Col. Jackson (Stephen Lang) meets Lt. Col. Stuart (Joseph Fuqua) - Gods and Generals

Gods and Generals: Stonewall meets Stuart
by Michael Aubrecht, Copyright 2006

I've mentioned my high regard for the Ron Maxwell film "Gods and Generals" and Stephen Lang's portrayal of "Stonewall" Jackson in both of my books and during several interviews. I also enjoyed Joseph Fuqua's performance as J.E.B. Stuart in both "G&G" and "Gettysburg" and hope to see him appear again as the "Southern Knight" in the series finale. Despite the critical press that they received and a poor showing at the theaters, I firmly believe that these two movies are modern masterpieces and I pray that the final film in Maxwell's Civil War trilogy "Last Full Measure" will eventually see the light of day. Both of these pictures definitely aided in my selection of biographical subject matter and left a lasting impression on me as both a Christian and historian.

Initially, my intent was to write a single biography focusing on the spirituality of one of America's greatest Christian soldiers. However, as my own study of Thomas Jackson progressed, I discovered another legendary Confederate hero that shared an exceptionally similar life (and death) as "Stonewall." That man was General J.E.B. Stuart who also personified the devout servant to God and country. Therefore it became a goal of mine when writing both "Onward Christian Soldier" and "Christian Cavalier" to intersect the lives and experiences of these men as their paths crossed in so many ways - so many times.

Despite being very different in terms of their demeanor (Jackson was a very somber and serious gentleman while Stuart was very flamboyant and cavalier) both rose to an almost "godlike" status in the eyes of their troops and their ferocity on the battlefield was legendary. As with many of their comrades, it was with a heavy heart that Jackson and Stuart entered the War Between the States. After pledging their loyalty to the Union and serving the Government with such impeccable duty over the years, their conscience was troubled over participating in what many referred to as a "forced resolution." Distraught over the North's impending invasion, both men had swore their allegiance to the Confederate States of America and vowed to fight for God and country to the bitter end.

One of my favorite scenes in "Gods and Generals" depicts the initial meeting between the then Colonel Jackson and Lieutenant Colonel Stuart as they prepare to command portions of the newly formed Army of the Shenandoah. As a biographer of both of these men, it was a real thrill to watch them come face-to-face for the very first time. Based on an actual conversation and meeting, author Jeff Shaara and screenwriter/director Ron Maxwell did an excellent job of capturing both their personalities and convictions. Through this conversation and knowing the history of what events are to come, the audience is presented with two southern heroes who are very alike in some ways and very different in others. Despite their differences, both commanders remain vigilant and dedicated to the cause of defending Virginia's soil and preserving her sovereignty.

One particular line of Jackson's dialogue comes across as almost prophetic. In it he states that a northern victory will result in "anarchy, infidelity and the ultimate loss of free and responsible government on this continent" and "the triumph of commerce, banks and the factory." Perhaps "Stonewall" and the founding fathers of the Confederacy predicted the "future America" as being corrupted by corporate scandal, foreign business monopolies, and the abuse of big government? Unfortunately, as I look at the shape of the United States in the 21st-Century, it appears that they were right.

Therefore, this minuscule, 3-minute scene personifies the entire rational for these characters' secession. It is a very short vignette when compared to the epic battle scenes that are to follow, but nevertheless it carries the weight of the entire plot on its shoulders. Here you have two men, both soldiers, both Virginians, entering a war that they do not welcome, but vow to fight to the end in support of their native land. Here are some excerpts from the script:

Stuart: Lieutenant Colonel Stuart reporting for duty.

Jackson: Colonel Stuart. That's an impeccable hat, sir.

Stuart: Thank you, sir.

Jackson: Colonel Stuart. You use tobacco?

Stuart: No, sir. Not in any form.

Jackson: Neither do I. I find I like it too much.

Jackson: Sit down. I understand from your record that you are West Point, class of '54. Served since in the cavalry, Fort Clark, Texas, operations against Apache, Comanche. Most impressive, you are a native Virginian.

Stuart: Fought with Longstreet and Ewell, sir. Nasty business. Merciless climate. Glad to be home, sir.

Stuart: The Apache were defending their homes, as we will be defending ours. If we fight as well as the Apache, I pity the Yankee invader.

Jackson: Colonel Stuart, if I had my way we would show no quarter to the enemy. No more than the redskin showed your troopers. The black flag, sir. If the North triumphs, it is not alone the destruction of our property, it is the prelude to anarchy, infidelity and the ultimate loss of free and responsible government on this continent. It is the triumph of commerce, banks and the factory. We should meet the Federal invaders on the outer verge of just and right defense, and raise at once the black flag. No quarter to the violators of our homes and firesides! Our political leadership in Richmond is too timid to face the reality of the coming war. They should look to the Bible. It is full of such wars. Only the black flag will bring the North quickly to their senses and rapidly end the war.

Stuart: Well, one way or the other, we will give then a warm reception.

Jackson: You will be in charge of the cavalry in the Harper's Ferry district. Your experience and your zeal will be invaluable.

Stuart: Thank you, sir.

Stuart: And Colonel, know that I will always tell my men to charge towards the enemy, but trot away.

Stuart returns to his horse, leaving Jackson with a big smile.

Quoted from the film Gods and Generals. Novel by Jeff Shaara. Screenplay by Ron Maxwell

At the time of this alleged conversation, Jackson was in the process of training troops for service in the Army of the Valley. Although he had made great progress in preparing his infantry and artillery divisions, he still required the crucial reconnaissance of horsemen. Stuart, a fellow Virginian was perhaps the most flamboyant of all Confederate officers and seemed a perfect fit. He later recalled Stuart's commission:

"At a meeting for consultation of officers belonging to the command at Harper's Ferry, the question was discussed who should command the cavalry. Sharing the common reluctance to entering this service; believing that he would thereby forfeit his own prospects of rapid promotion; yet sensible of the imperative need that some one should organize the outpost service of the army; believing moreover that his own education in Indian warfare and frontier service, in which he had been constantly engaged for six years, fitted him for the required duties; he felt constrained to lay aside his personal preference and to offer his services for the position. The assignment was made and he entered at once upon his duties. Now every energy was devoted to the instruction of his officers and men. Day and night he was upon the picket line. A new spirit was infused into a languid service. The cavalry commenced to respect themselves, and to appreciate the importance of their duties; and soon both officers and men learned that an eye was upon them from which no dereliction of duty could escape, but which was equally ready to mark out and reward any exhibition of skill and gallantry."

Ironically, it would be General Stuart who later assumed command of Jackson's men following his wounding at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Neither would survive the war.




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