “Also, I was watching it for hero worship, not history. I didn’t want realism, I wanted affirmation of the fantasies I had learned by word-of-mouth.”

                      Ron Maxwell’s films are a great place to be for someone wanting “hero worship, not history.”

                      Hi Forester,
                      As no one ever changes their minds on these message boards, I just think it’s amazing that you’ve come to the understandings where you are today. I believe the truth heals, rather than hurts. And if you really want history now and you’re done with fantasies and hero worship, I reccommend many of the books Kevin has listed here in the Civil War Memory Library. I hope you will continue to grow in you knowledge and be secure in your understanding of the Civil War and American history.

              • London John May 9, 2012 @ 23:44

                “General Kemper’s speech to British observer Arthur Fremantle denies slavery as the cause and presents states’ rights as the “real cause” for secession and war;”
                Well, it would be the smart thing to ntell Fremantle even if not true; perhaps Kemper was aware that slavery didn’t play very well with most (altho not all) European Confederate sympathisers, who were mainly keen that government of the people BTP FTP shouls indeed perish from the earth.
                Incidentally, the idiot Fremantle was still confident the confederacy would win after the battle of Gettysburg.
                Also, I thought “Gettysburg” presented Longstreet as better than the rest of Lee’s generals. I gather from this site that Longstreet is not a favourite of the Lost Causers.

  • Edward H. Sebesta May 6, 2012 @ 4:24

    Maxwell wrote at least one article for “Chronicles” magazine and was interviewed in “Southern Partisan” along with two cast members. His article about Latino immigrants coming to the United States as a menance leading to another possible Civil War is an eye opener and indication of hysterical racism.

    The companion book had two or three Confederate Christian leaders contributing to it.

    He is a reactionary and his movie obviously was an avenue to promote his view point and the neo-Confederate idea that the Civil War was a holy war of an Orthodox Christian South versus a herectical North.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro May 6, 2012 @ 6:09

      “His movie obviously was an avenue to promote his view point and the neo-Confederate idea that the Civil War was a holy war of an Orthodox Christian South versus a heretical North.”

      this is definitely true in Gods & Generals. Overwhelmingly, Southerners are portrayed as moral Christians who pray before battle and respectful of the rights and property of others; Northerners are secular, rapacious looters, a la Fredericksburg. instead of praying, they recite secular poetry before battle.

      • Kevin Levin May 6, 2012 @ 6:16


        You made this point much better than I did in the post. At least one fellow blogger misinterpreted what I was saying as an argument against the importance of christian thought to the Confederate war effort. It was central to Americans on both sides, but our memory of the war minimizes its importance to Northerners.

      • Ken Noe May 6, 2012 @ 7:50

        And not just secular poetry, but Roman poetry, namely Lucan describing Caesar’s legions crossing the Rubicon during the civil war with Pompey as Caesar prayed to Jupiter.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 4, 2012 @ 17:30

    “I don’t have a favorite scene from any of Maxwell’s Civil War movies. For me they are more or less bearable.”

    I own both of Ron Maxwell’s Civil War films- along with Glory; Andersonville; Class of ’61; The Hunley; Ride With the Devil; Wicked Spring and The Day Lincoln Was Shot (the last of these I think is the best CW film out there for accuracy and drama). These are movies that do what movies do. I just try to find little moments in these movies that are very moving or portray things accurately.

    I really enjoyed Gettysburg when I saw it in the theatre in 1993. Gods and Generals was very disappointing. When I saw it in 2003, I didn’t really know what the Lost Cause was- at least not towhere I could write a definition of it. I knew about “the war was not about slavery-” I even said that at some point myself. I knew about the romanticization of Confederate individuals and symbols. And I certainly knew about Black Confederates. But I think the failure of Gods and Generals at the box office was the beginning of my eyes opening to the pervasiveness of the Lost Cause on CW memory (again, note the lowercase “m”).

