I just saw a beautifully restored print of "The General" tonight, complete with live theatre-organ accompaniment, at the refurbished Elsinore Theatre in Salem, OR.
Why do I mention the theatre? Just to make a point... Silent movies are best-enjoyed in the correct environment, with live-performed musical accompaniment. Those of you who have only been able to see this or other silents at home on your TV with pre-recorded music have seen only half the film. If you ever get a chance to see a silent film shown properly, DO IT! You will NOT regret it! Okay, off my soap-box... "The General" is simply a masterpiece! The timing and setup of the gags is superb, the story (inspired by an actual Civil War event) is believable and intelligent. Keaton made sure that everything looked and felt as realistic as possible, using photographs by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, paintings, histories, everything he could get a hold of.
Overall, most of the film is sort of a slow-motion chase, with plenty of funny gags along the way; despite the film's length, it never has a slow moment.
Unlike most silent-era comics, Buster's acting was subtle and underplayed. While he's known as "The Great Stoneface", emotions show up through the apparently-still face. For example, there's the time when the men in Annabelle's family are rushing to enlist, Buster is left sitting there, interrupted from his attempts to romance her. After they leave to enlist, she gives him a withering "Well??" look, and you can easily read his quizzical look, even though there's almost no movement or gesture.
I gave this classic a 10, only because I couldn't give it an 11.