View single post by barrydancer
 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 09:39 pm
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barrydancer
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ole wrote: Did we watch the same movie? The one I watched emphasized Longstreet's "slows." Yes, it painted a sympathetic (stress pathetic) picture of a reluctant Longstreet agonizing over what he had been ordered to do. I find that to be pandering to modern sensitivity -- kinda like introducing Ol' Yeller into the mix.
I have to disagree.  I thought the film, as well as The Killer Angels, presented Longstreet in a very positive light.  Keep in mind that the historiography prior to the late '70's and '80's (and unfortunately in some corners today) painted Longstreet as overly ambitious, jealous and petty, disobedient, recalcitrant.  At Gettysburg he was purposely slow and sabotaged Lee's plan to fuel his own petty vindictiveness.  The result of Lost Cause writers and mythology.

While Shaara and the film are beholden to the Lost Cause mythos in many ways, Longstreet escapes his traditional portrayal.  Rather than disobedient, I think the Lee-Longstreet relationship is shown accurately.  Pete was never afraid to disagree with his superior, and I believe this one of the many reasons why Lee relied so heavily upon throughout the war.  Longstreet is calm and prescient, dedicated to his men and his commander.  I agree with William Garrett Piston that historians could write countless books trying to re-habilitate Longstreet's reputation and would never be as effective on popular perception as Shaara and the film because they reached such a wide audience and were "felt" history.

I can see your point about the agonizing, but having studied the man for years I think that aspect of the film is also accurate.  Longstreet had a number of misgivings about the fight, so much so that he expressed he had no confidence in the plan of attack on the third day asked to be relieved of responsibilty for leading the attack.  "The order for this attack," he wrote in his official report of the battle, "which I could not favor under better auspices, would have been revoked had I felt that I had that privilege." (OR, XXVII, pt. II, pg. 360)  It was the nature of his relationship with Lee that he felt he could express his doubts, and Lee likely took no offense.

I think the film does use these misgivings for emotional effect.  Longstreet becomes the fulfillment of Buford's speech earlier in the film about having to take part in an ill-conceived attack, helping it fail.

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