    • Forester May 5, 2012 @ 19:03

      I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the pre-war phase, but weren’t the attitudes espoused by the Southern characters somewhat accurate to the beliefs of people at the time? If so, I’d call it “their cause” more than Lost Cause. Slavery was the cause, no doubt, but it’s the nature of Americans to ignore the true causes of war in casual conversation and instead dwell on the jingoistic bull that makes them feel good about it (hence why there is more talk about 9/11 than oil in Iraq).

      For example, modern scholarship knows that Vietnam was not about domino theories or Communism (the Pentagon Papers proved that to be lies), but in a period film, I would not be offended if Americans were shown adhering to the beliefs of the time. Example: John Wayne’s dialog in “The Green Berets” — absolute propaganda. However, it’s exactly what an American military man of the day would have told a liberal reporter. So while I totally disagree, it still works as a movie (albiet a mediocre one).

      Yes, my postings are rife with presentism. But I’m trying to learn. 🙁

      • Bryan Cheeseboro May 6, 2012 @ 4:18

        I appreciate that you are receptive to learning more about the Civil War Era- why it happened, and what it meant to the people who were involved in it.

        As far as the movies Gettysburg and Gods & Generals go, the creator of those films, Ron Maxwell, is a man who embraces the tenets of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. However, the character of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain serves as the primary lone voice of emancipation, to say the South is fighting a war to preserve slavery while he is fighting the same war to end it. The scene in Gettysburg where he speaks to the war-weary mutineers of the 2nd Maine is one of the most powerful in the movie: “We are an army out to set onther men free.” But in Gods & Generals, his voice is just as noble… it’s just not loud enough. Anyway, it’s interesting that in both of these films, many southerners have something to say about why they are fighting the war. It’s also interesting that none of them are ever fighting for slavery. I’ve noticed this in other Civil War films, like North & South or The Hunley, as well: at some point, a southerner speaks to why he is fighting the war- for his home, for his “rats” (see Gettysburg for that one) or for “three hots, a cot and a place to squat.” these motivations are very curious, especially considering there was a higher percentage of slaveholders in the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia than there was in the rest of the Confederate armies.

        It was this same Army of Northern Virginia that faced Black Union soldiers at the Crater at Petersburg in July 1864. As you may know, the Battle of the Crater is the subject of Kevin’s book. The sight of armed Black soldiers- who they saw as nothing more than the slave revolt they spent their lives in fear of- motivated them to accept no surrender of these men and they murdered them on the spot.

        The Civil War was a very long conflict fought by many different groups of people with many different motivations involved. Maybe that is the message Mr. Ron Maxwell has tried to convey. But professional historians, who have studied those motivations for scholarly purposes rtather than making movies for entertainment and profit, have learned that southerners seceded from the Union and fought the war to protect white supremacy and slavery. I have to say as a Black man, even today, I get a world that would fight to protect itself from Black men no longer under control of enslavement; Black men who might seek to exact revenge on years of degredation and oppression; Black men who might demand the right to have a voice in society; Black men who might go after White women. “If a (n-word) is actually a man as good as me, then what am I?” I think that question sums up why many Southerners really fought. I don’t think it’s something they talked about on a daily basis. But I think it was understood that they homes, families and “states’ rights” they fought for were those free of the presence of Black people no longer under their control.

        • Bryan Cheeseboro May 6, 2012 @ 5:06

          I re-read my last sentence. It should have read like this:

          But I think it was understood that they homes, families and “states’ rights” they fought for were those where Black people remained under their control.

        • Forester May 7, 2012 @ 4:20

          Five years ago, I would have disagreed with your closing statement, but the whites in my family “came out of the closet” when Barack Obama was elected. N-bomb dropping became frequent, and they started talking about race riots (which haven’t happened so far) and how blacks were “taking over.” The unfounded fear of race riots (read= slave revolts) still exists. I have a story about this:

          Although it was on a smaller scale than the Crater battle, my hometown Norfolk Virginia had a riot that lead to about 7 blacks being murdered. Local blacks were marching in a parade to read the new Civil Rights bill in April 1866, some of whom were discharged USCTs marching in uniform. The sight of marching blacks with guns horrified the populace. First a drunk policeman shot at them, then a 20-something former Reb killed a marcher (he fled to his house, accidentely killing his mother before being killed himself). This motivated a bunch of Confederate veterans to put their gray uniforms on and spend the night shooting at any blacks they could find. By morning, at least 7 were dead, more wounded. None of the dead or wounded were white, yet only blacks were arrested.

