History of the World According to the Movies: Part 44 – The American West: Cowboys, Gunslingers, and the Rest


Here we have the 1960 film called The Magnificent Seven which is actually a remake of a film I posted earlier called The Seven Samurai. However, this is a rough idea how you’d expect most guys to dress in westerns though I’ll say that contrary to attire, Yul Brynner isn’t the bad guy in this. Yet, you can see how common it is for guys to dress as cowboys in these movies and how often they carry weapons. Still, this doesn’t mean that men dressed like this in real life. Nevertheless, Kurosawa was pleased with this film since the guys making it asked for his blessing.

No western characters are more iconic than the gunslinger and the cowboy. However, in Westerns it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which except perhaps in dress but Hollywood usually doesn’t care one way or the other. Heck, in the Hollywood West, almost everyone wears cowboy hats or looks like a cowboy anyway. In Hollywood, the Wild West is a violent place where robberies and shootings are common place. Saloons were places where even the smallest indiscretion could blow up in an all out gunfight and were regular hangouts for perky little prostitutes. Businessmen were ruthless and the Pinkertons were mercenary thugs. Cowboys roamed the range care free of troubles in civilization and sang songs to their doagies at the campfire. Also, in movie westerns, livestock and horses never took a dump where they weren’t supposed to and the dirt streets were always clean and dusty. Everyone wore clean cut clothes and whenever a bad guy would be terrorizing the town, there was always a lone champion to thwart the bad guys or kill them all. And everyone was white. But was it really like that? The answer is not really but you know how Hollywood tends to white wash and make shit up. Still, here are some movie western inaccuracies I will list accordingly.


Oklahoma City was around in 1881. (It was founded in 1889.)

Dodge City was a territorial town in 1881. (It’s in Kansas which had been a state since 1861.)

Deadwood was a boom town right after the American Civil War. (It was established as one 11 years after.)


All cowboys were white and native born Americans as well as straight. (Actually while there were white native born cowboys, they were all native born or even white. In fact, there were significant numbers of cowboys who were black, Mexican, and Native American. Some were even from other countries. Oh, not to mention, though cowboy culture is known to be deeply homophobic {in the same way football is}, there were plenty of cowboys who were gay like in Brokeback Mountain and were drawn to the frontier because of their sexual orientation. There were also cowboys in places outside the United States such as in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and South America as well as other countries. And most of our cowboy culture came from the Spanish equestrian tradition which they got from the Muslims.)

In the West, the term cowboy wasn’t a job description. (Actually there were cowboys who do what cowboys were said to have done which was to supervise a cattle train to Nebraska on the cattle’s journey to the Chicago slaughterhouses.)

Cowboys worked alone. (I’m sorry but the archetype of the lone cowboy just doesn’t exist because they usually traveled in groups of drovers. Also, you can’t have one cowboy on a cattle drive without cooperation of other cowboys and horses.)

Only men were cowboys. (Most of them were men. Yet, women did disguise themselves and worked as cowhands. Women who lived on ranches also worked as hard as their husbands as well as learned to rope, brand, ride as well as cook and entertain.)

Cowboys were skilled marksmen. (Typical cowboys used lariats to show the cattle who’s boss not a gun. Guns were used on rustlers, hostile Indians or farmers. Still, they didn’t carry guns a lot because they were heavy.)

Cowboys were large people. (Most of the time, they were smaller than according to legend and wouldn’t be big hunks like John Wayne because their horses would complain. Most of your actors who played cowboys wouldn’t be one in real life. Large people were too heavy to ride mustangs.)

Cowboys would ride their favorite horses all day. (They’d ride a string of horses depending on what task was at hand. Mild horses were used at night while quick horses were used for cattle and tending.)

Cowboys were always fighting Indians. (Battles between cowboys and Indians were rare. Actually, he’d more likely be working with Indians than fighting them since many of them were Indians as well. Not to mention, most Indians would let cowboys cross their lands for a fee.)

Cowboys were old fighting men and experienced wranglers. (Many of them were teenagers and young men in their early twenties who learned while on the job. Most of them weren’t married and usually quit by the time they did or by their early 30s.)

A cowboy’s life was easy. (They had a 24/7 job and earned about $25 a month. Also, they didn’t discover the west but maintained it.)

Cowboys had fine clean clothes. (They usually dressed in hand-me-downs and other scrap pieces of clothing. Also, they probably wouldn’t have the best hygiene. Still, most of them wore clothes for function, not effect.)

Cowboys were able to build their own cattle fortunes while working with generous ranch owners who may give some of his cattle and give them a different brand. (From the Carter Museum: “Cowboys actually were not working for generous ranch owners. Instead, they probably worked for a corporation or absentee owner who was back East or in Europe. Additionally, cowhands were supervised by a ranch foreman. Most owners did not allow a cowboy to carry a different brand for themselves. One foreman hung two of his companions for “mavericking” (taking the owner’s unbranded cattle).” )

Cowboys rescued maidens from bandits in their spare time. (These guys were working 10-18 hour days and their jobs were difficult, dirty, and required great physical strength. They probably more likely spent their time singing songs at the campfire, boozing and whoring at saloons, sleeping, or eating baked beans. Actually the farting scene in Blazing Saddles is a more accurate picture of what cowboys might be doing in their spare time than in a lot of westerns.)


There were no gun free zones in the West. (Many towns west of the Mississippi had laws against carry weapons. Most gunfighters would usually keep their weapons out of sight. Of course, most people did have guns in the West and were ready to use them.)

Gunfights were routine events. (They were very rare as well as few and far between. When they did happen several shots were usually fired and onlookers were often hit. Not to mention, no one actually knew who won the fight until several minutes after the gunshots since it took a while for the smoke to clear.)

The gunman who was fast on the trigger usually one. (It was usually the guy with the cool head and more accurate shot. Being a fast shot was rather risky and most people known for that wouldn’t get in gun fights at all. Also, it wasn’t uncommon for a gunman to shoot his opponent at the most opportune point whether if he got on a drop of his enemy, if he was unarmed, or even if it meant shooting him in the back.)

Shots fired in Westerns that do not hit a character always ricochet loudly.

A shoot out scene can last for over five to ten minutes before anyone fires a shot and that time usually consists of mostly staring at each other intently.

Shootouts and brawls could happen anywhere at any time but they usually occurred in saloons.

Saloons usually kept undocumented workers on tap to clean after the place was shot to tethers.

Gunfights in the Old West lasted for 5 to 10 minutes. (The Gunfight at the OK Corral lasted for 30 seconds.)

Pistol belts were permanently positioned with the holster on the right side. (From Imdb: “Actual gun belts of the period slipped through a loop on the back of the holster, which allowed the holster to be positioned anywhere along the belt’s length.”)

Gunfighters always got drawn into a showdown. (He’d usually wait until they odds were in his favor and then draw.)

Most shootings took place between professional gunfighters. (They were usually among cowhands, businessmen, farmers, drifters, outlaws, lawmen, or guys under the influence of alcohol and were certainly not professional gunmen. Oh, and most gunfights weren’t about noble stuff like defending a woman’s honor or their reputations. It was mostly pertaining to stuff like outlaws confronted by lawmen, range wars, or family or political feuds. If a gunfighter was challenged over reputation, then it was usually by a young gun wanting to make a name for himself.)

Gunfighters usually challenged each other in the streets. (If they tried, the law would be there to prevent them from doing so.)


Calamity Jane:

Calamity Jane was an attractive woman who wore a dress. (She was butch and often dressed in men’s clothing that she was often mistaken for a man. Looked more like k.d. lang than Doris Day or Jane Russell. Unlike lang, she was straight as far as I know. Still, much of Calamity Jane’s story may have been embellished.)

Calamity Jane was present at Wild Bill Hickock’s assassination. (She was being held by the military authorities at the time. Also, she was said to arrive in Deadwood with Wild Bill and Charlie Utter around 1876, other than meeting Hickock himself there.)

Annie Oakley:

Annie Oakley gave up her shooting career to marry Frank Butler. (Actually marrying Frank Butler made her career as a sharpshooter for he was the one who discovered her and lost to her in a shooting contest. He was also very supportive of her career as well as gave up his career to be her manager. She wasn’t as much of a feminist as she is portrayed to be and did needlework in her spare time. Also, it was acceptable for women to use guns in the West.)

Annie Oakley shot the cigarette out of the mouth of Kaiser Wilhelm. (She shot it from his hand. It would’ve been too dangerous to shoot it out of his mouth.)

Annie Oakley was blond. (She was brunette. Nor was she brash either.)

Belle Starr:

Belle Starr was very attractive. (Photos show her as a frumpy matron. Still, she died at 40 and was just plain vicious. Yet, she’s played by Gene Tierney and Jane Russell.)

Sam Starr was Belle Starr’s first husband. (He was her second and he wasn’t a Confederate captain either. He was probably the love of her life though.)

Belle Starr was a woman crusading against Yankee and political injustice. (She was just a crook with a long history of marrying crooks who got themselves shot. Also, she may have been killed by her own son.)

Western Life:

The Union Pacific Railroad used wood burning locomotives. (They used coal burning locomotives. The Central Pacific Railroad used wood burning locomotives.)

Western bad guys always wore black hats.

Martha Earp was a young woman in the 1860s. (She died at 10 in 1856.)

There were no African Americans in the old west. (Actually, this is pure bullshit. Of course, there were African Americans in the old west and lots of them at that like thousands, many of them ex-slaves. There were black cowboys, soldiers, farmers, Buffalo soldiers, ranch hands, railroad workers, and what not. And it was home to people like Tomahawk Beckworth, Nat Love, Cherokee Bill, John Henry, Lucy Parsons, Stagecoach Mary Fields as well as others {Bet you didn’t hear of them, me neither with the exception of John Henry}. As inaccurate as Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles are, at least both films get the concept that there were African Americans in the west that are probably the most unrepresented demographic in western movies. Also, I’d like to include classic movies like The Oxbow Incident and Duel in the Sun. Not to mention, about 5,000 to 15,000 cowboys were said to be black.)

Every Western township is immaculately clean despite a person’s sweaty, weary, and dusty appearance. (As TV Tropes and Idioms says, “Horse dung, mud and flies, patched and ragged wooden buildings, straw on the pub floors to absorb spittle and spilled drinks and occasional drunken vomit were the norm rather than exception.”)

Almost every guy dressed as a cowboy in the Old West that sometimes cowboys, ranchers, drifters, gunfighters, outlaws, gamblers, and lawmen were sometimes hard to distinguish.

Everyone in the Old West believed in traditional values and lived their lives in traditional roles. (Despite the fact that Wyoming was one of the first places in the world to give women the right to vote, also the West also gave women some other rights they didn’t have in the east such as joint property ownership. Not to mention, western women actually did tasks that went outside their gender roles both inside and outside the house. Also, not all women in the West were housewives, schoolmarms, showgirls, servants, or prostitutes either. Not to mention, many freed slaves went West to get away from the Southern sharecropping lifestyle as well.)

Everyone in the typical western town had one church and everyone belonged to that congregation or at least all the white people did. (As of today, most towns had multiple churches for multiple denominations. And as for the Catholic ones, some of them were there before any white American settler stepped foot.)

Settlers headed West carrying their belongings in Conestoga wagons. (Filmmakers usually use Conestoga wagons in movies is because they looked better. Settlers actually used prairie schooners.)

It was businessmen who announced of finding gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which violated the Treaty of Fort Laramie with a gold rush and provoked a Sioux War. (George Armstrong Custer did this.)

Mountain men far from civilization usually couldn’t speak in any comprehensive form of English even though everyone understood them.

Cowboy hats were common headwear for men in the West.

Saloons had swinging butterfly doors.

Wanted posters displayed pictures of criminals. (Most wanted posters in the 1860s and 1870s were just handbills with a plain verbal description.)

The Pony Express was the primary postal service in the American West. (Only between 1860 and 1861. Oh, and it only went from Saint Louis to Sacramento.)

Homesteaders always built log cabins on the plains. (Due to lack of trees and lumber, most of their houses were made out of sod and dirt. Seriously, they must’ve taken their wood with them.)

Western towns always had glass windows. (Pane glass was very expensive at the time and wouldn’t be mass produced until the 20th century.)

Most Western miners were white and usually mined gold or silver. (Many of them were Chinese or Hispanic and some blacks served as cooks. But, yes, a lot of miners were poor white men. Other metals were zinc, copper, and lead.)

The Old West was an incredibly violent place. (Well, probably more violent than your average suburban neighborhood where your chances of being killed were 41 to 1 each year. However, it’s probably the same rate as people being murdered in inner-city Baltimore or on The Wire. Not very great odds, sure, but that’s nothing compared to how many people are killed in Spaghetti westerns or Sam Peckinpah movies. Still, you were more likely to die in the West from cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, or in an accident than by violence. Your average Western town only had 1.5 murders a year, which is a disappointing number for many Hollywood directors.)

Prostitutes were always attractive women who always had hearts of gold. (Old West prostitution was just as traumatic, degrading, and exploitative as it is today.)

Frontier prostitutes had a glamorous lifestyle and could move up in the world. (High levels of suicide, rape, addiction, and violence were common among prostitutes. Also, brothels were seen as poverty traps that forced girls into never ending competition with one another for enough scraps to eat with no hope of escape. Most of the time prostitution was a profession for women with no other options and was about as glamorous as a week in the ditch. Though there were madams who got rich off it and rose to positions of power. Yet, this wasn’t the same for most prostitutes even in the West.)

Most of the West was desert and canyons. (There are a lot of forests in the Pacific Northwest as well as in places like Colorado. There are also grass prairies and plains.)

The Old West was a violent place. (It had about the same murder rate as inner city Baltimore today. This means that a big frontier settlement could expect an average of 5 homicides per year.)

Sarsaparilla was a popular western drink. (It was used as a medicine for VD. Remember that when some cowboy orders it.)

Tumbleweed was a plant in the American West. (It’s a European plant that wasn’t recorded in the US until 1877.)

People rode on the same horse all over the frontier during long distances. (Those traveling long distance would usually try to go by train or stage coach and rent a horse in the next town. Of course, westerns aren’t the only films that do this since it’s endemic in a lot of historical films sometimes justified and sometimes not. Still, switching horses during long distance traveling was quite common in history.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 43 – The American West: Outlaws and Lawmen


You’re probably asking me, “who are these guys?” Yet, many would remember the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford respectively. Of course, this movie isn’t the most accurate story about them but it ain’t boring and usually skips some of the dull parts about their lives anyway. Also, Newman and Redford were at the peak of hotness in their days (especially Redford since he hasn’t aged well). Still, if you want to know what happened to them, read this post but it won’t be pretty.

Of course, Indians and soldiers weren’t the only ones becoming legends in the Old West. It was a time of outlaws, gunfighters, and lawmen like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Wyatt Earp. Sure Hollywood has made movies about these legends time after time and we just can’t get enough of them. You can say they were the rock stars of their day and have somehow made it into the American folklore. Many of us have even grew up with these movies. However, in westerns, we seem to get the impression that the Old West was more crime ridden and violent than it really was. We think that banks were prime targets for robbers and that outlaws tend to terrorize towns on daily basis. We think that the local sheriff was either the muscle of law and order or just an incompetent prick. Still, the reality wasn’t so simple and sometimes lawmen and criminals weren’t the people you’d think they be. And while there was violence, it tends to be greatly exaggerated in westerns even in the Old Hollywood times (From the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles: “I must’ve killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille.”) and it’s sometimes really exaggerated in Sam Peckinpah films (very few movie characters are known to survive his films). Nevertheless, these movies have plenty of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.


Outlaws ruled the West and those who came to Arizona via South would have been shot on sight.

Bank robberies were common in Western towns. (Though most of them usually got caught since banks were usually not too far from the sheriff’s office. Actually stagecoaches and trains were more common targets while outlaws would consider robbing a bank a suicide mission. Butch Cassidy and his gang were among the very few successful bank robbers in the Old West but they only robbed two.)

Train robberies happened all the time and they were awesome. (They only happened for a short period of time and more often in the East than in the West. Oh, and they’d rarely get away with the crime. From History Banter: “When outlaws robbed trains in the West, they would most often board the train like any other passenger and when the train reached a designated point, they pulled out guns, demanded that passengers hand over all their valuables, and then they rode horses that their accomplices had stashed by the side of the train tracks. Outlaws would also rob trains by simply ripping up train tracks. When the train screeched to a halt, the bandits would board and go about their thieving business. There were no instances of outlaws leaping off their horses to board moving trains. It just didn’t happen.” However, soon railroad companies Pinkertons to protect train shipments which were people you didn’t want to mess with since they tend to kill train robbers in the Old West 99% of the time.)

