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Jason Lefkowitz
This, by the way, is one of the (many) things I like about the movie Gettysburg, how it subtly takes on the mythic image of Lee.

True, and that makes the portrayals of the same characters in that movie's sorta-prequel Gods and Generals even more baffling. Despite being written and directed by the same guy, Gods and Generals does a 180 from Gettysburg's skeptical, revisionist angle and goes right back to the standard Lost Cause legendarium of noble Southern heroes taking on mediocre, spiritually impoverished Northern enemies whose only military virtue is sheer weight of numbers. For those viewers who were familiar with the earlier movie like I was, the turn was whiplash-inducing.

I'd love to read a behind-the-scenes account of the making of both movies someday, if only to understand how the same people could make two movies so violently opposed to each other in sensibility.


Thanks for the recommendations. I've read Foner's stuff on Reconstruction but not the one you cite here, and I've never read anything by Slotkin. So you don't buy Catton's argument that the mythologizing of Lee and the Lost Cause kept the remnants of his army from taking to the hills as guerillas?


The other reason to admire the movie "Gettysburg" is that it has one of the best scores I've ever heard.


Two comments about Lee: I suspect that much of his battlefield success was because he knew most of the generals he fought against. He had served with them, commanded them, trained them. He knew the army in which they had received their professional experience as well as anyone. Second, he was a better tactician than strategist. He was the reverse of Washington in that vital respect (and of Grant, for that matter). Washington kept his army together and preserved his limited manpower and other resources until the French could bring their forces to bear and the British grew weary of the war. Lee lost irreplaceable men, commanders and supplies with repeated, aggressive and unsuccessful attempts to inflict catastrophic defeat on an opponent with greater manpower, wealth and manufacturing capability. He seems not to have understood that the Union had far more capacity to absorb defeats and sustain costly victories than did the South. If he expected to win the war with Napoleonic victories, he didn't reflect on what happened to Napoleon.

Lance Mannion

PR, good points. I'd add that Lee also had the advantage of knowing his own commanders well. But I'm not sure if his, as you point out, " repeated, aggressive and unsuccessful attempts to inflict catastrophic defeat on an opponent with greater manpower, wealth and manufacturing capability" was due to his not understanding or his understanding too well what the Union could absorb. I've read that he felt he needed to end the war quickly because the South couldn't sustain a prolonged fight and he believed the North would be demoralized by big losses or be persuaded by Northern Democrats that the war was not worth it.

Link, Pssst. Click on the photo of Berenger and Sheen up top.

JD, I think Lee's stature in the South and the reverence his men felt for him (You'll enjoy clicking on the picture too) did help the Confederacy and the army to accept defeat when he decided it was time to surrender. But I think that then contributed to the myth that developed after the war.

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