Gods and Generals

I have read Gods & Generals, Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure. I’m halfway through Gone For Soldiers. Any other Shaara fans anticipating the premiere on the 21st?

Every once in a while a movie has the perfect song; Ghost had Unchained Melody, Gods and Generals has Mary Fahl’s “Going Home.” This one has real anthem potential. I get chills just watching the trailer. Stephan Lang looks powerful as “Stonewall” Jackson.

I’m sorry.

I loved Killer Angels but could not get more than a third of the way through any of Jeff’s books. He just does not seem to have the gift for writing his father showed.

I know that Gods and Generals had to cover much more territory than Killer Angeld, and Michael had the advantage of writing about a single four-day battle. I also recognize that Jeff’s books are full of those authentic details that the Civil War buffs drool over. I just found the son’s work to drag.



The film is being played for some of the troops before they ship out to the gulf.

I’m not familiar with the books, but from watching the trailer on TV, “Gods and Generals” looks like another retelling of the battle of Gettysburg, with Jeff Daniels reprising his TV-movie role as Joshua Laurence Chamberlin and Robert Duvall substituting for Martin Sheen as R.E. Lee.

Is this true, or is it about a different battle? I believe the trailer even said “from the Producers of Gettysburg” - why remake what was already widely acclaimed as the most accurate telling of the Gettysburg story? And I don’t know how you could condense the whole story into 2 hours.

Yes, looking forward to it. No it concerns another more protracted period of the war involving some of the same participants.

Gettysburg was a nice CW fix although it slagged in a couple of spots. I hope this one’s better. Either way I’ll be there with my popcorn!

G&G starts just before the Civil War and goes up to just before Gettysburg; Fredericksburg will be included. Word is that Stephan Lang is spot on as Jackson. It is 210min. The dircector’s cut will be six hours. There will be an intermission.

It is over 3 hours long, with an intermission. Ghandi was the last movie I can remember that had an intermission. It’s amazing the heat being stirred up; Confederate sympathizers for whom the war never ended going on about “The War of Northern Aggression.” Union sympathizers denouncing the Southern treason, just like it was yesterday. A Canadian review criticized G&G for portraying Robert E. Lee and Gen Jackson as heroes. That raised some hackles. One mall was going to have re-enactors in costume for the premiere, but backed out, saying that the Confederate costumes might be offensive to some.

Gettysburg had an intermission when I saw it in the theatres.

I’ve been dying for this movie to come out. I practically pant when I see the trailer.

For god’s sakes, I can’t believe anyone who knows about the characters of Jackson and Lee could object. They were genuinely good, moral men. Okay, Jackson was a weirdo, but still a good man. It’s true they were fighting on what we surely see today as the “wrong” side, but I think it’s ignorant to suggest they are villains. Perhaps that Canadian reviewer can be forgiven for not knowing more about American history.

Absolutely not! Why, ask any American about Canadian history, and they’ll tell you all about the…


There was that war… named after a year… like, 1850? Or something?

And, um…

Okay, maybe we can let this one slide.

I thought Gettysburg was boring. Way too much speechifying, and the generals on both sides were made to look like saints. Only Pickett on the Southern side and some cavalryman on the Northern side who’s name I didn’t catch came out looking like real human beings.
Both my son and I had been to Gettysburg and were all set for a good time when we sat down to watch it. What a disappointment. I hope this one’s better. (I can’t imagine making Stonewall Jackson look like a boring, speechifying saint, but I wouldn’t put it past these kumquats to do it.)

Saw it Saturday. Stephan Lang was riveting as Jackson. His monologues with God (praying) got to be a bit much, but the battle scenes were spectacular. The bizarre Napoleanic style of fighting brought to mind the phrase “suicide by mutual firing squad.” In modern warfare, if a soldier is strong, cunning, fast, etc his chances are better; but this old style was just like literally sacrificing yourself for your cause. One scene in particular struck in my craw; Jackson and his black cook Jim Lewis are praying, and Jim asks: “Lawd, why do some men put other men in the chains of slavery (paraphrase)” Then there’s this big pause, like you expect Jackson to chime in with some axiom, but no…just silence. The strength of Jackson’s faith was just as impressive as his military skill. One of the great underlying themes of this film is the deep faith shared by men on both sides.

Just saw it yesterday. Overall, I enjoyed the film. It contains some of the most vivid, realistic depictions of Civil War battle yet seen on film.

However, I do have some nitpicks:

  1. In real life, Stonewall Jackson was a hillbilly, born in Clarksburg, in what is now West Virginia. Yet in the film, Jackson has the cliched tidewater accent of all celluloid Confederate generals. I believe an Appalachian twang would have been more accurate.