Jack McCall:

Jack McCall worked as a hired gunman. (He worked alone. Also, his reason for killing Wild Bill Hickock is thought to be either being embarrassed by his victim paying for breakfast that morning or being paid to do it by the gamblers frightened that Hickock might become Deadwood’s sheriff.)

Jesse James:

Jesse James was the Robin Hood of the West. (All the booty he took was mostly for himself and his gang. Also, he was racist, mentally unstable, sadistic, and brutal and was said to kill seventeen men without remorse. However, as an ex-Confederate, he seems to have a Freudian excuse since many of them weren’t accepted back in American society during Reconstruction. Still, he should’ve quit when his brother thought it was a good idea. From American Experience: “A teenager when he rode off to join Confederate guerrillas in 1864, Jesse James never really stopped fighting the Civil War. Unable to accept the defeat of the secessionist cause, Jesse trained his fury on banks, trains and stagecoaches. He fancied himself a modern Robin Hood, robbing from Radical Republicans and giving to the poor. But the myth hid the darker reality of a repeat murderer whose need for attention kept him committing crimes long after the cause he championed was gone.”)

Zerelda James was killed by a bomb from federal agents. (Jesse’s younger half-brother was but she lost an arm. However, she outlived Jesse by decades and died at 92.)

Jesse James was a gunfighter. (His victims were almost always unarmed.)

Frank and Jesse James waited four years to go on a crime spree after the Civil War. (Their first crime happened on February 1866, less than a year after the war.)

Jesse James was a Wild West outlaw. (His operations usually took place in Missouri and he never really went west.)

The expansion of railroads caused Frank and Jesse James to become outlaws. (There were never plans for railroads to come any place close to the James farm or any other neighboring farm. Also, we kind of know that their reason to turn to crime was more out of vengeance for Confederate defeat in the Civil War.)

Jesse James had a relatively peaceful childhood. (From the LA Times: “The truth is that at 15 years of age he was beaten by ropes and horsewhips by the Kansas Jayhawker federal militia and watched as his stepfather was hung on the James farm, in part because they were Southern sympathizers.”)

James-Younger Gang:

Archie Clement was a member of the James-Younger Gang. (It’s alleged he was but he wasn’t. However, he never stopped raiding after the Civil War and was gunned down in 1866 by militia in Lexington, Missouri.)

Bob Younger died in the Northfield raid. (He and his brothers Cole and Jim were captured and given a life sentence. Bob died of TB in prison.)

The James and Youngers were cousins. (They weren’t related to each other. They just served in the Quantrill’s Raiders’ regiment together in the Civil War.)

The James Gang hid out in caves. (As Frank James put it, “Jesse and I never went into any place that didn’t have a back door.”)

The James Gang didn’t have a hideout in Texas. (From the L. A. Times: “In truth they did have such a hideout which they called “Peace Ranch,” known by the Texans as “James Hollow.””)

The Wild Bunch:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were involved in the Wilcox Train Robbery of 1899 and the Tipton Train Robbery of 1900. (It’s unclear whether they were involved in either.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid went to Bolivia straight from the US, where they continued to rob banks as before. (Actually they went to Argentina and had a ranch there before going to Bolivia where they went straight and led respectable lives. But the Pinkertons caught up with them so they went to Bolivia. They may have robbed a bank there, but we’re not sure. Still, it would’ve been more accurate in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid if the two leads discussed going to Argentina, instead of Bolivia. But their lives at Argentina would be boring so Bolivia it is.)

We’re not sure what happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid after San Vicente. (They actually opened fire from a house and were surrounded by the Bolivian army cavalry. However, it’s very likely that Butch and Sundance actually ended up killing themselves, according to a PBS documentary.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were members of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. (They were called the Wild Bunch and the Hole-in-the-Wall was a meeting place. However, The Wild Bunch is actually a title of a Sam Peckinpah kill em’ all western so we’ll let it slide.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid killed a lot of people during their life of crime. (Butch had only killed a few people in his entire life while Sundance didn’t kill anyone.)

Charles Woodcock tried to resist the Wild Bunch twice. (Yes, he was a real guy and actually did run afoul of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. However, the second time, he just let the robbers in and abandoned his capitalist heroics.)

Marshal Joe Lefors and an Indian scout named Lord Baltimore were charged with hunting down Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch Gang with a long, inescapable pursuit across the west. (E. H. Harriman actually hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to hunt down the Wild Bunch. Also, Lord Baltimore didn’t exist though Lefors was part of a posse. However, Butch Cassidy easily evaded the posse.)

Etta Place was a school teacher. (She may be Sundance’s girlfriend {or wife} who accompanied him and Butch to South America, but we’re not sure who she actually was. She may have been a school teacher, but she could’ve been a prostitute for all we know. Her name was probably Etta but Place is probably not her real surname. Still, we don’t know what happened to her since she vanishes after 1909.)

Billy the Kid:

Billy the Kid committed his first murder at 12 and went on to kill over twenty people before turning 21. (He committed his first murder at 18 and he only killed 8 men in his entire life {well, he at least killed four [mostly while escaping from jail and in self-defense] and was involved in four others}. Not to mention, Billy didn’t become an outlaw until he was in his late teens after he was arrested on charges that may have been botched. Also, he was willing to go straight whenever given the chance, was loyal to people who’ve been good to him, and only led a life of crime due to mitigating circumstances beyond his control.)

Billy the Kid’s girlfriend was white. (She was Mexican. Her name was Paulita Maxwell.)

Billy the Kid was a young raging psychopath. (Unlike many outlaws in the West or in history, he was anything but. But, yes he was violent, but most of his victims were armed. Still, he was more of a cattle rustler and horse thief when he absolutely needed to and wouldn’t really rob banks or trains.)

Billy the Kid lived in Tombstone in 1881. (He spent the last years of his life in New Mexico. Actually he spent a lot of his life in New Mexico.)

Billy the Kid was from Texas. (We’re not sure where he’s from though it said he was born in New York.)

Billy the Kid was born William Bonney. (He was born Henry McCarty yet he used William Bonny as an alias as well as Kid Antrim.)

Billy the Kid was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett as a suicide by cop scenario. (It wasn’t a suicide by cop scenario since Billy was shot in the back and had no idea Pat Garrett was in the same area. His last words were, “Quien es? Quien es?” {Spanish for “Who’s that?”}. Also, he was perfectly fine with fame and fortune.)

Billy the Kid was left handed. (He was right handed. Yet, he’s known as The Left-Handed Gun in the movie where Paul Newman plays him.)

Billy the Kid killed Buckshot Roberts in 1880. (Roberts was killed in 1878 by Charley Bowdre a member of his gang.)


Western lawmen had shiny metal badges. (Not until 1874. They also didn’t wear uniforms either.)

Western sheriffs were honest and law abiding men who brought law and order into towns. (It wasn’t unusual for 19th century law men to be former criminals. Cue to the Western town scene in Django Unchained when King Shultz shoots the sheriff and then asks for the marshal. From Balladeer’s Blog: “Lawmen were often corrupt out west, behaving more like redneck sheriffs in the south do. Hickok was no different. Wearing a badge AND owning a saloon, as Wild Bill often did,  meant you could ruthlessly enforce the laws against your competitors but overlook your own establishment’s violations. However, in general that and acceptance of bribes marked the extent of his dishonesty.” The Earps weren’t that much different either.)

Tom Cotton was sheriff in Cochise County, AZ in 1881. (Johnny Behan was the Cochise County sheriff at the time. Wyatt Earp would later steal his girlfriend Josephine Marcus. Cotton is a fictional character and so is Jimmy Bryan.)

Allen Pinkerton was involved in shootouts by the James-Younger Gang and was robbed by them. (He was never personally involved in the James-Younger shootouts nor robbed by them.)

The Earp Brothers:

Wyatt Earp followed his dad as patriarch of his family as he built the west. (Virgil was more of the patriarch than Wyatt. Wyatt was just the one who tried to get revenge on his brothers being maimed and killed.)

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were the best of buds. (This is disputed since some say Doc was actually closer to Wyatt’s brother Morgan who was the same age as he was. Morgan’s death might’ve been a motivating factor for him to join Wyatt on a series of revenge killings and would explain of their separation not long after.)

Wyatt Earp first met Doc Holliday in Tombstone. (They met years earlier at Fort Griffin, Texas.)

Wyatt Earp was at the O. K. Corral gunfight all by himself. (He was with his brothers Virgil and Morgan as well as Doc Holliday. Unlike in Frontier Marshal which gets a lot of things wrong about Wyatt Earp most movies get right.)

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were getting up in years by 1878. (Wyatt was 30 at the time while Doc was 27. Also, Doc died at 36. At least they got the bit about them fooling with prostitutes in Cheyenne Autumn, though they were played by Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy who were way too old to play them.)

Wyatt Earp drank whiskey on a regular basis. (According to his wife Josephine, he rarely drank alcohol.)

James Earp was the youngest Earp brother who was killed in Tombstone. (He was the oldest {if you don’t count older half-brother Newton Earp} and he wasn’t involved in any of the events pertaining to the gunfight at the O. K. Corral. He was actually a saloon keeper minding his own business who died in 1926 at the young age of 84 of totally natural causes. However, in movies, he usually gets killed at a tender young age even though he was a middle aged bald guy with a mustache and goatee at the time and married to a former prostitute and madam. Still, the only Earp brother who was killed in Tombstone was Morgan and that was after the gunfight at the O. K. Corral, which sparked the Earp Vendetta Ride where Wyatt and Warren Earp along with Doc Holliday and others would seek vengeance on the Cowboys.)

Wyatt Earp was always fond of wholesome Christian women. (Maybe but he wasn’t too picky since his second wife was a prostitute {and they lived in a common law marriage for 8 years} who accompanied Wyatt to Tombstone whom he sent away to his family in order to get her away from opiates. His third wife was a showgirl {and maybe a former prostitute} who’d been living with the Cochise County sheriff when she met him. Oh, and did I say she was Jewish? Also, there’s no wonder why hostile ranchers called the Earp brothers, “fighting pimps.” However, in movies, only Doc Holliday gets to be with his real life love interest {or at least someone of her profession like a Mexican whore in My Darling Clementine}, while Wyatt has to settle for some wholesome school teacher.)

None of the Earp brothers had mustaches. (All of the brothers had mustaches by the 1880s according to photographs. Doc Holliday had one, too. Yet, many movies the Earps and Doc are all clean shaven {well, Doc does get a mustache occasionally}.)

Wyatt Earp was the paragon of a Western lawman. (He was much shadier and self-interested than how he was mostly portrayed. He was a sometime lawman but a full time gambler, confidence man, and associate for prostitutes and pimps.)

Wyatt Earp’s wife Urilla Sutherland died of typhoid a year into their marriage during the middle stages in pregnancy. (She was ill but it’s suggested she might’ve died in childbirth.)

After losing his wife, Wyatt Earp drank up a bottle of booze on his front lawn and made the rest into a Molotov cocktail in which he threw into his own window burning his house. (He actually just sold the land he and Urilla had purchased. Also, who names their daughter Urilla?)

Wyatt Earp got the job of lawman in Wichita, Kansas by apprehending someone or in a shoot out. (It’s more likely he was recruited by the Witchita marshal who asked him nicely to join up.)

Wyatt Earp was a frontier marshal before the famous gunfight at the O. K. Corral. (In Tombstone, he had little, if any, legal authority and him and Morgan usually made their living riding shotgun in stagecoaches. Actually he was never a marshal in Tombstone period. However, his brother Virgil was the marshal though and he deputized Morgan and Wyatt minutes before the O. K. Corral gunfight.)

The Earps and Doc Holliday survived the O. K. Corral gunfight without a scratch. (Wyatt did. However, Virgil and Morgan were wounded while Doc Holliday was grazed with a bullet.)

Virgil Earp was a nice quiet family man during his time at Tombstone. (His genealogical profile states that he had a daughter in the 1860s who wasn’t in his life much until she was already married with kids in 1898 after she wrote a letter to him. His first wife had spent years thinking he was killed in the American Civil War until that time. In Tombstone, he was residing with his live-in girlfriend Allie Sullivan. He also had a legal wife but nothing is known about her. Only half-brother Newton Earp seems to be the family man of this bunch and he wasn’t even in Tombstone.)

Around the time of the O. K. Corral gunfight James Earp was a teenager, Virgil Earp was in his twenties, Wyatt Earp was thirty, and Morgan Earp was in his thirties. (Actually James was 40, Virgil was 38, Wyatt was 33, and Morgan was 30. Thus, what the hell My Darling Clementine?)

Virgil Earp was killed by being shot in the back by “Old Man” Clanton. (For one, “Old Man” Clanton was dead before the O. K. Corral gunfight. Second, while Virgil was shot in an ambush, he actually survived until 1905 but he never recovered from his wound in his left arm. Third, he died of pneumonia at 57.)

Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp all arrived in Tombstone together. (Wyatt, Virgil , and James Earp would arrive together. Morgan was on his way while youngest brother Warren would soon follow. In Tombstone, James and Warren weren’t there at all.)

Virgil and Morgan Earp were ambushed the same night. (Virgil was ambushed in December 1881 while Morgan was killed in March 1882. That’s a few month difference.)

Virgil Earp hit Ike Clanton over the head with the butt of his gun in a saloon after the latter made threats against the Earps. (This is mostly true except that it took place on a street outside and Wyatt struck Ike Clanton across the mouth with his Smith & Wesson leaving a small gouge on the lower left side of his gun barrel {presumably from one of Ike’s teeth}. Also, unlike what Tombstone says, there was no shooting in Fly’s photography studio or at a Mexican wedding. Not to mention, the Cowboys didn’t shoot up any of the Earp wives or anyone else’s.)

Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers cleaned up Tombstone. (From Baladeer’s Blog: “Doc and the Earps were also a crime faction running some gambling and prostitution in Tombstone. They were the upstarts to the established Clantons and McClaureys who also controlled rustling and political graft in the area. The Holliday- Earp faction DID win the gunfight at the OK Corral and made headlines with the gangland- style executions of several of their enemies after Morgan Earp was killed. However, the Clanton faction won in the end, with Doc and the Earps fleeing Arizona Territory. It’s fun watching how badly movies twist the facts to present Doc and company as the victors of that gang war.”)

Doc Holliday:

Doc Holliday was the only doctor in Tombstone, Arizona during the gunfight at the OK Corral. He was also from Boston. (For one, he was a Georgian dentist who had given up his practice mostly due to him having tuberculosis and a cough so bad that nobody would be his patient. And he was from Georgia not Boston. Also, he died six years after the gunfight of TB in Colorado which he had been suffering for years. Not to mention, Tombstone already had a full-time surgeon to tend to all gun-shot related needs. Too bad for the Clantons though.)

Doc Holliday was shot dead by Curly Bill Brocius right before the showdown at the O. K. Corral who in turn was killed by his girlfriend Jerry. (What the hell, Frontier Marshal? Kill a household legend just before the showdown that made him famous was about to take place? Still, Doc Holliday died in 1887 while Brocius would get gunned down by Wyatt Earp several days after the O. K. Corral gunfight. Not to mention, Brocius wasn’t at the gunfight. Also, Doc’s girlfriend was Big-Nosed Kate or Mary Katherine Horony. However, she did use Elder and Fisher as aliases.)

Doc Holliday killed Johnny Ringo. (Ringo more likely killed himself. If not, then Wyatt Earp probably did.)

Doc Holliday was a fine lawmen in the West. (According to Balladeer’s Blog: “Doc was more like a western gangster than a lawman. When Holliday was jailed for tampering with a horserace in Denver after fleeing Arizona, a newspaper war broke out over the controversial figure, who was in danger of being extradited to Arizona Territory where his old enemies could easily engineer his death in prison. Doc naturally cooperated with the anti- extradition newspapers pushing him as a heroic lawman figure against the pro- extradition newspapers depicting him as a criminal. Many myths about Doc Holliday, especially about him being a lawman, had their origin in this outrageous tabloid war. “)

Pat Garrett:

Pat Garrett was clean shaven and dressed in rags. (Photos show him as a dashing man in a mustache wearing a three piece suit.)

Pat Garrett’s middle name started with a J. (His middle name was Floyd.)

Wild Bill Hickock:

Wild Bill Hickock was killed before the Battle of Little Big Horn. (He was shot two months after the battle took place. I’m sure Dustin Hoffman seemed to have some memory problems as a 120 year old man in Little Big Man.)

Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane were romantically involved. (There’s no evidence to this though Jane did claim they were married. Also, at the time of death Bill was married to a 50 year old circus proprietor.)

Wild Bill Hickock was a marshal of Dodge City. (Other Kansas locales, sure, but never Dodge City. However, Dodge City has always been the default western town for Kansas.)

