16 December 2009

America's Preeminent Civil War Historian On Gods & Generals

"The greatest Civil War movie I have ever seen, and I have seen them all." ~ Professor James I. Robertson, Jr.



Jubilo said...

Dear Old Dom.,
I don't know why you posted this but I enjoy this film. It certaily is not perfect;what film is? Even the highly revered "Glory," is some what like the "Easy Company," WWII propaganda films. The nay-sayers claim the film is Confederate propaganda but the Union cause is explained quite well. To deny the basic human condition,emotions and attachments of slaves and Confederates seems at variance with an unbiased view of the war. It is probably difficult for some to view Jackson praying, playing with Janie Corbin, singing Christmas carols etc. , when trying to demonize all Confederates. The film also features a very powerful land moving musical score.
In conclusion, the haters will hate and the appreciators with have to abide.
David Corbett

Corey Meyer said...

Well duh!...he was the chief historical consultant on the film. Maybe this is why it has such a southern, lost cause slant...

I would call McPherson America's Preeminent War of the Rebellion historian.

Chaps said...

Prof. Robertson is certainly correct although Ron Maxwell is a better movie maker than public speaker. At the Jefferson Davis birthday in Arlington last June, Father Anderson's invocation was the best speech of the day. I do hope Robertson was just using shorthand. I'm certain he knows there was no Civil War in the United States. Southerners had no desire to rule over the North. If the Confederacy had won, there would have been no regime change in Washington, no army of occupation in New England, no coerced Constitutional amendments and slavery would have ended, sooner rather than later, also peaceably like every other country in the Western Hemisphere.

Jeffry Burden said...

I too thought James McPherson was America' pre-eminent Civil War historian. I hear that all the time on Mr. Rotov's blog. :-)

Anywho, no offense, but given Prof. Robertson's involvement with the film, I'll take any review of his with a grain of salt.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Posted for balance. No, not perfect - lots to criticize in the battle scenes - some of it sounded just a little "too scripted" for me - particularly Jeb Stuart's "trot" comment. That being said, I would have to agree with Professor Robertson's assessment.

"The nay-sayers claim the film is Confederate propaganda but the Union cause is explained quite well."

Precisely. The nay-sayers don't like it because in their mind, the film failed in that it did not depict the Confederates as evil and the Union as the South's saviors.

By the way, thanks for the CD! I've been meaning to post a review and I will eventually - I really like it!


In your mind, and those of your mindset, anything that doesn't demonize the Confederacy is a "Lost Cause" slant. You're extremely biased in favor of the "Holy Cause" slant.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Maxwell can wax quite eloquent at times. I suppose he has his good days and bad days when it comes to speech making.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Thanks for the input. That's a fair enough criticism of Robertson's endorsement, though I would apply the same standard to many CW bloggers who criticize the film - predictable due to their particular "involvement" on certain issues, as well as McPherson's request to President Obama that he not lay a wreath at the Arlington Confederate Monument.

Corey Meyer said...

Chaps...your comment on slavery ending sooner than later flies in the fact that in 1860, the south had its largest and most profitable cotton crop ever. Why and how would the south let slaves go it they were producing so much wealth for the south?

I like the movie for what it is...but my problem is that I think Maxwell tried to tell too many stories at once. Either tell the story of the war and its battles or tell a story about Lee or Jackson. It is too bad that Duvall only had a small showing as Lee...he was much better than Sheen in Gettysburg. Lang was a good Jackson, but I think they over did the religious stuff...not saying Jackson was not religious...just that it was just another thing to follow and it was done is such a cheesy way...IMHO.

Regardless, I would hope that Maxwell does make the last of the trilogy...what is it? Last Full Measure? I would love to be in the March to the Sea scenes...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"Why and how would the south let slaves go it they were producing so much wealth for the south?"

For all the same reasons that every other Nation in the West did.


Chaps said...


The answer to your question as to why the South would abolish slavery can be found in "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men" by Jeffrey R. Hummel

Jeffry Burden said...

I think any reviewer is subject to having their biases called into question. That's one reason movie reviewing is so difficult to do well.

As for Roberston, given his involvement, I can't believe that his "review" wasn't tongue-in-cheek, if not an outright attempt at humour (though he may have honestly liked the film).

FWIW, a little "Lost Cause" seasoning can be fun. Overwritten, glacially-paced, episodic filmaking isn't fun. This movie really missed Richard Jordan and Sam Elliot.

Vince said...

I can't stand Gods and Generals, and I'm even IN it. As a fan of period and historical films, it seems to me that G&G simply lacked drama. Stephen Lang sort of salvaged Jackson, but the characters of Lee and Chamberlain were simply one-dimensional and changed little and faced no interesting challenges (at least in the way those challenges were presented).

Unlike Gettysburg (a masterpiece, in my mind), where I am on the edge of your seat watching characters face compelling challenges as human beings and military commanders, G&G was too static, fatalistic, and set in granite for my taste.