  2. The movie featured large numbers of Civil War re-enactors. This means that we get treated to scenes of a bunch of fat 50-year-old men charging across the battlefield. The actual armies would have been younger and most definitely leaner. (On the plus side, the re-enactors take great pains to get the uniforms right. Watch for the smallest touches, like Confederates wearing captured Union belts with the “US” belt buckles turned upside down.)

  3. The dialogue is very stilted. I believe the screenwriters made the mistake of basing the dialogue on letters and written reports of the time, which could be quite formal and florid. However, people don’t speak with the same formality they use in letters. The dialogue should have been a little more casual, and a little humor would have helped. The movie is utterly humorless. War is ugly business, but where are the typical humorous Southern similes or Northern wisecracks?

  4. The movie makes it seem as though secession were a wildly popular choice among Southerners, when in fact secession was fiercely debated and in many states only carried the day by a razor-thin margin. (In Georgia, for example, a majority of citizens actually voted against secession, but since the majority of counties favored secession, secession passed.

  5. The movie is told largely from the Southern perspective and has something of a Confederate apologist tone. It goes to great lengths to convince us that the war (at least initially) was not about slavery. The Virginia legislature is shown discussing secession, but the legislators make no mention is made of the slavery issue as a cause for secession. In another scene, the issue of slavery is raised, and we are assured that it is a Bad Thing, but the South would have fixed it if those impatient Northerners would have just waited until we got around to it. Still the movie does make some attempts (mainly through Jeff Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain) to address slavery as a moral issue.

Despite the nitpicks, I’d recommend it.

Not all of the reenactors were fat fifty year olds. A friend of mine who is still in high school is a reenactor, and he was in the movie. I am told that he is in the preview, but I haven’t seen him.
Something that scared me was that Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike at the military academy near the beginning.
Good movie, though.

Saw it this afternoon/evening.


Favorite scene: Confederate soldier and Union soldier in the middle of the stream on Christmas Day, one sipping coffee, the other puffing tobacco, in silence.

Un-favorite scene: Chamberlain with his wife (Mira Sorvino). WTF? I don’t even know what she was on about.

This film leaves one with the impression that after Jackson’s death, the Confederacy’s morale took a serious blow. (During the scene where he went down, I was thinking, “Radios! Dammit, if only radios had been invented at that time!”) Of course, his death didn’t cause the loss of those crucial battle plans, nor the last-minute decision to stay in Gettysburg to get shoes*, but I can see how the spirit of the army was damaged.

Now I’m eager to see Last Full Measure. Wonder who they’ll cast as Grant?

*Nice bit of foreshadowing, BTW: I can’t remember who said it, but someone was griping about his shoes being worn out.

>Un-favorite scene: Chamberlain with his wife (Mira Sorvino). WTF? I don’t even know what she was on about.<

To Lucasta, going to the Wars

TELL me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.

The violence was a bit Underplayed I thought. When a cannon fires anything into a line of men, they don’t just fall backwards; a V-shaped space appears in the line where men used to be, filled with a red mist, shreds of uniform, etc.

Yes, I know the poem, Mothchunks. I just couldn’t follow the rest of the conversation.

What Jeff Shaara did was to turn his father’s The Killer Angels, the basis for the movie Gettysburg, into the second book of a Civil War trilogy, by writing one book (Gods and Generals) covering the war prior to Gettysburg, and another one (The Last Full Measure) about the war after Gettysburg.

Haven’t seen the new movie. IMHO, the book G&G kinda dragged, but TLFM was better, though still not up to the level of TKA.

As an alternative to the Shaara trilogy, I’d recommend Bruce Catton’s Army of the Potomac trilogy, which should be available through your local library.

Nithy wrote:

True. And to give the filmmakers credit, they did seem to make an effort to have the younger reenactors front and center, with the old fat guys to be seen on the fringes of the action.

I’ll agree with Mothchunks that the film was maybe not graphic enough in its depiction of the gore that was typical of a Civil War battlefield. (For example, I have seen letters describing how soldiers had a hard time keeping their feet at Chickamauga because the field was so slippery with blood.) Some added gore would have made Lee’s “It is good that war is so terrible…” remark a bit more powerful.

More positive remarks:

I can’t say enough about the attention to detail. The costumes should get an Oscar. You’ll notice such things as the fact that at the first battle of Bull Run many Southerners (including Jackson) are still wearing Union uniforms.

Duvall is a much better Lee than Martin Sheen.

I haven’t seen it. But does it really skip Antietam? If so, how can one take it seriously? As much as Gettysburg, Antietam changed the war enormously. The impact of those found orders can’t be underestimated.