Lincoln County War:

John Tunstall:

John Tunstall was a fatherly old man who was murdered in 1878. (He was killed at 25. Still, he wasn’t a father figure to his cowhands nor was he a better person than his rival Murphy. Also, it was Murphy’s partner James Dolan who probably ordered his assassination, not Murphy.)

Lawrence Murphy:

Lawrence Murphy was involved in the Lincoln County War. (He had already sold his interest in the company of his partners Dolan and Riley who renamed it as the Jas. J. Dolan & Co. Murphy and was based in Santa Fe. Murphy may have been the main instigator of the Lincoln County War but he was battling bowel cancer since 1877 and wasn’t involved in the day to day activities. He’d die in October of 1878.)

John Kinney and Lawrence Murphy died at McSween’s house. (Lawrence Murphy died of cancer in 1878 and would’ve never been present at the McSween house. John Kinney was shot in the face by Billy the Kid but he survived another 40 years after the incident. Thus, Billy the Kid could never have killed either.)

Doc Scurlock:

Doc Scurlock had a romance with Lawrence Murphy’s Chinese sex slave, Yen Sun around the time of the Lincoln County War. (He had been married for two years by this point to Maria Miguela Herrera. He’d later have 10 children with her.)

Buckshot Roberts:

Buckshot Roberts’ job was to hunt down the Regulators and boy, was he evil. (Unlike his portrayal in Young Guns, he didn’t try to hunt them down. Rather he was just in town trying to collect his dues and leave when the Regulators ambushed him. He died the day after the showdown from a gunshot wound to his chest.)


Tombstone, Arizona was a rowdy cow town with a lot of new wooden buildings in 1879. (It was a mining boom town in the early stages of development with a few wooden buildings. However, these were outnumbered by many adobe ones which were outnumbered by tents.)

Tombstone was in Cochise County in 1879. (It was part of Prima County until it was gerrymandered in Cochise County in 1881.)

Gunfight at the O. K. Corral:

The gunfight at the O. K. Corral lasted for 6 minutes and a medium range, heavily armed shootout. (It was a 30 second face-to-face affair involving few firearms. It also took place at 3 in the afternoon, not at dawn.)

All six Clantons were killed in the gunfight at the O. K. Corral. (Only three people died which included Billy Clanton as well as Tom and Frank McLaury. At least one of them was killed by Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran unarmed before the shooting started. Ike Clanton brought murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday. According to Wikipedia: “The Cowboys claimed the Earps had killed the outlaws as they attempted to surrender. During the Spicer hearing, the coroner and witnesses presented conflicting evidence about whether the Cowboys had their hands in the air or guns in their hands or were trying to draw their weapon when the fighting started.” Spicer ruled that the lawmen had acted within their authority. Ike Clanton would be killed by a detective in Springfield, AZ in 1887. )

The gunfight at the O. K. Corral took place inside the building and during a warm sunny day. (It actually took place on a vacant lot owned by CS Fly and on a cold overcast day with snow on the ground.)

Clanton Gang and Associates:

“Old Man” Clanton was killed at the O. K. Corral gunfight. (He died in August of 1881 which was before the gunfight.)

Billy Clanton was in his thirties when he participated in the O. K. Corral. (He was 19 at the time. In Tombstone, he’s played by 33 year old Thomas Haden Church. At least Dennis Hopper was a better choice in Gunfight at the O. K. Corral, though he may not have had a heart to heart conversation with Wyatt Earp.)

Fred White died the night he was shot. (He actually lived to testify against Curly Bill Boucis and died a couple days after the Iron Springs shootout. From Imdb: “it was his testimony that the shooting was accidental that led to the freeing of “Curly” Bill, not a “lack of witnesses” as Tombstone depicts.”)

Johnny Ringo was killed at the O. K. Corral gunfight. (He wasn’t. Also, it’s said he later killed himself.)

Johnny Ringo was a remorseless killer. (Contrary to his portrayal in Tombstone, historical research could only point to him committing one murder. At one point in his life, he even served as a town marshal and all accounts said he was a conscientious and efficient lawman.)

Ike and Billy Clanton had a brother named Sam. (There was never a Clanton brother named Sam. They did have a brother named Phin but he wasn’t at the O. K. Corral gunfight and died in 1905.)

Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo were the leaders of the Cowboys prior to the Earps’ arrival in Tombstone. (“Old Man” Clanton was until his death, during a rustling expedition into Mexico, about 1-1/2 years after the Earps arrived. Brocius and Ringo were just members of the Clanton gang and nothing more.)

Earp Vendetta Ride:

Texas Jack Vermillion was part of Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride before Frank Stillwell was killed. (He joined up a day after.)

27 Cowboys were killed on Earp’s Vendetta Ride. (Only 4 Cowboy deaths were officially recorded with actual numbers being between 8-15 total. Still, it wasn’t a number to boast about in the newspapers.)

Big Nose Kate:

Big Nose Kate had an American accent. (She was Hungarian and didn’t come to the United States until she was ten.)

Big Nose Kate burned down a building so she could free her jailed boyfriend Doc Holliday. (This is just a legend but she does burn down something in Gunfight at the O. K. Corral.)


Billy Breckenridge was a young man in 1881. (He was 35 at the time unlike his depiction in Tombstone.)

The Iron Springs shootout between Wyatt’s posse and Curly Bill Boucis’ gang was an ambush by the latter. (Unlike Tombstone depicts, the two parties almost met by accident with Earp and his men looking for water where Bill and his guys were camping at the time.)

Mattie Blaycock Earp died shortly after leaving Tombstone. (She actually met up with Big Nose Kate and lived another eight years. Also, she was a brunette not a blonde like in Tombstone. Still, there’s no evidence whether she was addicted to opium while in Tombstone either.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 42 – The American West: Indian Wars


Kevin Costner’s 1990 Dances with Wolves is a film showing Native Americans in a more sympathetic light than in years previously as well as shows some of the landscapes of the Plains in breathtaking view. Still, let’s just say the Lakota speaking Sioux treat this as an unintentional comedy since Kevin Costner had no idea that there are separate male and female pronunciations and styles. Still, he probably would’ve done better if he hired a male and female Lakotah translator instead of just a female one. TTI states: “The overall effect for Lakotah-speaking audiences was a bunch of Klingon warriors talking like a ladies’ Saturday afternoon tea social.” Also, Plains Indian buffalo hunts go a lot differently than shown in the film and Pawnee should really sue for slander despite being the Sioux’s enemies.

The history of the American West has been one of the most filmed eras in American history. There have been countless films pertaining to the era of the untamed wilderness, savage Indian tribes, legendary outlaws, and all types of murder and mayhem starring the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. The American frontier in the 19th century has been the inspiration of many legends and myths that have lasted into the ages. Westerns have shaped our imagination what this period was like which usually contains beautiful scenery of canyons, mountains, desert, and other national park sites as well as lots and lots of violence. In some ways, it serves as part travelogue and part gorefest if its directed by Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah. Still, sometimes you may have cowboys as the good guys fighting against the influences of business and banditry. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the good or the bad. Still, westerns have played a very influential role in American culture which we can all identify. However, westerns tend to show the mythological image of the American West than the reality.

Of course, the relations between the white settlers and the Native Americans wouldn’t be a happy one. From the 1840s on, settlers have packed up and moved out West whether it was to California, Oregon, Utah, Kansas, or New Mexico. However, one problem was that there were already people living on the frontier over generations. Actually they had been living there for thousands of years but the white people didn’t give a shit and just settled down before driving the Indians from their ancestral homes onto the reservation. Well, at least the US government did as well as committed a series of human rights abuses that most Americans would like to forget. Nevertheless, the Indian Wars would give us legends like George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise, Kit Carson, and Crazy Horse. In movies, Indians could be portrayed as the villains, victims, forces of nature, or others. The military could be seen as heroes or villains. Still, these movies do present their array of historical inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.


Indian attacks were a common site on wagon trains and stagecoaches. (Indians knew better than to attack stagecoaches and wagon trains. If they were present on wagon trains, their conduct was peaceful and they served as guides and traders. Attacking whites wasn’t good business.)

Indians surrounded covered wagons and rode around and around to allow the settlers to shoot them off their pretty dappled ponies. (This wouldn’t happen a lot because most Indians would never attack settlers on covered wagons. Nevertheless, Comanches were studied in European military schools because they were known to have the finest light cavalry in the world.)

Intermarrying was very frequent between Indians and white settlers but they strangely they simply didn’t seem to get along. (I’m just to alluding to the fact Native Americans in old western movies were played by white actors.)

All western Indians wear plains style costumes and love to don on the feather bonnet headdresses. (Actually, only high ranking Plains Indians wore the outfits.)

Whenever Indians weren’t attacking white settlers, they were either smoking a peace pipe or hunting buffalo. They may have also communicated using smoke signals and sign language yet always used a bow and arrow as weapons.

Indians usually scalped white settlers or tied them to a totem pole if captured. (Yes, Indians scalped people and we can’t dispute that. However, only the Pacific Northwest tribes had totem poles and they usually used them for very different purposes like clan identification and lineages, stories, or notable events. Sometimes they can be used as welcome signs, vessels to store remains of dead ancestors, or as a way to ridicule somebody. They were not used to tie prisoners.)

The Sioux referred to themselves as the Lakota. (No, they pretty much refer to themselves as the Sioux or Dakota, well sort of. Also, not all Sioux are Lakota.)


Pawnee Indians would attack American settlements. (They were allies for the US government.)

In white man-Indian woman relationships, the Indian woman is usually an Indian princess who marries into the white man’s culture. (Not every Indian woman who married a white man was an Indian princess, which is a strictly European concept. Nor would most Indian princesses or other Indian women assimilate into the white man’s culture but in many cases the opposite would happen, especially in French Canada {Sacajawea’s marriage is a prime example of this}. Nor would marrying an Indian woman bring civilization to her people {though there were Indians who did convert to western ways like the Cherokee}. Rather it would end up leading to mass slaughter and destruction of a culture.)

The Cheyenne were an Indian tribe in the Rocky Mountains. (They were a Plains tribe.)

Crazy Horse and George Armstrong Custer met face to face. (They never met in person. Also, given Crazy Horse’s relative anonymity, it’s unlikely he would’ve been recognized had he been captured at Little Big Horn. Heck, this guy went to great lengths never to be photographed for God’s sake. Sitting Bull may have been more appropriate.)

Crazy Horse was willing to give all Indian lands to the whites except the Black Hills. (Crazy Horse would’ve made no such deal. Still, perhaps the least offensive thing about Crazy Horse’s character in They Died with Their Boots On is that he’s played by Anthony Quinn {a lot of Hispanics have indigenous ancestry and a lot of Native Americans are part white so his portrayal isn’t as offensive as it seems. I mean the guy’s Mexican and most likely had Native ancestry}.)

Sioux Indians could bring down a stampeding buffalo with single arrow shots. (Sorry, Kevin Costner, but bow hunting doesn’t work that way. In real life, the hunters would have to track the wounded animals, sometimes for miles, until they bled to death. This could take hours or days. Let’s just say that if Dances with Wolves depicted an actual Indian bison hunt, it would be pretty boring.)

Indians mostly used bows and arrows as a weapon of choice. (They used guns, too, and there 25 types of firearms found at Little Bighorn.)

The Sioux brought down stampeding buffalo with single arrow shots. (Sorry, Kevin Costner, but bow hunting doesn’t work this way. In reality, hunters would have to track the wounded animals, sometimes for miles, until they bled out.)

The Sioux weren’t familiar with the white man prior to the American Civil War. (Yes, they were. In fact, in 1862, the Dakota Sioux had fought whites in Western Minnesota with 800 whites dead and 38 Sioux hanged. Kicking Bird would’ve known about this.)

Indians would always constantly attack settlements as well as kidnap or kill white settlers. (Sometimes this would happen but not a whole lot. However, children who were kidnapped by Indians would usually be assimilated in the tribe within a year contrary to the Natalie Wood character in The Searchers {God, I hate that movie}. Perhaps that bastard John Wayne should’ve just left her with the Indians because she would’ve been able to shake off her Indian language and habits she had acquired over the last five years. Seriously, Natalie Wood probably wouldn’t have lived happily ever after.)

Indians terrorized whites for personal gratification and blood lust. (Usually it was more due to something like building a farm on their traditional hunting ground if it pertained to settlers in the case of Cynthia Ann Parker. Still, unlike Dances with Wolves, they wouldn’t usually adopt a white man into their tribe. Nevertheless, while Indians did raid settlements they were usually small farms where they didn’t stick around very long and Indian massacres on whites were the exception rather than the rule. Besides, Indians knew that raiding heavy populated areas was just asking for trouble.)

Indians were victims of ruthless whites. (Yes, this is true but to a point but they weren’t simply victims and were just as much authors of their own destiny who dealt in American expansion the way they thought would be best for their societies. According to History Banter: “After the Civil War, the United States actually adopted a peaceful policy in dealing with Plains Indians. There were only a 100 thousand or so of them remaining in 1865, little threat to a nation that had just fielded an army of over a million soldiers. So in an attempt to foster peace, the U.S. assigned Quakers to deal with Plains’ tribes…..Quaker agents went onto Indian lands where they tried to convince local Indians not to raid American settlements. At the same time, it was the Quakers responsibility to prevent whites from attacking Indians. Many Indians realized that the Quakers were effective in this latter duty, but were not so adept at preventing their raids on American settlements. So, the Indians raided and hid behind the Quakers’ authority when angry whites came for revenge. Eventually, cries from the frontier about the Quakers reached Washington and this peaceful system was thrown out the door in favor of a more aggressive means of dealing with Plains Indians.” Still, they didn’t really need Kevin Costner to help them.)


The 7th Cavalry contained only American soldiers. (There were plenty of European immigrants in that regiment.)

The 7th Cavalry charged into Little Bighorn with their swords drawn. (They didn’t have their sabers with them.)

Black and white US Army soldiers fought side by side. (As long as the black soldiers were enlisted men and white soldiers were officers.)

The story of Fort Apache unfolded like the Battle of Little Bighorn transplanted in Arizona. (Not really. Also, the fort wasn’t named Fort Apache five years until after Chief Cochise’s death contrary to the John Ford movie. Until then it was named Camp Ord or Camp Apache. Still, John Ford, you could’ve had the resident Indian chief be Geronimo or Cochise’s son Naiche who not many people know about. Oh, and the military clash happened in 1881 and not the 1870s.)

George Armstrong Custer:

George Armstrong Custer was a flamboyant, arrogant, idiotic, and bigoted coward who got what he deserved at Little Bighorn. (Custer was flamboyant and probably wasn’t the best soldier or a hero at Little Bighorn but he definitely wasn’t a coward nor a bigot either {at least by 19th century standards}. He was a hero at Gettysburg for thwarting a Confederate cavalry attack from the rear led by J. E. B. Stuart which was key to Lee’s battle plan, led to Philip Sheridan giving him and his wife the Appomattox surrender table as a gift. Still he was a glory seeker willing to sacrifice his men for his own personal glory and was very cruel to them, which is why his men didn’t like him. His units suffered high casualty rates in the Civil War {his division had the highest number of casualties in the Union Army}, sometimes to horrendous levels and he was once suspended for a year for being AWOL, misappropriation of funds meant for provisions for reservation Indians, and during his Reconstruction duty in Texas nearly escaped being fragged by his own troops {the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry who had resented his attempts on discipline}. He also liked to promote his image, was very reckless in battle, and had greatly wished to regain his rank after having being general in the Civil War. Yet, he was a fearless and an aggressive soldier, wasn’t afraid of using unconventional means to accomplish his goals, a loving husband {though he wasn’t entirely faithful}, and he once refuse to massacre starving, exhausted, and defenseless soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia despite Sheridan ordering him to. He was probably more of an anti-hero than anything. Still, as an officer of the US Army killing Indians was part of his job more or less. The general historical consensus has him as a colorful and capable cavalry commander who just let his ego override his judgment in attacking a force that vastly outnumbered his.)

All of George Armstrong Custer’s men died at Little Bighorn. (His battalion consisting of C, E, F, I, L companies were wiped out. However, the remaining seven companies under the charge of his subordinates Major Reno and Captain Benteen were not. Thus, out of his 586 men only 262 were killed including himself while 55 were wounded. Still, the Battle of Little Bighorn lasted an hour and “the Last Stand” wasn’t a blaze of glory either. Nevertheless, splitting his force may not have been the best thing to do but it saved many of his men’s lives.)

George Armstrong Custer was a passionate defender for Indian rights. (He was just as much willing to kick the Indians off their land as any other white man. He had also staged a massacre of Cheyenne families at the Washita as well as been fighting Indians in Kansas and in the Yellowstone Valley. However, he didn’t believe Indian genocide was a viable solution. Nevertheless, he wasn’t the only one to wage war against the Indians or commit crimes against indigenous people, attack Indian villages, or chase military glory.)

