Civil War Pop’s Sad Commanders

Image result for stephen lang gettysburg

Reviewing Shenandoah made me realize something: wow, there are a lot of sad sack leaders in Civil War fiction. In that film, it was George Kennedy’s Colonel Fairchild. He only gets one scene but spends all of it in a seemingly deep state of depression. His tone is muted, his eyes are downcast, and his whole demeanor suggests he’s lost faith in the Union cause.

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Entry 15 (Part 3): In Praise of Gettysburg

Some of you thought I was too hard on Gettysburg, especially in my first post. I’ve often complained that historians judge historical films unfairly, and maybe I’ve been a little guilty of that–at least where Gettysburg‘s concerned. So, to make amends (and because I know you are all dying for even more Gettysburg content), here’s a list of things I like about the movie. Taken together, they show why I would still recommend the film, despite some of its historical problems. Read More

Entry 15 (Part 2): Is Gettysburg a Lost Cause Film?


“We should have freed the slaves, then fired on Fort Sumter.”

This is the line–spoken by Longstreet to Fremantle–that has haunted historians and fans of Gettysburg for 22 years. It’s built on so much faulty and potentially pro-Confederate history, some viewers see it as a clear sign Gettysburg is a Lost Cause film, plain and simple. Maxwell’s disastrous prequel, Gods and Generals, reinforced this view by depicting its Confederate characters through a clearly Lost Cause lens. It’s evident Gettysburg draws some of its inspiration from pro-Confederate myths, but I’ve always thought its overall approach to the Civil War is more nuanced. I kept this in mind during my recent viewing in an attempt to answer one of the central questions revolving around this movie: Is Gettysburg a Lost Cause film? Read More

Entry 15 (Part 1): Football Analysts and Generals

Gettysburg Movie Poster

Gettysburg. Written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. Based on the novel, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.

Release date: October 8, 1993.

As I mentioned in my last post, Gettysburg is kind of a big deal in the Civil War community. I first saw it long before I imagined becoming a professional historian, so my views on the film have evolved as I’ve learned more about the war. However, the aspect that stood out during my most recent viewing was one that hadn’t struck me before: for a movie that includes so much depiction of and talk about death, it’s remarkably bloodless. Combat scenes that seemed impressively realistic twenty years ago now play more like sterile pageants. Maybe I was naive back then, but this is not the same war I read and write about now. So I began to wonder, is Gettysburg one of the prime culprits in propagating the “football analyst school” of Civil War history?

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Gettysburg! Gettysburg!


Jeff Daniels reacts to my decision to devote two entire posts to Gettysburg.

Some of you likely noticed that Gettysburg will be the subject of my next review. For those who don’t know, this movie carries a significant amount of weight among historians and buffs–deservedly so or not. We’ve all seen it multiple times and have favorite lines (usually to mock, and usually by Sam Elliott) and lots of opinions.

It’s also super long.

Thus, after watching it for the first time in several years, I’ve decided to devote two entries to it, instead of my usual one. Each review will follow a different line of inquiry, since the film directly addresses my two favorite blog topics: the “football analyst school” and the Lost Cause. So, keep a clear eye me boyo, and join me for a thorough examination of how one of the Civil War’s best known modern films fits with the rest of Civil War pop culture. For those who think reading around 2,000 words on a Ted Turner film will leave them so very tired, just skip over these reviews, but stay tuned because I have an exciting guest post lined up for my next subject.