          Two days later, April 19, 1866, the Norfolk Virginian newspaper ran a front page article entitled “Outrages by Negro Soldiers”, bemoaning blacks walking across white people’s yards, insulting their wives and accidentely shooting a child on the day of the riots. Alledgedly, a black soldier had called a homeowner’s wife “a dirty bitch” and said he would “spank” her (modern as it sounds, these are direct quotes from the newspaper on microfilm). Her husband tried to defend her honor (with a gun) and the USCTs raided his house, accidentely shooting his 10-year old daughter in the hip. A black servant girl’s testimony was held up by the newspaper as proof of the husband’s account. The bias is obvious: black soldiers = evil, because they aren’t submissive. Black servant = good, because she knows her place. No mention of innocent black murders was made by the Norfolk Virginian. The truth wasn’t finally made public record for months, until a Federal investigation occured. The Congressional report revealed that Norfolk’s police were all Confederate veterans, and that Unionists did not “feel safe for a day without the military presence.” Not all locals were bad, one former Confederate let USCTs camp on his property, but there was a big enough minority of black-haters to cause violence and murder.

          Fast-forward to April 14, 2012 (there is something about April around here). The Virginian Pilot (modern descendant of the Norfolk Virginian) is now being accused of covering up anti-white violence. A couple of reporters were beaten up by some black guys on historically black Church Street (somewhere between the Attucks theatre and the MLK monument). The newspaper failed to report about the beating. Police reports say that 5 people were involved, but popular dialog has expanded that number to 30 or even 100 black attackers. The story spread all the way to Fox News and Bill O’Reiley who said “will there be justice in Norfolk?” (

          NO MOTIVATION for the attack is known, but it’s immediately assumed to be racial despite the fact that all parties agree that no racial slurs were used. The newspaper is accused of “left-wing conspiracy” to “cover up” the black meance. However, such violence is actually common around here, but ignored when the victims are black.

          FYI, Church St was the black main street during segrogation, and a lot of Norfolkians still live in the same areas and act as though some segrogation were still in place. The image of the MLK monument on the TV news sends chills down white spines, providing proof of their fears. One guy at my school commented, “these n—–s are taking over everything damn thing. I swear, I’ma cash in my GI Bill and buy some g–damn guns.” And the cycle of violence continues ….. 🙁

          It’s interesting that the reporters being beaten occured almost on the annaversery of the 1866 riots, and it shows just how little some things have changed. In so many ways, we’re still living in the shadow of the Civil War.

          That was a long tangent, but I wanted to tell the story. Back to topic, I think I understand now. Maxwell disporportionatly features Confederate characters that oppose slavery, follow Christianity and “fight for their homes”, creating an implication in pop culture that all or most Confederates espoused such views.

          BTW, you mentioned “North and South.” While it’s true that both principal Confederate heroes (Orry and Charles) say that they’re not fighting for slavery, it’s still important to note that Orry never made any move to FREE his slaves (he just refused to whip them). And in another scene, at the end of the first miniseries, a politician announces “if they wanna take our slaves, let them come down here and take them.” (Although, that’s rather corny dialog, the series definitely showed that a lot of Sotherners did think it was about slavery). The novels were a little better in this regard. The worst change for the TV series was Virgilia’s death (effectively ‘punishing’ her) when in the books she lived on and married another black man and never got hung.

          • Bryan Cheeseboro May 7, 2012 @ 7:30

            I always think when the filmmakers want us to like their Confederate characters, they are cast as not fighting for slavery, or not having any slaves at all, plus their racial attitudes are very modern. Orry in North & South was kind of a mixed bag. At best, he refused to whip his slaves, fired a very cruel overseer and re-affirmed his love to Madeline after she told him she had Black ancestry. At worst, He called Virgilia’s lover Grady the n-word in a fit of anger; and he could not understand why his slaves wanted to be free. And her execution, if it really happened, would have made her, and not Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the federal government.