George Armstrong Custer took a break from the army after the American Civil War until he was sent to Fort Abraham Lincoln. (He never left the army and had served in Texas, Kansas, and in the Yellowstone Valley.)

George Armstrong Custer was offered $10,000 to serve as president of a railroad company. (He was actually offered $10,000 in gold {as well as requested a leave of absence} to serve as an Adjutant General in Benito Juarez’s army in Mexico.)

George Armstrong Custer drank after the American Civil War. (He had been sober since his 1862 where he made a humiliating spectacle of himself.)

Custer’s promotion to general was an administration mistake. (It wasn’t and it was 3 days before Gettysburg in the command of volunteers.)

George Armstrong Custer entered West Point as a privileged rich boy. (He grew up in an ordinary working class household and was at West Point on scholarship. Contrary to They Died with Their Boots On, it was Custer’s socioeconomic background which was the main reason why Judge Bacon didn’t want Custer to marry his daughter, not because Custer insulted him in a bar.)

George Armstrong Custer promised he would defend the Black Hills for the Sioux. (He never made this promise and actually started a gold rush to the Black Hills.)

George Armstrong Custer was killed by arrows. (Sorry, but Custer didn’t go down like Boromir. He was actually killed by Indian gunfire. Not to mention, it’s said that the Indians may have had better repeating rifles than Custer’s men did. I know most depictions have Indians only using bows and arrows. But yes, Indians did have guns which they obtained through trade with white settlers. Also, he had cut his long flowing locks before he began his last campaign so him having long hair at Little Bighorn is pure Hollywood. Oh, and he was wearing buckskins at the battle like Errol Flynn in They Died with Their Boots On instead of a blue military uniform like Richard Mulligan in Little Big Man.)

George Armstrong Custer was sent back to Washington to a congressional hearing over one of his own infractions and had to persuade Ulysses S. Grant to send him back to the 7th Cavalry. (This never happened. However, Custer did go on a trip to Washington and did sit in a congressional hearing but it was over a kickback scandal involving US Secretary of War William Belknap, Grant’s brother Orville {one of the most embarrassing presidential siblings to date}, and traders at Army posts in Indian Country who were charging troops double on what they would’ve paid for the same goods in Bismarck. His testimony led to Belknap getting impeached, which caused a media sensation. Oh, and Custer and Grant didn’t get along since not only Custer testified against his own brother and War secretary over corruption charges, he also arrested his son Frederick for drunkenness earlier, and had written magazine articles criticizing his peace policy toward the Indians. Still, Grant wouldn’t order for Custer’s arrest or removal of command until Custer left Washington without his permission {though Grant had turned him down three times for a personal meeting, following Sherman’s advice}. Oh, and he didn’t get his command back until he, General Terry, and Philip Sheridan persuaded Grant to do so. Most of the intrigue is absent from They Died with Their Boots On, which is kind of a shame.)

George Armstrong Custer received a Civil War Campaign medal. (The first of these medals were issued in 1909. Custer died in 1876. Still, he probably should’ve had one though.)

George Armstrong Custer had dark hair and was clean shaven. (He had flowing light brown hair or perhaps blond as well as sported a mustache. Yet, in The Santa Fe Trail, he’s played by Ronald Reagan of all people. Say what you want about They Died with Their Boots On but at least Australian actor Errol Flynn made a fairly decent Custer in comparison. Also, he didn’t graduate at the same time as J. E. B. Stuart who was six years older than him.)

George Armstrong Custer met his wife while a student at West Point. (He met Libby the year after he graduated in 1862 and they married two years later.)

George Armstrong Custer was a general during the Battle of Little Big Horn. (He was a lieutenant colonel and was only a brevet general during the American Civil War, which disappeared when the war was over. Still, after the war he was demoted to captain but he did rise to lieutenant colonel by his own efforts.)

Libby Custer was General Philip Sheridan’s niece. (They weren’t even related to each other and there’s no evidence that she even knew the guy independently of her husband’s association with him. Still, unlike in the movie They Died with Their Boots On, George Armstrong Custer was actually one of Sheridan’s favorite officers though.)


Brit Johnson was a white scout. (He was black. Still, his story was the inspiration for The Searchers, in which his character was played by John Wayne. Also, unlike the John Wayne character, Johnson wasn’t a Civil War veteran, didn’t fight for the Confederacy, or ever held racist views. Not to mention, only one child from his family was killed in the Indian attack and never rekidnapped any hostage who the Indians had adopted and married off. He was a black slave for his journey started in 1864 and ended after the Civil War was over. Also, his relations with the Indians were peaceful and managed to get his family back and others through negotiations. Still, Johnson’s story doesn’t have a good end for even though he did return home and tried to set himself up as a freed man, he and his ex-slave business partners were killed by Indians and it’s impossible to say who.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 41 – The American Civil War: Reconstruction and Other Things


Perhaps no movie has managed to shape perceptions of Reconstruction in many people than D. W. Griffith’s 1915 Birth of a Nation, even if it was a grossly inaccurate as well as blatantly white supremacist propaganda, which made Woodrow Wilson think it was too racist (who actually was more racist even by 1915’s standards). However, despite its controversy even in its day, this is a movie that can’t be ignored when it comes to movie history. In the words of Andrew Sarris, “Classic or not, Birth of a Nation has long been one of the embarrassments of film scholarship. It can’t be ignored … and yet it was regarded as outrageously racist even at a time when racism was hardly a household word.” Still, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch this movie, except film students.

The American Civil War would draw to a close in April of 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. However, barely a week later Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth  which would send shock waves to the nation. Still, the process of Reconstruction had begun which was said to be a time of healing factions between North and South as well as grant African Americans US citizenship and help them to carve lives of their own. Still, while the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments would pass, unfortunately, many Southern whites weren’t happy with blacks trying to live their lives as American citizens and tried to do all they can to ruin it through intimidation as well as violence. Eventually Reconstruction would end but though there was so much progress made in the South, many of the Southern whites would eventually reverse many of these changes or at least try to that by the rest of the 19th century, there would be a new system of discrimination called segregation, black codes, and Jim Crow in an era seen as the nadir of American race relations which would continue until at least the 1920s, if not the 1940s. Yet, despite setbacks, African Americans would continue to fight for their rights and would keep the spirit of Reconstruction on even if no one else did. Hollywood doesn’t treat this subject well, since it’s a controversial time in American history, yet nevertheless, there are plenty of movie inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

The Lincoln Assassination:

Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous words to the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural the day he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. (No, he gave these speeches much earlier. Still, what the hell D. W. Griffith?)

John Wilkes Booth entered through the door behind Mary Todd to Abraham Lincoln’s right. (He entered through the door on Lincoln’s left and fired just below his left ear. The D. W. Griffith biopic also shows him jumping from Lincoln’s box through the far left opening {facing the right}. In reality, he actually jumped through the right opening directly in front of the president, nicking the corner of Washington’s picture with the spur of his ankle. This caused him to stumble when he fell resulting in a broken leg.)

Dr. Samuel Mudd was involved in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, hence the phrase “His name is mud.” (The saying had been around for two decades before the Lincoln Assassination. Also, it’s more likely Mudd was just a man doing his job who probably knew nothing about the conspiracy against Lincoln. His only involvement in the assassination was just patching Booth’s leg.)

Abraham Lincoln was laid on a bed to the side over the covers and clothed at the time of death. (He was laid diagonally on a bed under the covers to be kept warm {since he lingered for 10 hours} which was too small for him and he wasn’t clothed so the doctors could check for other wounds.)

Frederick Aiken was a 27-year-old Union veteran and lawyer in 1865. (He was a 33 year old Democratic activist with strong Southern sympathies {yet fought for the North anyway and achieved the rank of Colonel} who had a co-counsel named John W. Clampitt who helped him at the trial when Reverdy Johnson stepped aside.)

Edwin Stanton tried to strong arm the commission into returning a death sentence against Mary Surratt. (There’s little evidence he did this.)

The Lincoln conspirators were held in a prison situated in a barren area miles from Washington DC. (They were held at the Old Capitol Prison in the middle of the city which is now the site of the Supreme Court building.)

John Wilkes Booth still had his trademark mustache when he was trapped and killed. (He had shaved it off shortly after Lincoln’s assassination so he’d be more difficult to identify. Still, he probably shouldn’t have broken his leg.)

John Wilkes Booth caught his spur on the American flag on the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater. (He caught it on a US Treasury flag.)

Abraham Lincoln was carried out of Ford’s Theater fully dressed with suit and tie neatly in place. (According to historical accounts, Dr.Charles Leale and other doctors assisting him at Ford’s Theater cut away much of Lincoln’s coat and shirt in a frantic attempt to resuscitate him moments after the president had been shot. This was done prior to his being moved.)

Secretary of State William Seward was stabbed in his bed when his room was brightly lit. (Historical accounts state that Seward’s room was quite dark accounting for Lewis Payne’s failure to kill the Secretary of State {later known to oversee the purchase of Alaska} resulting in him missing any vital areas with his knife because he couldn’t see his target very well in a dark room. Also, the elderly Seward was very thin causing Payne’s thrusts to miss the mark.)

The room Abraham Lincoln was brought to in the Peterson Boarding House was brightly lit. (All historical accounts say that the room was very dark and dim as well as being illuminated by a small gas jet fixed to a wall.)

Abraham Lincoln was placed in the bead with his head toward the wall and his feet toward the doctors. (He was placed with his feet toward the wall and his head closest to the open side of the bed so the doctors could get to him {I mean he’d been shot in the head}. A historical photograph of Lincoln’s death bed confirms this.)

Frederick Aiken’s middle name was Sebastian. (It was Augustus.)


It was the job of the Klu Klux Klan to restore honor to the South that was lost by the Northern victory during the Civil War. (In the minds of the white racist Southerners, yes, but some people have a twisted sense of honor. Had to include this because of Birth of a Nation, mostly because it depicts the KKK as white knights, which is obviously offensively false. In reality they were terrorists who wanted the freed slaves stripped of their rights as citizens and helped usher in an era of segregation, disenfranchisement, and Jim Crow.)

African Americans were unfit to exercise their political rights. (Made up by Southern whites because they didn’t want blacks to have any political power. And as politicians, blacks were no worse or than their white counterparts. Another racist lie from Birth of a Nation.)

Northerners who came to the South during Reconstruction were carpetbaggers invading happy Southern land and conspiring with blacks. (Many helped slaves get a new start in life as well as expand opportunities {like public education} and voting rights to poor whites as well as those who also didn’t have the right to vote before the Civil War began {except women}. Still, according to David Blight: “The South dearly wanted Northern investment. It’s one of the ironies of this. Early on, they wanted Northern investment. They wanted federal investment to help them rebuild their harbors and build some railroads and rebuild towns and cities, re-establish agricultural production. Most Northerners that went South and became carpetbaggers were already there in 1865 or ’66, before the radical regimes are even created. So that idea that they all went there to exploit and establish radical Republican political organization is not exactly the case.”)

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was fanatical, vengeful villain obsessed with further punishing, the poor, defeated South. (Actually, what Stevens was obsessed with granting newly freed blacks civil rights and suffrage, mostly because he saw them as human beings not as a way to punish the South. But Southern whites didn’t want that. This is another error from Birth of a Nation but Lincoln corrects this. Actually, almost everything in Birth of a Nation is while a significant film itself, one that is better described as a long KKK recruitment commercial than anything. It is one of the worst examples of historical films to date eschewing the facts to promote white supremacy as well as contained perhaps the most negative depiction of African Americans to date. Oh, and all the black characters in the film were played by whites wearing blackface. It has no historical credibility whatsoever.)

Andrew Johnson addressed his enemies in the Senate during his impeachment. (This didn’t happen.)

An ailing senator cast the vote against removing Andrew Johnson from office brought into the chamber at the last minute. (It was actually by a Republican senator from Kansas named Edmund Ross who thought that the impeachment articles against Johnson were trumped up political charges without merit {which they were}.)

Senator Jim Waters was the man who would’ve succeed Andrew Johnson had he been removed from office. (A senator named Ben Wade was.)

Most blacks were lynched over sexual indiscretions involving a white woman. (Well, these kinds of stories made sensational national headlines as well as used as a way to justify such hate crimes in movies like Birth of a Nation. However, according to muckraking journalist and an African American woman, the legendary Ida B. Wells, 70% of lynchings occurred when victims tried to vote, demanded their rights, purchased land, and owned successful businesses. So I guess Southerners were more worried about blacks exercising their God given rights than anything. Thus, most lynchings were simply hate crimes against blacks.)

Most black legislators were ignorant buffoons who looked ridiculous “playing government.” (Well, you can say the same thing about many legislators of any ethnicity. Still, while some black legislators were fresh from the farm, many were well-educated anti-slavery activists. Sorry, Birth of a Nation.)

Southern convicts during Reconstruction were primarily white. (They were mostly black who may have been incarcerated under dubious circumstances {but they were treated horribly nevertheless}. Yet, the convict whiteness serves a purpose in Gone with the Wind just to make Frank Kennedy and Ashley Wilkes squirm.)

Ulysses S. Grant helped robber barons with crooked land deals for the first transcontinental railroad in exchange for their influence in securing him in the 1868 presidential election. (Grant was widely recognized for his integrity and would never have done this. Also, by 1868, Grant would have no trouble getting the presidency because he was incredibly popular and would remain so for the rest of his life.)

The South was under oppressive military rule during Reconstruction. (According to Eric Foner: “The idea that the South was under military rule and military occupation is really a myth. The Union army was demobilized very, very fast at the end of the Civil War. Some people thought, too fast, because there was so much chaos and violence in the South. By 1866, there are 10,000, 12,000, maybe 15,000 soldiers left in the South. But most of them are in Texas, fighting the Indians. You could go for months and months in the South without ever seeing a federal soldier. There were small encampments of federal soldiers around. And if there were outbreaks of violence, they would sometimes be brought in to try to suppress it. Sometimes the Freedmen’s Bureau would call in a few soldiers to arrest a planter who refused to pay his workers or something like that. But no. Law and order was in the hands of governments, not of the army. And military rule was very, very brief. And the occupation was quite short-lived, really, in any practical sense.”)

The Klu Klux Klan wore white robes and conical hats during this period. (They did wear masks and hoods at this time but the white robes and conical hats started in the Klan’s second iteration, perhaps thanks to Birth of a Nation. So the first Klan more or less looked like the posse you see in Django Unchained than in the 1915 D. W. Griffith film. It’s said to have started as a social brotherhood in funny hats club for Confederate veterans but I’m not sure if I buy it.)


J. E. B. Stuart, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Philip Sheridan, John Bell Hood, and George Armstrong Custer all graduated at West Point in 1854. (Stuart, yes, but Longstreet graduated in 1842 about a year before Grant, Pickett in 1846, Sheridan and Hood in 1853, and Custer in 1861. Yet, these guys all seem to be in the same West Point Class according to The Santa Fe Trail.)

Colonel Arthur James Lyon Freemantle was a total English fop. (He was a British observer on a self-funded trip to the Confederacy to shadow the army and see the war for himself. He was a pretty down to earth kind of guy whose book contained frequent references to his lack of dress clothes, his gray pants, and his dusty attire so he wasn’t wearing a shiny red outfit at Gettysburg. Not to mention, he wouldn’t be sipping a tea from a china cup on the freaking battlefield. Still, traveling all the way to see a war that will have lasting implications on how wars are fought in the future? Why weren’t other foreign officers doing this?)

Bananas were available in the US during the Civil War. (They were available after it, not during it.)

Both sides called the Battle of Bull Run by its well-known name. (Only Northerners referred to it as the Battle of Bull Run because of the Bull Run River. Southerners refer to it as the Battle of Manassas because it was the closest town. Many battles would be named after the closest river by the North while they’d be named after the closest town in the South.)

Americans during the Civil War sided with the side representative of the geographical location. (Yes, to a point for there were the Northern Copperheads like Clement Vallandingham who sympathized with the South and there plenty of people in the South who sided with the Union including a few generals. In fact, about 25% of Union Forces consisted of those from Confederate states {one of them being my 3rd great grandfather from Tennessee}. Richmond was rife with anti-Confederate sentiment that it spent much of the war under martial law and Confederate officials were suspect to attacks by pro-Union guerrilla bands. Arkansas had two governments that represented both sides. In Texas, Unionist support was endemic among the German and Mexican communities and various Unionist areas were harassed and/or massacred by local officials for it. When the draft was instated, many resistors in these communities were said to go into hiding or flee to Mexico with many hunted down or shot. Also, there was another demographic that was all too happy to don the blue uniform and that group was known as ex-slaves. Then there’s the existence of West Virginia which split from Virginia to rejoin the Union. Not to mention, the James brothers and their gang fought for the Confederacy, even though they were from Missouri.)