Plus, it's visually lackluster. Produced around the same time with maybe 1% of the budget of G&G, Wicked Spring is much better at capturing the aesthetics of a Civil War battle and 1860s life.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


I heard the comment spoken in context and believe it was the Professor's honest assessment. My problem with most of the critics is their obsession with the ostensibly "Lost Cause" aspect of the film. I think that is bunk. Those spouting that have a problem with anything that does anything less than portray the Confederacy as the embodiment of evil.

Yes, I agree, there should have been a place for Sam Elliot!


Are you a reenactor? Were you in any of the Virginia scenes? Which ones? I agree, could have been more drama.

Corey Meyer said...

Vince, I agree 100% about Wicked Spring. Although I still use parts of Gettysburg and G&G, I show all of Wicked Spring to my students in order to delve into the human aspect of the war.

Border Ruffian said...

The neo-radicals can't stand this movie. They accuse the makers of having an agenda (promoting "lost cause mythology," etc) yet at other times have described themselves as "activist historians." What hypocrites.

(BR - I deleted the link because I didn't want to link to that post)

Michael Bradley said...

With his signature on the letter requesting President Obama not to place a wreath on the Confederate monument at Arlington Mr. McPherson ceased to be an historian and became a propagandist.

Lawrence Underwood said...

Why can a historian not also have convictions and act upon them? The idea that they cannot is a common thought today; a ridiculous thought. Everyone brings a bias to the table. The most dangerous are those that refuse to admit their's.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Precisely, which is what I so often discuss here. I was recently taken to task by Brooks Simpson for making my political views open. So? He conveniently ignores left-leaning writers/historians who do the same thing. Hmmm . . . I wonder why?

The reason some (Not necessarily Simpson) don't want to admit it is because they are leftists and leftists have to hide their true ideas and goals. They're ashamed or embarrassed I suppose.

Michael Bradley said...

American Heritage Dictionary:
Historian--one who writes about or creates a record of the past.

Propagandist--one who promotes a doctrine or allegation based on a point of view or value.

Historians do have a point of view (bias) but it is necessary to recognize and admit the bias if one wishes to be an honest broker of the past. When one acts as a propagandist but dresses in the cloak of an historian one is practicing deception. When McPherson signed the letter asking the president not to send the wreath to the Confederate memorial at Arlington he was not acting as an historian. Don't claim to speak as recorder of the past when you are promoting a point of view.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Excellent comment. So many times I hear those who tend to write from the left suggest someone like myself allows their politics to influence their view of history. Amazingly, that is 180 degrees opposite of the truth. It is my view of history and what I've learned from the past that has influenced my politics. And I think that is as it should be.

Most of the time, those making the charge are actually guilty of what they accuse others. Numerous and recent examples abound and could be cited, but most readers here already have a few in mind.

BTW, please send me your email privately as I have something I'd like to run by you.



Anonymous said...

Bradley and Williams, you have stated what needed to be said: the truth. I liked both G&G and Gettysburg, but G&G was better. There are many of us awaiting The Last Measure, which must be a difficult project.

I agree that McPherson lost credibility when he petitioned against honoring the Confederate memorial. Indeed, it was a strange thing to do.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

"I was recently taken to task by Brooks Simpson for making my political views open."

Wrong, Richard. I simply pointed out that you can't criticize others who view history through the prism of their politics when you do the same.


You really can't complain about how other bloggers represent you when you misrepresent what they say.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Brooks. I trust you had a nice Christmas. Actually, you are 180 degrees out of phase. I don't view history through the prism of politics. I view politics through the prism of history. It is the new, PC, radicalized historians who view history through politics, i.e. Foner, Zinn, etc.

"Misrepresent what they say?" Could you give me an example?

Moreover, it was you on your post that misrepresented what I said.


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

By the way Brooks, I don't doubt you when you say you keep your political views out of the classroom. But your biases against Southerners who look at Lee, Jackson, et al as Christian heroes is evident in your blog posting and comments, particularly on Levin's blog.

Historical biases and politics aren't necessarily the same thing.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

"But your biases against Southerners who look at Lee, Jackson, et al as Christian heroes is evident in your blog posting and comments, particularly on Levin's blog."

You'll notice that it was Mark Grimsley, a native North Carolinian, who posted on the Lee/Jackson Christmas theme (which, by definition, would have to be Christmas, 1862). Such is the nature of collaborative blogging.

I've never posted on Lee, Jackson, et al. as Christian figures on Civil Warriors. I have no idea what you are referring to when it comes to Kevin's blog. All I know is that the two of you like to trash each other.

See, Richard, you continue to misrepresent me in an effort to score points. When I ask for evidence, you shy away.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I know that Mr. Grimsley posted the entry to which you refer. I never said you did. But what's that got to do with this post? You're getting confused again Brooks. Go back and read the post on which you're commenting - its about Gods & Generals.

You and Levin have much in common when it comes to mocking and making fun of those who honor their Confederate heritage and ancestors. Deny it all you want but it's quite obvious to anyone who reads Levin's blog. You think I'm the only one who sees it? And you're surprised when someone throws it back at you?

I'm not shying away from anything, I simply don't have the time to waste proving the obvious.

I could post a litany of examples, but it would only give you another opportunity to change the subject.