            Cold Mountain is another interesting example of “politically correct” Confederates. Early on in the movie, Ada Monroe talks about how she is so glad to get away from Charleston with all of its “corsets and slaves.” I can’t imagine Mary Chestnut ever saying that. And Inman is very progressive in his treatment of Blacks. And for what it’s worth, the movie didn’t feature anything about Black soldiers being murdured at the Crater, though I know that story is not what the movie was about.

            I really feel lthat depictions of Southerners like these really minimize how African slavery impacted America in the 19th century. it makes it look like slavery was a minor incident in the hands of a few bad people, but most White southerners had nothing to do with it.

            • Kevin Levin May 7, 2012 @ 7:49

              And for what it’s worth, the movie didn’t feature anything about Black soldiers being murdured at the Crater, though I know that story is not what the movie was about.

              True, but the director did cut out a gruesome post-battle scene in which a seriously wounded black soldier is executed at point-blank range.

            • Forester May 7, 2012 @ 10:21

              When directors try too hard to make characters likeable, it rings false to me. I liked Orry’s “mixed-bag” nature, especially the Grady n-word scene. I prefer characters to be complicated and realistic, leaving the audience to decide whether to like them or not. Also, with Orry, I account some of his “progressive” aspects to George’s influence (like when he almost shot Priam). John Wayne in “The Searchers” was a ‘good’ character, and he was an absolute blatent racist. He was heroic in his role, but sometimes it was damned hard to root for him. And that’s why the movie is a classic, although it was misinterpreted as pro-racist at the time.

              Say, didn’t Petersburg occur in N&S, minus any mention of the crater? I seem to remember the film’s ‘final’ battle being Petersburg.

              The Mary Surrat thing is another reason that I dislike Virgilia’s hanging. That’s like having someone else fly before the Wright brothers, or destroying the Twin Towers before 9/11. It takes the story out of “realistic” history and into “alternative” history. A major offender in my opinion is Pearl Harbor, where only two US pilots flew combat, and Michael Bay replaced them with his fictional leads.

              The Civil War is unique in that almost every pop culture treatment of the war must address the causes and opinions of the characters (or at least throw in a single line or two, like the Cold Mountain scene you mentioned). I kind of liked the approach in “Outlaw Josey Wales” where the hero was Confederate, but his political views weren’t addressed or even relevant. If he’d said “I wasn’t fighting for slavery”, it would’ve done nothing for the story and just seemed corny. Cold Mountain didn’t need the “corsets and slaves” line at all.

              I think we expect too much of movies, wanting them to address every side of every viewpoint, and it’s just too vast for any single project to address.

              • Kevin Levin May 7, 2012 @ 10:58

                I think we expect too much of movies, wanting them to address every side of every viewpoint, and it’s just too vast for any single project to address.

                I tend to think that the problem is not so much with the movie, but with our understanding that the critical study of history and the production of a movie set in the past are not after the same thing.

                • Bryan Cheeseboro May 7, 2012 @ 12:19

                  I think an even bigger issue is that many people tend to get their history from movies before they read any books about the subject matter. many people believe, at least in part, the stuff they see in historical period films. This has been a concern for historians. Even the best books on a subject will take a backseat to some of the worst movies. In other words, how many people have read James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom as opposed to how many people have seen Gone With the Wind? Granted, GWTW has been around much longer but it has had a deep impact on the memory of the Civil War that still resonates to this day.

                  Forester, I know what you mean about Virgilia Hazard and depicting her being executed- for that matter, a depiction that said nothing about the government executing a woman for what would have been the first or even the dsecond time. If it means anything, Kirstie Alley played the role very well. She was one of the most compelling characters to watch. In N&S Part 1,when she refused to sit at the dining table with slaveholder Orry Main, I’ve often wondered, was she right to do that? And who would we refuse to dine with today?