Robert E. Lee was a brilliant general and a saint while Ulysses S. Grant was a drunk who got lucky. (Actually Robert E. Lee wasn’t a nice guy and despite the fact he graduated from West Point with no demerits which still stands, he wasn’t the great general Lost Causers make him out to be. He was also a man of his time who could only think inside the box. I mean Lee was the one who decided to invade the North going through Maryland and Pennsylvania which resulted in the Union kicking his ass in Gettysburg. As for Grant, he probably wasn’t a drunk; he more likely had a low tolerance for alcohol for drinking was very commonplace in the military at the time, even to excess. It was said he usually drank when there was nothing going on or when he was separated from his wife. Still, as far as I’ve read on Grant’s drinking, his drinking habits don’t seem to fit those of an alcoholic. And despite the fact he graduated in the middle of his class at West Point, he didn’t help the North win the Civil War just because he had more disposable resources than Lee did and historians have called him one of America’s first twentieth century generals who won victories through his creative strategy that would be one of the reasons why the American Civil War was known as the first modern war.)

Civil War Enfield rifles had serial numbers. (Authentic ones don’t but reproductions do.)

The Civil War began with the Union Army firing on Fort Sumter. (It was the Confederate Army that fired the first shot.)

In the Civil War cannon shells that exploded on impact were not used. The cannon shells at Gettysburg had timed fuses so that the shells would explode in the air casting shrapnel downward to cause casualties. If a shell landed before exploding, it would just bury itself in the ground and scatter dirt harmlessly when exploding. In the movie, the cannon shots all explode when hitting the ground, not in the air, and are obviously preset charges. By the way, this is why the Confederates overshot the Union forces at Gettysburg. Their main supplier had burned down just prior to the battle and they were forced to use fuses from another source. The Confederates did not yet realize that these fuses burned slower than their previous ones so the shell would travel further before exploding. [This is untrue. ‘Percussion’ shells were used during the Civil War which would mean that shells would explode on impact.] (I got this from a site, but I don’t know which one.)

The barrage tactic was used in the Wilmington attack of 1865. (It was invented by the British in the 1880s and was first used in 1915.)

The Civil War was referred to this during the 1860s. (It would be referred to this a decade later and only by the North while it wouldn’t be referred to this in the South until the 1960s. At this time it was either “the war,” “the War of Secession,” or “the War between the States” since the South tried to form its own country. However, there were plenty of people living in the Confederacy who fought for the North such as the future state of West Virginia {Southern Unionists made a quarter of the Union forces}.)

Ulysses S. Grant and James Longstreet were buddies before the Civil War. (This is true but Longstreet also was at Grant’s wedding. Also, Julia Dent Grant was Longstreet’s cousin and Grant’s wife.)

Civil War doctors boiled their surgical instruments to prevent them from infecting patients. (Doctors wouldn’t do this until 1879. Also, I’m sure that Civil War doctors didn’t practice modern sanitation since clean hands and clean water for cleaning surgical instruments were optional. In fact, wasn’t the lack of sanitation the reason why so many soldiers died? I mean germs killed more Civil War soldiers than bullets. In the Civil War, it was safer to fight an entire battle than it was to be sent into a field hospital. Yet, in The Horse Soldiers, the doctors seem oddly concerned with cleanliness.)

Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant were famous names at the start of 1862. (Both were relative unknowns at the time. Lee wouldn’t assume command of the Army of Northern Virginia until June of that year. Grant would win his first victory at Fort Donelson that February in which he’d get the nickname “Unconditional Surrender Grant” for his generous surrender terms.)

All soldiers who participated in the Civil War lived in the modern United States. (Some 33,000-55,000 Canadians also fought in the war, but mostly on the Union side since they were more anti-slavery than many US Northerners. About 29 of them would receive the Medal of Honor. There were notable examples from other countries as well.)

The Battles of First Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville were the three major battles before Gettysburg. (There’s Antietam, the Peninsular campaigns, Battle of Seven Days, and Second Bull Run. And that’s just the battles involving the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac. You also have Fort Donelson, Shiloh, the Vicksburg Campaign, Farragut’s capture of New Orleans, and others.)

Soldiers on both sides always stayed loyal to the entity they started in. (A lot of POWs from both sides had the tendency to switch.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 40 – The American Civil War: The North


As far as American Civil War movies go, Spielberg’s Lincoln from 2012 is one of the best as well as brings the beloved 16th president to life in a way nobody else has ever seen before which gave Daniel Day Lewis a well deserved Oscar for his performance. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones performed superbly as Mary Todd Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens as well. Sure there may be some minor inaccuracies in this but the overall spirit rings true in almost every way. Still, perhaps the biggest historic atrocity about this film is that it lost to Argo at the Academy Awards. I totally love this film which is like historical C-SPAN but fun.

The American Civil War wasn’t much better in the North at first since they had a series of terrible generals who Abraham Lincoln had to select because he couldn’t find anyone else. However, once there were generals like Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Chamberlain, and Thomas who won battles, then he focused his attention to them. In 1861, the primary reason for the North fighting this war was to save the union through any means necessary even if it meant not freeing a single slave. But once slaves began to flock to Union troops seeing them as liberators, Lincoln would later issue his Emancipation Proclamation the next year which called for slaves in areas controlled by the Confederacy to be forever free as of 1863. Then you have the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg address. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed which abolished slavery once and for all. Still, national unity and freeing slaves weren’t the only things that the North one on. They also had factories, a strong centralized government, large populations, a good navy, good diplomatic ties, and a strong skilled leader in President Abraham Lincoln. Of course, despite a lot of these things, sometimes the North tends to be seen as the villain in Civil War movies which kind of give many inaccurate impressions of them. Still, there are plenty of historical errors relating to the Civil War North which I shall list accordingly.

Francis Preston Blair Sr. was a nice looking old man in 1865 with a full head of hair. (Unlike the Hal Holbrook portrayal in Lincoln, the real Blair kind of resembled some undead monster you’d see in a zombie film rising from his grave. Also, he had been bald since he was a young man. I’ll forgive Spielberg on this one. Elizabeth Keckley doesn’t look like the Gloria Reuben’s portrayal in Lincoln either according to her photograph, but we’re not sure when her picture was taken.)

Union soldiers took aim by standing forward with their left foot. (They would usually step back with their right foot bringing it behind their left. Stepping forward would desecrate the line according to 19th century warfare.)

Joshua Chamberlain died at 83. (He was 85.)

Thomas Chamberlain was an everyman who fitted throughout the Confederate camps and made friends with whomever he met at Gettysburg. (There’s no historical basis of this.)

There were no black Union soldiers involved in the Battle of the Crater. (They were heavily involved in this battle.)

Union officers drank Don Perignon champagne. (This brand wasn’t around until 1921 or sold until 1936.)

Union officers used “at ease.” (This command didn’t exist in the Civil War. It would’ve been “at rest” or “in place rest.”)

Union General Charles Garrison Harker was in South Carolina at the same time as the 54th Massachusetts. (He was part of the Army of the Cumberland and was fighting in the Tullahoma Campaign in Tennessee. Also, unlike his portrayal in Glory which has him as a man in his forties, he was only 25 at the time.)

Union Army sergeant insignias were sewn onto a blue cloth backing all at once. (This is common among Civil War reenactors. Yet, during the Civil War, the stripes of the era were individual stripes which had to be sewn on one by one.)

Union volunteer cavalry at Shiloh also served at Gettysburg. (The cavalry that served in Shiloh were in the Battle of Vicksburg which was being fought around the same time as Gettysburg. Those at Gettysburg were in Virginia during the Battle of Shiloh. No volunteer cavalry could be present in both battles.)

Secretary of State William Seward was patronizing and dismissive toward Lincoln. (By 1864, he was practically in love with the man, but not in a gay way. Also, Lincoln would sometimes go to Seward’s house for dinner and an evening of laughs, songs, and wine.)

There were black Union soldiers at Fort Monroe at the arrival of the Confederate Peace Commission. (Black soldiers greeting Confederate envoys, what could possibly go wrong with that?)

The Capitol Dome was gray in 1865. (It had always been white since its completion in 1863.)

Andrew Johnson last served in the US Senate in 1861. (He last served in 1862 before being appointed as military governor of Tennessee.)

Only one Connecticut representative voted for the 13th Amendment. (All four representatives did.)

Every seat in Congress was occupied during the vote on the 13th Amendment. (At least 18 were left empty which would’ve belonged to the states that seceded.)

Copperheads were peaceful people who just didn’t like war. (Actually they were the antiwar Northern faction of the Democratic Party who wanted immediate peace with the Confederacy. While the War Democrats didn’t care for Lincoln, they supported the Union war effort anyway. The Copperhead Peace Democrats, on the other hand, were more radical in their virulent racist, hatred, and demonization of Lincoln, as well as sympathy for the Confederacy. And some of their rhetoric is just so vile with so many n-words that it’s too offensive to quote {well, you can watch the scene in Lincoln with the introduction of Fernando Wood, but it’s pretty tame. Still, he was a notorious Copperhead who called for New York City’s secession in the war’s beginning}. Sure they opposed the draft, emancipation, and suspension of habeas corpus, but they weren’t pacifists or Quakers {who were deeply anti-slavery and supported the Underground Railroad}. They were an organized political movement with political aims to chiefly undermine the Union war effort and fed off defeatism. Nobody knows how large it was. But it wasn’t uncommon for Copperheads to coordinate their operations with the Confederate government to create havoc on the Union home front. There was also Copperhead agitation behind the New York City Draft Riots in July of 1863 which was the war’s largest mob action with 120 killed, including 11 lynched black men. They also had support and funds by the Confederate government pertaining to actions and schemes like: overthrowing Lincoln, tried to stage a secession of the Midwest, organized killings of Union soldiers in southern Illinois, etc. In short, Copperheads were traitors who make modern day Tea Party Republicans look benign in comparison.)

Abolitionists staged violent insurrections against those who attacked their opinions during the war. (While mobbing was quite common before and during the Civil War, not a single instance involved abolitionists attacking individuals of opposing opinions. That was not how abolitionists behaved. Yes, there was John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry but he was trying to arm blacks to rise against slave owners, which is another matter entirely. Also, no Copperhead was attacked in upstate New York during that time either. Still, abolitionists often were targets of mobs with pre-Civil War numbers as 73 in North and 19 in the South, many at abolitionist presses. Abolitionists have also been subject to numerous beatings as well as tar and featherings, and even murder, which were well known in Lincoln’s time. In fact, Lincoln’s first major political speech centered on the mob attack and murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837.)

The dome of the US Capitol was completed by 1861. (It was finished in 1863.)

Union soldiers were flogged as punishment. (Since Colonel Shaw was a by-the-book man, no one in the 54th Massachusetts would’ve never gotten whipped {nor would Shaw order it} since flogging was banned in 1861. However, since slaves were often flogged, it kind of serves a purpose in Glory to have Private Tripp punished this way even if it was out of Shaw’s character to give such an order. Still, there were harsh punishments like being “spread eagled” on the spare wheel of an artillery limber which would’ve broken a man’s back.)

Colonel James Montgomery was a marauding racist and former slaveholder who made use of free slaves to pillage and burn towns. (Yes, he did pillage and burn but he was a staunch abolitionist in the vein of John Brown whose methods actually came from his days as an anti-slavery partisan during Bleeding Kansas. Also, he most likely didn’t own slaves at all.)

During his raid, Benjamin Grierson decided a deliberate retreat than to risk slaughtering Mississippi schoolboys. (This may not have happened. Yet, there’s a similar incident in the Battle of New Market with the Virginia Military Institute student body.)

White Union soldiers were thuggish and venal who tend to wonder why they’re in the army or why there was even a war going on. (I’m sure that many Confederate soldiers were like this, too, especially towards the end of the war when they started deserting the Army while Sherman’s Army marched to the sea. According to TTI: “Desertion was a serious problem in the South; by 1863 men were deserting faster than new recruits could be conscripted to replace them, and by war’s end over three-quarters of the Confederate army was AWOL. Entire Confederate divisions existed solely on paper, their men and command structure having walked out en masse, stealing as much equipment as they could carry. The most notable incidence of desertion was probably Confederate general Pemberton’s army, paroled after the surrender at Vicksburg. Mustered with 30,000 men, a month later fewer than 1,500 of them were left to report for duty, the rest having simply changed back into civilian clothes and gone home.”)

The Union Army had integrated regiments. (Blacks served in all black regiments but they were under the command of white officers but that’s as integrated as you’re going to get. Yet, white regiments did have black civilians working for them for a time though.)

White Union spies sometimes used blackface and pretended to be slaves in the South. (Many of them just used actual slaves mostly. Also, those posing as slaves were usually black to begin with.)

A 304th regiment existed in the Union Army. (No state assigned regimental numbers above the 100s.)

Benjamin Grierson’s raid consisted of the 1st Illinois, 1st Michigan, and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry regiments. (It was composed of the 6th and 7th Illinois and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. Also the 1st Michigan served in the Army of the Potomac in 1863 so its presence would’ve been more appropriate for Gettysburg not Vicksburg.)

After laying mines in the Confederate trenches, Union soldiers lay in formation waiting to charge after they went off. (Union troops would’ve waited in their trenches because there would’ve been no open ground where they could lay in formation, they would’ve been hit by debris in the explosion, and the Confederates would’ve seen them getting out and lying in wait.)

The US Secret Service was around during the Civil War. (It was formed in July of 1865.)

The 116th Pennsylvania led the Irish Brigades charge at Maryes Heights. (It was the 28th Massachusetts.)

The 116th Pennsylvania had a green flag. (It was the only Irish Brigade regiment that didn’t. Theirs had the State of Pennsylvania. Also, before the Battle of Fredericksburg only the 28th Massachusetts had the famous green Irish Brigade flags. Most regiments received the green flags by General T.F. Maegher days after the battle. )

The 20th Maine charged independently at Fredericksburg. (No Union regiment charged at the Confederate position without supporting regiments around it during the battle.)

Union forces used the Gatling gun during the Civil War. (It wasn’t patented until 1865 and the US military didn’t adopt it formally until 1866.)

St. Clair Augustine Mulholland was a Lieutenant Colonel during the Battle of Fredericksburg. (He was a major and a commander of the 116th Pennsylvania which was part of Maegher’s brigade, not the brigade in total. Also, Maegher made his charge on horseback not on foot, and did not “protect the rear.”)

Brigadier General Thomas R. R. Cobb commanded an Irish regiment. (He commanded the Irish Brigade.)

Irish Union soldiers didn’t know what they were fighting for. (There are historical documents in their own eloquent words of why they as immigrants believed they ought to fight for the Union. Of course, many were drafted like Gangs of New York implies but there were plenty of Irish immigrants who did fight voluntarily as well.)

Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were warmongers who pressured Abraham Lincoln to punish Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. (Actually Grant and Sherman would’ve wished nothing of the sort. Sure they got a lot of men killed and destroyed a lot of property but they considered such destruction as part of their duty as generals. Yet, once their enemies surrendered, they turned out to be very okay guys more interested in healing national ties than settling scores.)

Private Buster Kilrain was a grumpy Irishman from the 20th Maine demoted for drunkenness as well as delivered a very poignant speech at the Battle of Gettysburg. (This character from the movie Gettysburg is totally made up which is why his name isn’t on the 20th Maine monument at Little Round Top. The photo used to represent him in the opening credits was nothing more than an unknown ordinary Union soldier. However, there’s a cacophony of gullible individuals demand to know why that is on their trips to Gettysburg, which annoys the piss out of the tour guides in the process. )

Alexander H. Coffrot nervously voted for the 13th Amendment. (He was a pallbearer at Lincoln’s funeral so he was more than a simple political pawn to the White House.)

General Philip Sheridan commanded the Army of the Potomac. (He was the Commanding General of the Army of the Shenandoah. George Meade was commanded the Army of the Potomac during the last two years of the Civil War.)

Union cavalrymen always knew how to take care of their horses. (The Union Army actually lost more horses rendered unstable or even dead to sickness, exhaustion, etc. than to actual combat. While many volunteers in the first two years of the Civil War were from the farm, it wasn’t unusual for urban volunteers and  later conscripts to be assigned to cavalry units. So it’s possible that many Northern cavalrymen had no idea hot to take care of a horse because city horses were owned by commercial firms {like cabbies or wagoners} so many urbanites never learned how since horse care was left up to the professionals.)

Ulysses S. Grant:

Ulysses S. Grant was a four-star general in 1865. (He was a Lieutenant General which is a three star rank. However, many people believe that Lieutenant General is a four star rank anyway, which it’s not. Grant wouldn’t become a four-star general until 1866. Then again he was the first four star general this nation has had.)

Ulysses S. Grant swore and used firearms on a habitual basis. (He never used profanity and had an aversion to firearms {only using them when he needed to}.)

