Thursday, August 12, 2004

Gods and Generals

Standing face to face with the enemy at the Battle of Manassas, mounted on a horse, refusing to yield to the Union troops, Thomas Jackson received the name “Stonewall.” I’m taken many history classes and yet I don’t ever remember learning about Stonewall Jackson and his role in the Civil War. Gods and Generals has changed that.

In a trilogy of Civil War films, Gods and Generals chronologically is based prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. The film mainly focuses on the battles of Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. I found it to be one of the greatest movies I’ve ever sat through (…but beware it is nearly four hours long). Not only is it a great film, it is historically accurate, and in a day when war is all around us, it depicts the humanization of war.

Inparticular there are several very touching scenes: the Irish-American brigade battle scene, the "1st Brigade speech" that Stonewall addresses to his brave men, and the scene where he prays with Jim Lewis. Stonewall Jackson, though not the only lead character, was portrayed as a hero. I’ve always looked at the Civil War as one side versus the other, good against bad, but it’s not like that… it is American versus American. Good men seeking freedom and showing great dedication to their beliefs. In this secular age we don’t necessarily understand deep religious roots, but in trying to understand the Civil War I realized that given the circumstances and their stone-age methods of fighting, deep faith was all they could rely on. I don’t generally find myself too connected to characters in films, but this one hit me hard. Maybe it was just the order, structure, and belonging that Stonewall was seeking or it could have been the fact that Bob Dylan sang the theme “Cross the Green Mountain” throughout the credits!

Also…recently someone asked me what I knew about Harper’s Ferry (not sure who), today I know that the Battle of Fredericksburg in the film was filmed on site in Harper’s Ferry as it is the only remaining battleground of the Civil War completely preserved and not privately owned. It is now a National Park.

If I haven’t mentioned it I really enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Civil War or 19th century warfare.

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