                  • Kevin Levin May 7, 2012 @ 12:43

                    Sure, but let’s not get too hung up about this. After all, how many people read up on the law before going to a John Grisham movie or read medical books before going to, etc.? 🙂

                    • Bryan Cheeseboro May 7, 2012 @ 16:55

                      “Sure, but let’s not get too hung up about this. After all, how many people read up on the law before going to a John Grisham movie or read medical books before going to, etc.?”

                      I get your point, Kevin. And I know this has been discussed on this blog before. But I’m concerned with the knowledge people are taking away from a movie more so than the knowledge they bring into it.

                      Of course, not many people research the technical details of, say, the legal system before seeing a movie with courtroom drama. And I know many people don’t even care about the history of a period movie they watch. Millions of people enjoyed Titanic but that doesn’t mean millions want to learn the real history of the ship and the people onboard.

                      My point is more people see Hollywood movies than read books and many will form beliefs about the respective subject based on films more than well researched books. As someone mentioned on this site once before, a movie (especially one done by a better filmmaker than Ron maxwell) about Andrew and Silas Chandler could have a tremendous effect on everything you’ve done to dispel the myths of their story.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 4, 2012 @ 16:19

    “I always have to remind myself that Pickett was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, and that he never allowed anyone to say anything disrespectful of Lincoln in his presence.”

    Actually, the Lincoln-Pickett relationship is a fabrication. It was created by Lasalle Pickett, his widow. The truth is Pickett received his appointment to West Point through Illinois Congressman John T. Stuart who was a friend of George’s Uncle Andrew Johnston, himself a lawyer in Quincy, Illinois. A law partner of Lincoln’s, perhaps Abe met Pickett through Messrs. Stuart and Johnston but there is no known record Lincoln and Pickett ever had so much as a conversation.

    • Lyle Smith May 4, 2012 @ 16:34

      They were facebook friends. 🙂

  • Jonathan Mahaffey May 4, 2012 @ 15:55

    Interesting; the anecdote about Lee not being descended from apes is in the book (Shaara’s “Killer Angels”). However, it comes on July 1 and is in the context of a private conversation between Fremantle, the British observer, and Longstreet. Fremantle has been recounting to Longstreet some of the stories & legends he has heard about how the soldiers hold Lee in respect, or even awe, and Longstreet throws this story into the mix as yet another example. It is just a brief mention, not the longwinded scene it becomes in the movie, and Longstreet moves on to talk about Stonewall Jackson and his religious beliefs and other eccentricities (like the lemon eating legend.) I didn’t find this conversation in Fremantle’s diary, but perhaps Shaara repurposed it from some other account.

    While I certainly understand and share some of your qualms about the movie, I think how Maxwell did this scene actually works for me. If memory serves, this is set on July 2, the evening before Pickett’s Charge. And I believe, as well, that immediately after this scene comes the scene between Longstreet and Armistead where Armistead essentially has a premonition about his coming death. So I think this scene acts as a little bit of comic relief before all of that.

    I think, as well, that it works better for the movie having Pickett tell the story, and do so as if it originated with him. Having Pickett be the comic relief at this point just makes for a great juxtaposition when we see him in despair and anguish in the aftermath of the charge. As a piece of drama and storytelling, having the normally jovial and foppish Pickett deliver the “I have no division” line to Lee work a whole lot better than if it had come from the more taciturn Longstreet.

  • Arleigh Birchler May 4, 2012 @ 8:49

    I enjoyed both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, and also the books they are based on. I have heard others debate the question of whether or not two Confederate Generals would debate Darwin on the night before a major battle. It does not seem totally implausible to me, but that is not a major issue. I never expect a book or a movie to be what “actually happened”. I draw a sharp distinction between scholarly historical works and any attempt to depict history for a large audience. I took Pickett as coming off as the lesser person in the discussion, and Armistead as having the higher ground. For me that matches how the two were portrayed through the entire movie. Perhaps I identify with the character of Armistead as portrayed in the movie more that the character of Pickett as portrayed. I always have to remind myself that Pickett was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, and that he never allowed anyone to say anything disrespectful of Lincoln in his presence.

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