Ulysses S. Grant was a butcher who was willing to shed more lives because he could. (Though Grant’s strategy may be cold hearted, it worked and he wasn’t afraid to take advantage of having a superior numbers. Not to mention, he did feel the carnage deeply and was said to have wept after the first day of Wilderness. Then again, haven’t all generals done this even during the Civil War? At least Grant won battles and wasn’t a chickenshit unlike some of his counterparts. And by that time Lincoln was fed up with chickenshit generals.)

Ulysses S. Grant graduated at the bottom of his class. (He graduated 21st out of 39 in his class in 1843.)

Ulysses S. Grant was a short, coarse, rough man usually scowling as well as a drinker and smoker. (He was of average height in his era and “a man whose values and character often avoided the pitfalls that often face those who are given military and political blood and was painfully alive to every form of human suffering,” according to the site on his tomb. He was also a very creative strategist, a tough calm and collected leader, as well as was very nice to his adversaries who were willing to surrender. Also, he was an avid horse lover and once had a soldier beaten for mistreating one. Not to mention, he was a man of great humility as well as deeply respected by those who knew him {even by those who surrendered to him}, which was why he was so popular at the time of his death. Still, yes, he did smoke and was his tobacco habit that would kill him. As for his drinking, he probably wasn’t a drunk and more of a man who couldn’t hold his liquor.)

Ulysses S. Grant arrogantly and casually walked around the room smoking a big cigar during the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. (Grant may not have been one of the most formal men but he treated Appomattox with the utmost dignity and sensitivity for his defeated foe. Not so in Birth of a Nation.)

William Tecumseh Sherman:

William Tecumseh Sherman was a monster who burned down Southern towns for no reason. (The reason why Sherman was burning down areas of the South had to do with the strategy of total war which meant destroying resources and bringing the war to civilians so the South would be scrambling and have low morale and arguably his strategy worked. Not to mention, Sherman didn’t take delight doing any of that. He also had a reputation for leniency and mercy, regularly permitting defeated enemies to retrieve their belongings and go home without further incident.)

William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta in September in 1864 and at night. (He burned down Atlanta two months later. Yet at that time, retreating Confederate troops were torching ammunition dumps to keep the Union army from capturing them. However, the fire wouldn’t have been as spectacular as it was on Gone with the Wind.)

General Winfield Scott:

General Winfield Scott was in command at the Battle of Gettysburg. (The commander of Union forces was General George Meade. By Gettysburg, Scott had been retired from the army for over a year.)

General Winfield Scott was a buffoon over confident of a quick victory in the North. (He was one of the few people who knew the Civil War would be long, costly, and bloody. He also might’ve been taller than Lincoln at 6’ 5.” Not usually portrayed as such in movies.)

General Winfield Scott was in charge of the Union Army until after the end of the American Civil War. (He resigned in November in 1861 and was succeeded by a series of generals over the course of the war until Lincoln settled on  Ulysses S. Grant. If this were true, it might’ve saved Lincoln a lot of headache and he’d probably not appoint men like George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose Burnside, Henry W. Halleck, Irvin McDowell, John Pope, and George Meade {though he was actually quite decent and won Gettysburg}. Yet, you don’t see this in They Died with Their Boots on.)

Thaddeus Stevens:

Thaddeus Stevens had a black live-in girlfriend. (He had a black housekeeper he was close to, but we’re not sure whether they were lovers or not. Still, he never married.)

Thaddeus Stevens disavowed his conviction that blacks were equal in all things in front of the House floor. (He didn’t, nor was his speech a decisive moment. Still, as far as historical inaccuracies go, Spielberg rates pretty low and actually tries to be historically correct. Also, in regards to historical accuracy in Civil War movies, Lincoln ranks pretty high on the list.)

Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln was an unambitious man who didn’t want to get into politics, and was called Abe. (Lincoln hated to be called Abe. As a politician, Lincoln combined his policy substance and electioneering skills and knew how to play the game. Lincoln also had plenty of ambitions of his own such as to leave the log cabin and never look back, to marry a woman who could speak French and had attended finishing school, to send his son to Exeter prep school and Harvard. His law partner William Herndon called him, “a little engine that knew no rest.”)

Abraham Lincoln was wrong to suspend habeas corpus and use his war powers. (Contrary to Copperhead, Lincoln only briefly suspended habeas corpus in Maryland to prevent insurrection and secession simply because having the state go would have Washington D.C. surrounded by the Confederacy. Most arrests in the North during the war mostly consisted of  insurrectionary acts like blockade running, gun running and desertion. And mostly to protect enlistment and conscription. Newspapers were suppressed but only for a short time but reopened acting through the War Department and the Copperhead press remained more or less intact and left alone throughout the war even as they advocated for Lincoln’s assassination. Oh, and Lincoln believed that the Emancipation Proclamation was totally constitutional.)

Abraham Lincoln had a deep and sonorous baritone voice. (His voice was a high pitched nasal tenor.)

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t offended by profanity and wouldn’t be upset for people swearing in front of his kids. (Though he was all right with the occasional swear word now and then as well as cursing in extreme frustration {which he probably did a lot himself during the war}, he was known to be very offended by profanity going so far as to rebuke generals in the field for cursing in his presence. Nevertheless, it’s highly unlikely he would’ve tolerated Preston Blair’s swearing in front of Tad.)

Abraham Lincoln managed to get the 13th Amendment passed in Congress mostly by his own efforts. (It was actually due to the work of black and women activists who managed to send a 400,000 signature petition organized by the Women’s Loyal League {headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton}. Also, Frederick Douglass should deserve considerable credit as well. Yet, as Lincoln notes, had Lincoln pressed Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, most of their efforts would’ve come to naught.)

William Henry Harrison’s portrait hung in Abraham Lincoln’s oval office. (It never did.)

Union soldiers could memorize the Gettysburg Address in Abraham Lincoln’s time. (The Gettysburg Address didn’t enter into the national vocabulary until the early 20th century. The chances of any Union soldier memorizing this speech, black or white, would’ve been far remote. Still, in Spielberg’s Lincoln, this is forgivable.)

Abraham Lincoln’s face was on coins during his lifetime. (It was on a $10 bill not coins. He didn’t appear on a coin until after his death with his first appearance being on a fourth series 50 cent piece.)

Abraham Lincoln was a homespun folk hero not fond of getting into fights or engaging in low brow humor. (TTI says he’s known for inventing the chokeslam as well as wrestled in his youth and nearly fought in a duel. As for low brown humor, Lincoln was notorious for these kind of jokes as seen in Lincoln. Folksy family friendly folk hero my ass.)

Mrs. Bixby’s five sons who served in the Union Army were all killed in the Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter for. (The Bixby legend is a myth plain and simple. Besides, Lincoln may not have written the Bixby letter himself {his secretary John Hay seems like a likely candidate}. Still, Mrs. Bixby only lost two sons in battle while her other boys survived the war with two being captured {one possibly deserting to the enemy} and one going AWOL. Bixby herself was said to be a Confederate sympathizer and had been described by her contemporaries as a madam and “untrustworthy and as bad as she could be.” It’s possible that she may have even been a con artist who exaggerated her claims for financial compensation. Still, this letter seems to have some prominence as setting up the plot in Saving Private Ryan.)

Abraham Lincoln sent an emissary to the Dakota Territory in order to negotiate a treaty with the Sioux which included a $130,000 payment for the tribe in gold. (Lincoln had bigger things to worry about than hostile Indian tribes.)

Abraham Lincoln arrived riding among piles and piles in a war torn battlefield after the fall of Petersburg and Richmond. (He was actually greeted by hundreds of ecstatic freed slaves.)

Mary Todd Lincoln:

Mary Todd Lincoln was a crazy bitch and there wasn’t much love between her and her husband. (Yes, she was feisty and had her moments as well as had a tendency to be misunderstood, but she was hardly as unpleasant as most film adaptations depict her with the exception of Spielberg’s Lincoln. The reason why she’s depicted like that is because Hollywood mostly likes to depict Abraham Lincoln as an unambitious man who had no interest in politics which is also inaccurate, thus, it’s up to Mary to push him into it so Abe could become president. As with the Lincolns’ marriage, Lincoln often said happily of her, “My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I…fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out.” Sure Abe and Mary didn’t have an easy life together but their marriage was anything but loveless. And as with the craziness, her mental state began to deteriorate after Lincoln’s assassination and the death of their son Tad. Mary Lincoln may not have been the crazy bitch depicted in earlier film adaptations, but she was much misunderstood.)

Mary Todd Lincoln attended debates in the House of Representatives. (She didn’t nor would she make a scene in public. As a woman, she’d also be scorned at the time for sitting in the House Gallery.)

Mary Todd Lincoln berated Thaddeus Stevens for his investigation into her lavish expenses. (She would’ve never made a scene like that.)

Tad Lincoln:

Alexander Gardiner sent fragile one-of-a-kind plates to Tad Lincoln. (He would never do such thing since Tad had once ruined several images by locking the developer in a closet.)

Tad Lincoln was a normal 11-year-old boy in 1865. (He had a very serious speech impediment to the point that only his closest teachers and family could understand him {he also had speech therapy to overcome this as a teenager}. Based on photographs, he may have had a cleft lip or cleft palate. It’s also said he had such uneven teeth that he had such difficulty chewing food, his meals had to be specially prepared. He also didn’t attend school until after his father’s death. Still, Lincoln portrays him as a normal kid because most children with Tad’s condition have usually gone through surgery and therapy by 11 years old anyway these days. So to find a white 11 year old American child with a cleft palate and speech impediment like Tad’s would’ve been extremely difficult, if not impossible. Yet, other than that, Tad was mostly a normal kid albeit rather impulsive and unrestrained that many of his numerous tutors quit in frustration. But that had more to do with his parents not being disciplinarians.)

Tad Lincoln’s uniformed was of a Union Lieutenant Colonel. (In 1863, Edwin Stanton “commissioned” Tad as an artillery 2nd lieutenant.)

54th Massachusetts Regiment:

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw asked who would carry the colors if they should fall during the assault on Fort Wagner. (It was General Strong who asked the question and it was Shaw who volunteered to carry them.)

Most of the Massachusetts 54th consisted of ex-slaves. (Actually most of that regiment was made up of free blacks at least initially. Most of the original soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts could read and write and one of their privates was a doctor {today, he would’ve been commissioned a captain though}. Glory just used the Massachusetts 54th as a way to tell the story of black soldiers and sailors during the Civil War who were mostly ex-slaves, some even a few months or days before they joined up.)

Sergeant William H. Carney took up the flag and never let it touch the ground during the battle of Fort Wagner, a battle in which he later died in. (He survived the battle despite being wounded a few times. Not to mention, he would later become the first black recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions 37 years later in 1900. His expy Tripp in Glory doesn’t survive Fort Wagner though. But like the Denzel Washington character in the film, he was indeed a former slave.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was thrown in a mass grave with everything on him minus his shoes. (According to Confederate General James Hagood, Shaw’s body was stripped and robbed before being thrown in the grave. Of course, you can’t have this in Glory.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was eager to be the CO of the 54th Massachusetts. (He was actually very reluctant but he soon came to respect them as fine soldiers. Still, unlike Glory says, the pay boycott depicted was actually his idea.)

Robert Gould Shaw received the request to be Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts at a Boston party and accepted it immediately. (He didn’t receive it at a party nor did he accept it right away. He actually refused it twice since he felt himself unworthy. He eventually accepted it after his friend and future brother-in-law Charles Russell Lowell {who commanded the 2nd Massachusetts cavalry which had 5 companies of Californians} talked him into it.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw died falling into a parapet. (He actually made it to the top of the hill and his body fell into the fort. Other than where his body fell, his death scene in Glory is mostly accurate.)

Over half of the 54th Massachusetts regiment was lost during the assault at Fort Wagner. (Official records state that 54th sustained 272 casualties which closer to 40% of its force and of these only 116 were fatalities which is under one fifth of the men who stormed the fort. If the 156 soldiers that were captured are included {which is rather likely they didn’t survive capture since most black Union troops didn’t}, it would bring the total to over half. In any event, these heavy casualties and the regiment was widely viewed as having performed bravely indeed.)

The 54th Massachusetts was raised and trained in the fall of 1862. (It formed in March of 1863 just four months before Fort Wagner. However, they also saw action on James Island two days before the Fort Wagner attack.)

The 54th Massachusetts didn’t survive without Colonel Robert Shaw. (It actually continued to see action in Olustee, Florida in February 1864, Honey Hill, South Carolina in November 1864, and Boykin’s Mill, South Carolina in April 1865.)

Robert Gould Shaw was Governor Andrew’s first choice to lead the 54th Massachusetts. (Shaw wasn’t but he was probably the best choice.)

New York Draft Riots:

Bill the Butcher was a dangerous man who was around during the New York Draft Riots. (Actually he died eight years before the riots happened and his name was William Poole not Bill Cutting. And contrary to Gangs of New York, it’s not known killed anyone though he was murdered and owned a butcher shop. Sorry, Martin Scorsese.)

Irish immigrants were drafted into the Union Army after they just left the boat. (I’m not sure that newly arrived immigrants were draft targets at the time but it’s in Gangs of New York.)

The Chinese had their own communities and venues in 1860s New York City. (Yes, there were Chinese living in New York as early as the 1840s but significant Chinese emigration to New York didn’t begin until 1869.)

John F. Schermerhorn was alive during the New York Draft Riots. (He died in 1851.)

US Navy vessels were fired at New York City during the draft riots. (Sorry, Martin Scorsese, but this never happened.)

Working class Irish immigrants in New York City rioted in response to the draft of 1863 because they didn’t want blacks taking their jobs and social space as well as wanted no part in the war to free slaves. They also were a rather rowdy bunch who turned on each other and mostly destroyed property. (It was also because Democratic propaganda in New York City stirred their racial hatreds with antiwar and antiblack sentiments. And contrary to what Gangs of New York said, the toll was not that high. Also, there were plenty of Irish immigrants who fought for the North during the Civil War and some of the guys who tried to clamp down on the riots were Irish themselves. And there were no riots in the Five Points area of New York.)

Hell-Cat Maggie was around during the New York Draft Riots. (She was around during the 1840s. However, her character on Gangs of New York is more of a composite of other female fighters.)

George Armstrong Custer:

George Armstrong Custer was given a medal for his actions during the Civil War. (He wasn’t given any decoration though he did receive honorary brevet promotions for gallantry. Only the newly developed, “Medal of Honor” was awarded in the US at the time, which Custer never won. However, his brother Thomas was one of the only three Civil War soldiers along with 16 others since them to receive it twice. Still, despite media portrayals, Custer was no idiot. Also, the Confederacy didn’t use decoration either but only added a few names to a “roll of honor.” Not to mention, they didn’t use the Southern Cross which was a memorial recognition created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1890s.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 39 – The American Civil War: The South


No movie perhaps shows the American Civil War in the view of the South like Gone of the Wind, or at least one that is relatively fair enough to be seen as one of the greatest films of all time. Of course, this movie does tend to be rather racist in regards to the portrayal of black people but so did many films around 1939. However, though Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler are fictional characters, there were many people just like them during the Civil War with these two being featured as the flawed and relateable human beings they are as played by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Not to mention, this film shows how much the South changed in the course of these critical four years. Though this is a flawed and romanticized historical interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction in the South, this is a classic that still flourishes and entertains.

For the next few posts in my movie history series, I’m going to cover films pertaining to the American Civil War. Two of these would feature photos of movies that I adore like Gone with the Wind and Lincoln. One will feature a movie which is historically significant in the history of film but one I sincerely despise because of its blatantly racist connotations and its message of racial hatred like Birth of a Nation. Nevertheless, the American Civil War may be a four year conflict but it’s one of the nastiest wars in American history that tore the US apart as well as families, towns, and even governments with implications that will not only have an impact on the United States as a nation (which you will get plenty of opinions on no matter where you are) but will also have ramifications worldwide, especially in how people fight wars in general (it’s not called the first modern war for nothing). The American Civil War is perhaps one of the bloodiest wars in American history in that it killed more Americans than any other war before or since as well as wiped out 2-5% of the US population at the time, and left many more impoverished, displaced, maimed, and traumatized. It was the first time waged in the battlefields and won in the factories as well as the introduction of the first military medical corps, war trenches, veterans organizations, and government involvement with the military dead. It was a war in which weapons like submarines, metal warships, repeating rifles, and others. It was also a war where many aspects like cavalry, Napoleonic battle tactics, wooden warships, cannon balls, and other things would become obsolete. However, many Civil War movies do tend to get things wrong like having soldiers using the wrong guns of the period or wearing the wrong kind of uniforms. Sometimes they tend to downplay the main cause of this conflict in the first place which was slavery.

Of course, as I said in the my post about the antebellum years, slavery was a major cause to why the American Civil War broke out or at least the expansion of it and the fact that Southern states wanted the whole country to recognize it but the North didn’t want that. Abraham Lincoln’s election of 1860 caused South Carolina to secede from the Union along with others from that time to early 1861. By 1861, these states eleven states formed the Confederacy and elected Mississippi politician Jefferson Davis as its first president. That April, the Confederates would fire upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina which kicked off the American Civil War as we know it. Of course, the South did luck out at first with good generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, and others. But things started taking a turn in the South such as Jefferson Davis’ propensity to pick generals he liked (instead of good ones), heavy losses that couldn’t be replaced, economic problems, limited industry, Northern blockades, and other things like Sherman’s march to the sea, Lee’s mistake at Gettysburg, and Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, the Confederacy would soon be doomed to defeat by 1865. Towards the end, the Confederacy had endured a great deal of destruction and suffered greatly in morale. Union capture of Richmond as well as Lee’s surrender would bring an end to the Confederacy as we know it. Still, there’s a lot of things movies get wrong about the Civil War in the South which I shall list accordingly.

The Southern whites during the Civil War just wanted to live in peace. (So they can continue owning slaves and expand into Latin America and the Caribbean.)

It wasn’t unusual late in the Civil war to see well-dressed Southern ladies having tea and slaves picking cotton. (This would’ve been highly unusual at this point in the war especially in 1864-1865.)

The Confederate Home Guard was a brutal organization which went around killing indiscriminately and torturing women. (Their main job was to return escaped slaves to their masters and sending deserters back to Confederate lines but they could certainly be this, especially towards the end of the war when Confederate morale was low. Still, it’s complicated.)

Confederate deserters were nice law abiding people worried about their starving families. (Many of them became mountain outlaws and some banded with Union guerrillas to plunder farms and towns.)

The Confederate flag was always used by the Confederacy during the Civil War. (Actually it was the “stars and bars” flag which looked very different. The Confederate flag came later.)

The Cherokee sided with the Confederates during the Civil War due to their mistreatment on the Trail of Tears. (Actually they fought on both sides for even though they were slave owners, many remembered they were forced out of a Southern state by a Southern president. Some volunteered to go to Oklahoma and supported the removal while others opposed it and were forced off. Even Indians weren’t that stupid to attribute the atrocities to just the North.)

Confederate soldiers wore gray uniforms. (Well, though the Union Army uniforms tend to be accurately depicted for the most part in movies, Confederate uniforms not so much. Also, early in the war there were Confederate units in blue and Union units in gray. Still, most Confederate soldiers usually wore what they had on at the time since many Confederates couldn’t produce or afford gray. And even soldiers who wore grey uniforms, each one varied considerably in hue.)

W. P Inman ditched the Confederate Army because of a serious injury in a calamitous battle. (It was actually for “cowardly desertion at his post.” Oh, and he signed an oath of allegiance to the US in December of 1864 in East Tennessee. Still, unlike what Cold Mountain says, Inman might’ve deserted multiple times.)

W. P. Inman’s wife was Ada Monroe and his daughter was named Grace. (Her name was Margaret Henson and his daughter’s name was Willie Ida. Still, Grace is a better name for your daughter.)

The South seceded from the Union over states’ rights. (Yes, if that includes the right to own slaves and treat black people as property. Yet, the South also wanted slavery to be recognized in the Northern states which opposed it. Also, until the Civil War Southern presidents and lawmakers dominated the federal government.)

Confederate soldiers were heroic and respectable men. Confederate officers were gentlemen while enlisted men were tough, had thicker accents, and were very loyal to their officers. (Yes, there were some noble Confederates, most of them would be all right as long as they weren’t against a black regiment.)

Confederate soldiers were superior to their Union counterparts in every way such as braver, more clever, more noble, and more tragic. (Ulysses S. Grant didn’t win the Battle of Vicksburg on significant numbers alone but on creative and innovative strategy. He also did a lot of things in battles that haven’t been done before as well as is sometimes referred to as a 20th century general. However, Hollywood and a lot of people tend to forget this and other battles. Still, the Confederate soldiers were no more superior than their Union counterparts, especially when it came to the treatment of blacks.)

The Confederate soldiers were nobly fighting for freedom. (Actually they were fighting for the freedom to subjugate black people under involuntary servitude under one of the most inhumane institutions known to history. I’m talking about slavery folks.)

Slavery had nothing to do with the Confederate cause. (It had everything to do with the Confederate cause and why the Southern states seceded from the Union. To quote from Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens, “Our new government [the C.S.A.] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” Pretty sums the whole thing up.)

Virginia regiments fought at Little Round Top. (No Virginia regiment fought there.)

Many Irish in the South sided with the Confederacy. (The Confederacy had some company sized Irish units while the Union Army of the Potomac had an Irish brigade. Gods and Generals exaggerates the Irish Confederate presence a bit. Oh, and there was at least one ethnically European {mostly Irish} regiment from every Confederate state fighting for the Union.)

People from the Southern Appalachian Mountains were Confederate diehards. (People from this area have often been portrayed this way. However, Appalachia was strongly pro-Union during the American Civil War {so much that West Virginia formed their own state} and many of these areas suffered in retaliation from the Confederacy. The reason why Appalachia was such a pro-Union hotbed was because the mountainous topography separated them from the government seats which prevented them from using plantations as a means of income. Most of the trade and transport in Appalachia came from Northern states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio. Thus, many areas in this region didn’t have as strong a loyalty to the state’s government as when they seceded. Because of economic and social differences, West Virginia pushed to have its own state as early 1820, yet secession just gave them an opportunity to do so. Other factors contributing to Appalachian Unionism included religious differences, class differences, and ethnic differences, which have not all been forgotten either.)

12lb Brooke guns were used as Confederate field pieces. (There’s no such thing as a 12lb Brooke gun nor were these guns ever used for field artillery. Brooke guns were used in the Confederate Navy and in some forts.)

Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were bearded at the start of the Civil War. (Both grew beards later on in the war. Also, Lee didn’t get his signature look until he served as Jefferson Davis’ military adviser. Before that, he had dark hair going gray with a 1850s military style mustache. As for Jackson, he had a well-known disinterest for personal grooming and appearance but he was clean shaven at the start of the war.)

Confederate General Sibley’s units consisted entirely of infantry. (They consisted entirely of cavalry units and a single battalion of artillery. No Confederate infantry was used in the New Mexico campaign.)

Andersonville accepted prisoners in 1862. (It didn’t accept prisoners until 1864 and only took enlisted men. Yet, Libby Prison in Richmond would, which took officers.)

The Confederate 3rd Army regiment served in the 1862 invasion of New Mexico. (The Confederates deployed the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th regiments of the Texas Mounted Rifles and some unnumbered territorial groups. There was no 3rd Confederate regiment of any sort there. Though there was a 3rd U. S. Cavalry on the Union side.)

The Confederate government sent agitators to the American West to incite Indian tribes against the Federal Government to draw troops away from battle in the East. (The Confederacy didn’t need to do this since the Western Indian tribes were agitated enough to fight the white guys already. Also, it probably wouldn’t have done much good since the Union Army was several times bigger than the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War. Besides, Sherman was more successful drawing Confederate troops away from battle through his March to the Sea.)

The Confederates were more Christian than those in the North. (Both sides were about equal in religious fervency.)

Virginia was one of the most pro-secessionist states in the Confederacy. (Remember that there was a group of Virginians who wanted to get out of there that they formed their own state. Also, there were so many Anti-Confederates in Richmond that the whole city was placed on martial law for a time. Not to mention, perhaps one of the only reasons why the Confederates picked Richmond as its capital was to keep halfheartedly-Confederate Virginia in the Confederacy.)

The Swangers were named Esco and Sally. (These people were real but their names were John and Margaret Steven Swanger.)

Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg was made during the morning. (It was made at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.)

Only the Confederates supported slavery. (There were many in the Union who did and there were four Union states that allowed it.)

Robert E. Lee:

Robert E. Lee’s surrender meant that the Civil War was over in Georgia as well as everywhere else. (The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia had no effect on Georgia. In fact, Georgia State troops didn’t surrender until almost a month after Lee {due to slow communication}. The surrender of General Kirby Smith at Galveston, Texas on May 26, 1865, is considered the end of the Civil War.)

Southern Slaves:

It wasn’t unusual for a Southern slave to turn down his chance of freedom or turn against his or her master. (Actually few slaves would turn down such offers because many slaves given the chance to do either usually did {Some of Jefferson Davis’ slaves helped spy for the Union}.)

Many Southern slaves tended to remain loyal to their masters during the Civil War. (Really? So why were so many slaves willing to join the Union Army when they arrived in their neck of the woods?)

Though they did desire freedom at some future date, many slaves were genuinely happy with their lot in life as well as faithful and supportive to their beloved masters and the cause of the Confederacy. (What kind of racist bullshit is this, Hollywood? Sure there may have been some slaves who remained faithful to their masters, but this didn’t consist of the majority. Rather most slaves were so committed to gaining their own freedom that many were willing to offer their services to the Union without making a fuss. Also, many ex-slaves ended up taking arms against their own masters. Oh, and during the war, slaves were defecting from their masters in droves. At least Gone with the Wind gets the defection part right, sort of but not too much.)

A. P Hill:

A.P. Hill was a Brigadier General during the Battle of Chancellorsville. (He had been a Major General for over a year at this point.)

J. E. B. Stuart:

J. E. B. Stuart’s wife was Kit Carson Holliday. (Her name was Flora Cooke. Seriously, Hollywood, why would anyone want to name their daughter after a noted frontiersman like Kit Carson {who was real, by the way but a man}? Still, it’s in The Santa Fe Trail.)

J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry adventure was a major impediment for Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg depriving him of information and cavalry support. (The Confederate cavalry was mainly used for raiding, not scouting. Though Lee rebuked Stuart, it wasn’t over leaving him blind in enemy country. The Confederate Army mainly relied on individual horsemen and overly-informative Union newspapers as intelligence sources. Thus, Stuart’s absence wasn’t of great importance to the battle of Gettysburg as Lee’s poor decision making was {and General James Longstreet knew it}. Still, many historians and Lost Cause advocates made Stuart’s supposed culpability a part of popular history which is why it’s in Gettysburg.)

The 5th Georgia Cavalry served with General J.E.B. Stuart. (They served exclusively in the Western Theater during the Civil War while Stuart was at Gettysburg.)

John Bell Hood:

When John Bell Hood was a Lieutenant General, he had both legs. (By the time he had this rank, he had already lost his leg at the Battle of Chickamauga and an arm at Gettysburg in 1863. Also, he never served in Louisiana during the war but lived and died in New Orleans after the war was over.)

Alexander Stephens:

Alexander Stephens was respectful to black Union soldiers. (He may have been nice the black Union soldiers as he was in Lincoln but he may not have had much choice. He’s also said to be nice to his slaves that many stayed with him as paid servants after the war {one served as his pallbearer} as well as campaigned for better treatment of slaves in general. However, he was a noted white supremacist and avid supporter of slavery {though he didn’t see it as a reason to mistreat or denigrate black people}. Even more interesting is that he was friends with Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War which Lincoln hints at when the 16th president calls him “Alex.”)

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson:

Stonewall Jackson favored an eventual abolition of slavery in the South. (There’s no historical evidence he believed this. Still, the first Confederate general to even consider freeing his slaves in order to have them fight against the North was Patrick Cleburne known as “the Stonewall of the West” in early 1864 when Jackson was long dead.)

Stonewall Jackson’s cook was a freed man. (He was a slave.)

General Stonewall Jackson’s men carried him on a stretcher which they dropped because of gun fire. (They dropped him because they slipped in the mud, not due to gunfire.)

Stonewall Jackson called his black cook, “Mr. Lewis.” (A lot of people in the South wouldn’t address black people this way at the time.)

Stonewall Jackson was a saint. (He was a religious man, but he had his flaws and eccentricities. However, he owned slaves, had a Christian Fundamentalist streak that contributed to his military prowess, as well as had a zealotry and causal disregard for human life, which made him so disturbing. Can’t have that in Gods and Generals.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 38 – The Antebellum Years


2013’s 12 Years a Slave is one of the few movies out there that tells the truth about an issue which defined this era in 19th Century America. This film was based on a true story about a free northern black man named Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and forced to be a slave for twelve years. It’s Oscar for Best Picture was most deserved and I think this will be shown in schools for generations to come.

The Antebellum age in American history is one of great growth and great division. It is a time in America when the first factories, canals, and railroads were built in the North which was dominated by industry and urbanization generating great wealth for the country. In the South cotton was king thanks to the cotton gin but this also led to a demand in slave labor. By the 18th century, it was believed slavery would be on its way out but that was until industrialization which led to more slave families being divided and sold further South in the name of supplying the raw materials for the Northern factories. Slaves had been against their lot in life from the very beginning but the Antebellum years were a time when American slavery was at its worst as well as when the American economy was at its most slave dependent (and not many Americans realize this. Still, to say that slavery was on it’s way out in the 1860s is absurd). Also, before the Civil War, king cotton and slavery helped make the American South the richest and most powerful region in the United States with Mississippi having the most American millionaires. However, many Northern abolitionists started to take notice on how cruel and unusual slavery really was as well as against the very values our nation was built on. Tensions between the pro-slavery Southerners and the abolitionists would continue until things turned to a head in the 1860s with the outbreak of Civil War. Westward Expansion was also happening at this time with the US gaining it’s present geographical shape in the 1850s, thanks to a series of territorial acquisitions, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican American War. Yet, as new states were added to the Union, the question on whether slavery should be allowed was becoming more controversial than ever before. There aren’t a lot of movies made in this era but those available still have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list.

The Old South:

A Southern aristocrat could be child of a slave and not even know it. (If you were a child of slaves, you would’ve known it and would not have been raised as a member of the Southern aristocracy. If you had a slave mother, you would’ve been raised a slave end of story. Still, if you could pass for white you’d probably figure out that your dad was a plantation owner. Yet, there’s a romantic 1957 film in which Yvonne de Carlo’s character was raised as a Southern Belle {which would never have happened nor would she have been involved in a romantic relationship with her new owner played by Clark Gable [which would’ve been anything but]}.)

Solomon Northup had two kids when he was kidnapped. (He had 3. Also, unlike 12 Years a Slave, he worked as a carpenter and was an amateur violinist not a professional. Not to mention, his family did know what happened to him since one of the barge sailors had helped Northup post a letter telling them he’d been kidnapped into slavery but didn’t know where he was. His family would spend years undergoing a complicated and legal process to get him home. Not only that, but Northup had contracted smallpox on the barge from a guy named Robert {who died en route} with his face being permanently scarred afterwards. Of course, you couldn’t have that happen so the black Steve McQueen {the black British director} had Robert stabbed instead. Still, the sailors on Northup’s barge didn’t rape anybody because that was considered vandalism and property destruction.)

William Ford was a hypocrite who contradicted his Christian sermons among his slaves’ agonizing screams. (Northup had a lot of kind words for him but said he was just a product of his environment. Then again, he did sell him to Tibeats who later sold him to Epps and these men were worse people in real life.  Still, Ford have to convince his brother-in-law Tibeats not to kill Northup saying he had nothing to gain from it. Yet, this didn’t stop Tibeats from chasing Northup with an axe on his plantation. As for Epps, well, this guy had a habit of chasing and whipping his slaves for no good reason.)

Solomon Northup cheated on his wife during his 12 years as a slave. (There’s no evidence he did though since he was a devout Christian, he didn’t mention it. Still, chances are he probably did.)

Patsey asked Solomon Northup to end her life. (No, she didn’t. It was actually Mrs. Epps who did according to his autobiography. What Patsey really wanted to do was run away and escape. Also, she didn’t talk over tea with Mrs. Shaw.)

Antebellum plantation homes were heated by cast iron stoves. (They were heated by wood burning fireplaces through chimneys at each end of the house.)

Slave owners were benevolent to their slaves. (Then why were there so many runaways and rebellions before the Civil War then? Sure there may have been some nice masters but slavery was a dehumanizing institution so the quality of one’s master shouldn’t even matter here. In America, slaves had no rights and were considered property, not people. They also worked longer days, more days, and more of their life.)

There was a genteel old South in slavery days. (Say that to Frederick Douglass and he’d be quick to tell you his life story which was anything but genteel. He should know for he grew up as a slave in Maryland.)

In early America before the 19th century, only the Southern colonies owned slaves. (People owned slaves in the North as well but not to the extent as Southern planters did. Also, until after the Revolution, slavery was legal in all the colonies.)

Plantation owners never had sex with their slaves. (Sexual relationships between slaves and their white owners were very common but most of them weren’t consensual. Also, Jefferson definitely had children with one of his slaves and there is living proof {like DNA in his black descendants}. Not to mention, Frederick Douglass always said that his father was a white man {most likely his first owner Captain Anthony} and most African Americans have at least one white ancestor in their gene pools {this is according to Dr. Henry Louis Gates}.)

Slave owners forced their slaves to fight each other in Mandingo fighting. (Slavery was a brutal institution but there’s no evidence that Mandingo fighting was ever a thing. Sorry, Quentin Tarantino.)

No slaves rebelled against their masters. (Have you ever heard about Nat Turner, Hollywood? Also, plantation owners worried constantly about their slaves rising up against them. Still, slavery resistance took many forms like day-to-day resistance, economic bargaining, running away, maroonage, and outright rebellions.)

Southern Belles were always lovely and kind women with all the traits of a proper Southern lady. (Gone with the Wind may not be right about slavery, but it certainly is about Southern belles who were more or less trained to not care about people and merely become pretty dolls devoid of personal wishes or emotion that are supposed to attract husbands. Scarlett O’Hara certainly fits this with all its implications. Yet, in movies based in the South, they’re seen as love interests.)

Plantation mistresses were saintly women whose hard work never toiled their health. (The job of plantation mistress was so rigorous and demanding that many women checked out of the process altogether opting instead for a life of smelling salts and reclining on fainting couches.)

Black slaves were child like and devoted to their masters. (This may be the case sometimes but this wasn’t characteristic of all black slaves or black people in general. However, slaves didn’t serve their masters out of loyalty but mostly out of fear. Also, slaves who had the opportunity to escape the plantation usually did.)

Most slaves were field laborers or household servants. (Much of the labor performed by slaves required high skill levels and careful, painstaking effort. Masters relied on some slaves for skilled craftsmanship as well as to manage others.)

House slaves led easier lives while field slaves bore the brunt of slavery’s brutality. (House slaves didn’t have it any easier than the other slaves nor did slaves who worked at trades.)

Masters treated their slaves like members of the family. (Oh, please, most slaves were more likely treated as objects or livestock, even if they were members of the master’s family {I’m not making this up}. Slavery was a brutal institution which kept a large group of people from being treated as the human beings they were.)

Slavery was a dying institution by the American Civil War. (It was anything but. Rather it was thriving more than ever before thanks to King Cotton as an economic system and as a means of racial control.)

There was no slavery in mountainous North Carolina. (Oh, yes, there was just not as much as in other areas.)


The 19th century abolitionists weren’t racists. (For their time, but in regards to nowadays, certainly for they consider whites superior to blacks. Of course, Frederick Douglass was one of the few abolitionist who wouldn’t be considered racist mostly because he was black, considered himself biracial, and married a white woman.)

John Brown was crazy. (As a religious fanatic and believer in the emancipation of slavery through any means, then yes. As a homicidal maniac, then probably not.)

John Quincy Adams had an African violet from West Africa in his greenhouse. (African violets were first documented in 1891 and weren’t imported until a few years later. Oh, and they’re only found around the border region of Tanzania and Kenya which is in East Africa. Most African slaves {including those from the Amistad} were from West Africa and John Quincy Adams died in 1848. Thus, neither Cinque nor Adams would’ve ever seen this flower or know anything of its existence.)

Martin Van Buren replaced Judge Judson with Judge Coglin. (He actually didn’t do this but he did write a letter to Judson asking him to send the slaves back to Cuba. He had a boat waiting to take the slaves immediately which would moot any appeal the abolitionists might’ve made. Yet, this was seen as interference with the court system and it may have been a minor reason why Van Buren lost the 1840 election to a slave owner.)

Judge Coglin ordered Ruiz and Montes arrested as part of his verdict in the Amistad case. (The abolitionist lawyers already charged them with assaulting their clients. They were eventually convicted and sentenced to prison while the main case was pending.)

Northerners weren’t racist. (Racism was pretty much universal in 19th century America for a long time. Still, just because there were people who didn’t believe in slavery didn’t mean that they wanted blacks to have equal rights or have non WASP Europeans immigrate to the country. Northern states also had their share of racist laws preventing blacks from exercising their rights as citizens as well as lynch mobs and race riots. Not to mention, its industrial economy depended on raw materials from the South which made slavery a highly contentious issue in the North. Still, when it was still legal, Northern cities earned a lot of money from the slave trade.)

John Brown had a beard during Bleeding Kansas. (He did wear one years later.)

After John Brown was hanged, a Army officer next to him said, “So perish all such enemies of the Union.” (The guy’s name was Colonel J. T. L. Preston of the Virginia Military Institute who actually said, “So perish all such enemies of Virginia, all such enemies of the Union, all such foes of the human race.”)

John Brown said his last words from the gallows. (He said nothing on the gallows but he did leave a note to the prison guard that said, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” )

Texas War of Independence:

The Texans just wanted their freedom from the Mexicans. (They also wanted to continue to own slaves and the Mexican government wanted to outlaw this practice. Of course, the Mexican government wanted them to convert to Catholicism and the white Texans didn’t want to do that which is understandable. They also disagreed on civil law, education, and taxation which the American Texans also thought irreconcilable. Also, not all the Texans were whites that came from the United States either.)

The Alamo had a curved roof at the time of battle. (The roof had crumbled due to neglect and was only restored in 1912.)

The Texans in the Texas War of Independence called themselves Texans. (They called themselves Texian until Texas became independent in 1836.)

Davy Crockett wore his coonskin cap at the Alamo. (He didn’t. Oh, and his original cap was made out of wildcat fur.)

In 1836, Sam Houston arrived in San Antonio accompanied by a large entourage. (He usually traveled accompanied by just an aide. Also, he was never in San Antonio during the Texas Revolution.)

During the Battle of the Alamo, all the women and children were evacuated from the fort. (All except Suzannah and Angelina Dickinson who were the wife and daughter of Major William Barret Travis’ aide Lt. Almaron Dickinson.)

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had a lot of artillery shells to spare during the siege at the Alamo. (Had he as much artillery as he did in the John Wayne film, the Alamo would’ve been reduced to rubble and the whole battle would’ve been over in minutes.)

The massacre of James Walter Fanin’s men from Goliad happened before the fall of the Alamo. (It happened three weeks after the Alamo fell.)

James Bowie was wounded and confined to a bed during part of the siege of the Alamo. (He actually spent the entire siege there suffering from typhoid or TB. Still, there have been various accounts about his death but there’s a good chance he actually was stabbed by bayonets after firing his pistols while reaching for his big ass knife. Nevertheless, there’s good evidence he was the hero at the Alamo and not Crockett.)

The Alamo had upper windows during the siege. (They weren’t installed until 15 years after the battle. Also, the Alamo didn’t have its famous hump by then either.)

William Travis and Susannah Dickenson were cousins. (They weren’t related. Also, she was 15 with black hair and had a 15 month old daughter.)

James Bowie’s wife died during the Alamo siege. (She died from cholera 2 ½ years before the battle.)

The final Battle at the Alamo took place during the day. (It started before dawn when the defenders were sleeping. It was all but finished at dawn.)

Sam Houston gave William Barrett Travis orders to hold off the Mexican army before he could build one. (Houston actually sent Bowie to the Alamo to burn it down and retreat to Gonzales, Texas. Travis was sent by Col. Neill in charge of San Antonio while he went on a 20 day furlough to be with his family. Bowie and Travis ignored his order though it was Bowie’s idea to stay and fortify the Alamo.)

Captain Seguin returned to the Alamo to bury the bodies of the Texan defenders. (General Santa Anna had all their bodies burned after the battle and their ashes were left on the pyres. It was these ashes, Seguin placed in a coffin and buried.)

Jim Bowie’s boozing and carousing caused him to lose command of the Alamo. (Yes, Bowie was known to do these things because he was never demoted for them. Also, drinking was a common thing in militaries at this time. Still, Bowie never took orders from Travis since the two of them shared command {since Bowie was elected as militia leader while Travis was head of the volunteer cavalry}. )

Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis questioned Jim Bowie’s allegiance all because he married into Mexican aristocracy. (Yes, Bowie did marry into Mexican aristocracy and acquired a lot of land because of it. However, it would be ridiculous for Travis to doubt his loyalty because Bowie was one of the rebellion’s best known firebrands who had just taken San Antonio from the Mexicans.)

Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis was killed while defending the gate of the Alamo with only his sword near the end of the assault. (Travis actually died early in the assault by falling backward from the wall with a bullet to the head.)

When Davy Crockett was mortally wounded at the Alamo, he managed to blow up the powder magazine. (Crockett didn’t do this. However, Alamo defender Robert Evans tried but was shot dead during his unsuccessful attempt. Also, Crockett was shot after surrendering to Santa Anna’s men {but his death is hotly debated}.)

Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis was married during the siege of the Alamo. (He was divorced in 1836 due to the fact that he deserted his family.)

Davy Crockett died at the Alamo while fighting by getting impaled by a Mexican soldier. (According to Mexican accounts {if we are to believe them}, particularly the diary of Mexican officer José Enrique de la Peña, Crockett surrendered and was taken prisoner by Santa Anna. He was tortured and killed with six other prisoners though General Manuel Castrillon tried to intercede with Santa Anna to spare Crockett’s life. Santa Anna vowed to take no prisoners and executed Crockett with the other survivors. Nevertheless, Santa Anna scandalized many Mexican officers by doing this. Still, Crockett’s death is up for debate because Santa Anna would’ve boasted about executing him and they guy says he died during the action.)

Only white Texans were among the Texas rebels. (Hispanic Tejanos fought in the rebellion, too like Captain Juan Seguin who played a vital role at the Alamo.)

Davy Crockett played a key role in defending the Alamo. (Most historians say that he didn’t and may have been killed early in the battle.)

Davy Crockett died as a POW for Santa Anna. (It’s very likely he did but we’re not exactly sure how he died. Still, this scene was a reason why many people weren’t happy with the 2004 Alamo film.)

Jim Bowie invented the Bowie knife. (No, he didn’t but it helped make him a frontier legend after a celebrated fight in Mississippi where he fatally stabbed an opponent twice with it despite being twice shot and stabbed 3 times himself. In some ways, this pitch kind of puts George Foreman and his grill to shame. Still, it’s unknown whether he fought another knife duel which he didn’t need to since he already had the knife and PR.)

There were 185 defenders at the Alamo. (There were 250.)

Jim Bowie had a six barreled gun. (No, he didn’t but he did have that big ass knife that bears his name.)

Davy Crockett had a thing with Lady Flaca and went hunting with his men near the Alamo. (Neither of these happened.)

Lieutenant William Travis didn’t draw a line in the stand with a sword when he made his famous speech. (There is some first hand testimony saying he did from the two Alamo survivors. Yet, it’s very likely this is a legend.)

There were no survivors at the Alamo. (There were 17 Alamo survivors including Susannah Dickenson and her daughter, a black slave, and 14 pro-Texan Hispanics.)

Manifest Destiny:

The Confederate States and the Transcontinental Railroad were around in 1850. (Both weren’t around until the 1860s. Also, contrary to what The Legend of Zorro says, California would get its first railroad in 1856.)

The US possessed the Oregon Territory and the Louisiana Territory in 1788. (The US would receive both in the 19th century.)

Captain Harry Love was a psychotic killer. (He was actually a California Ranger and a Mexican American War veteran doing his job which was to hunt down the Five Joaquin gang that included Three Finger Jack and Joaquin Murieta, which he killed in a shootout. He took Three Finger Jack’s hand and Murieta’s head as proof the deed had been done {not as a trophy}.)

Brigham Young and Joseph Smith weren’t polygamists. (They were contrary to what the Tyrone Power biopic about Brigham Young says. Also, they didn’t have nice to things to say about black people either.)

Yuma Territorial prison was around in 1843. (Arizona was a part of Mexico then, so there was no Yuma Prison until 1876. It wouldn’t be part of the US until 1848.)

People who found gold managed to strike it rich during the California Gold Rush. (The people who actually managed to strike it rich were the people who actually mined the miners, particularly when it came to inventing something miners can use. Levi Strauss came up with blue jeans and actually made a fortune this way.)

The Santa Fe Railroad was built in the 1850s. (According to Imdb: “The original company was the Atchison and Topeka Railroad Company chartered in 1859. Although one of the original destinations of the railroad, “Santa Fe” was not added to the name of the company until 1863, well after the setting of the movie. Further, contrary to what is shown, initial track laying did not begin until 1868. “)

General Winfield Scott was a Lieutenant General during the Mexican War. (He was a major general and wouldn’t ascend to the rank until 1856 becoming the first American to do so since George Washington to hold it.)

Brigham Young and Joseph Smith claimed to be gods of the earth. (Neither of them did nor were they considered such by any of their followers.)

Brigham Young was British. (He was born in Vermont.)

The Nauvoo Expositor was torched by a mob. (It was ordered to be destroyed by a city council and it was done in a peaceful manner.)

Edgar Allan Poe:

Edgar Allan Poe had never written any sailor stories. (He wrote quite a few including “MS. Found in a Bottle,” “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,” among others (including “King Pest” and a brief sequence in “The Premature Burial”).)

Edgar Allan Poe was hunting a serial killer in Baltimore during the last days of his life. (He had been hospitalized four days before he was found dead on a Baltimore park bench on October 7, 1849. Still, alcoholism probably had nothing to do with it.)

Edgar Allan Poe was an alcoholic. (He’s said to be in his early biography, but it was written by a guy who despised him {his literary executor Rufus Griswold}, which was denounced by people who knew the guy personally {and to this day, we’re not sure what’s true about his life and what’s not, well, some of the content anyway. But it’s very well established that Poe was a posthumous victim of character assassination.}. However, his death may not have been attributed to alcoholism. Most people who knew Poe didn’t think he had any problems with substance abuse. Sure he drank during difficult times in his life, but he also could do without booze for several months. Still, possible causes of Poe’s death may be delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera, rabies, or cooping {basically being unwillingly forced to vote for a particular candidate [sometimes several times over] and being killed for not complying. I mean he was found on an Election Day}. So there were plenty of things that could kill you in the 19th century. Not to mention, he was treated at a for-profit hospital at the time of his death where he was confined to a prison like room and wasn’t allowed visitors. And that the physician attending him was the only one with him at the time, but we’re not sure if he’s even trustworthy because he kept changing his story in later years. He even altered the dates. Poe’s death certificate and medical records have also been lost.)

Edgar Allan Poe was unable to make money from writing full time. (Well, to be fair, writing certainly didn’t make Poe rich, mostly because the US didn’t have any copyright protection system at the time and that it’s tough getting published anyway. Also, lack of a central bank in the day made people’s finances very unstable. However, he was able to secure a variety of writing positions in his lifetime for various journals and magazines where he contributed a lot of articles. It also helped that Poe had a wide writing range producing poems, book reviews, short stories, and critiques. Hell, he even had his short stories released as a book collection as well as a considerable following. He also moved around a lot and while his home in Baltimore doesn’t look like much, his last residence in Philadelphia on the other hand is considerably nicer. Poe even had a cottage in Fordham section of the Bronx during his final years. So while Poe may have struggled economically, he wasn’t in the poorhouse. Of course, what hampered him economically wasn’t his personal life in as much it was the fact that Poe’s stories received a lot of negative reviews from other authors mostly because Poe basically wrote highly negative reviews about theirs. This was at a time when reviews were usually expected to be positive since they were hired to “sell” books. Poe just couldn’t stand to “sell” books he thought were bad.)

Edgar Allan Poe owned slaves. (His foster family did. But contrary to a silent film, Poe himself didn’t mainly because of his economic situation. And the fact he spent considerable time in his adult years in places where slavery was illegal. But there’s a silent film that depicts him as owning one.)

Edgar Allan Poe spent much of his life in Baltimore. (He only lived in Baltimore for 2 years in the 1830s and died there. Actually, Poe was born in Boston, grew up in Richmond, and spend a good chunk of his literary career in Philadelphia and New York.)

Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter. (Oh, please dear God, no.)

Abraham Lincoln had a decent relationship with his dad. (He had a better relationship with his wife and in-laws than with his old man as an adult. Actually after his mother’s death, Lincoln’s relationship with his father had deteriorated {though he did continue to support and visit him as an adult}. His father wasn’t even invited to Lincoln’s own wedding or even met Mary or their kids. Nor for that matter did Lincoln attend his dad’s funeral or visit him on his death bed saying “Say to him that if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant; but that if it be his lot to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before; and where the rest of us, through the help of God, hope ere-long to join them.” According to biographer David Herbert Donald, “In all his published writings, and indeed, even in reports of hundreds of stories and conversations, he had not one favorable word to say about his father.” Yet, he and his dad seemed to be on rosy terms in Abe Lincoln of Illinois.)

Abraham Lincoln made his House Divided speech during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. (He actually made them when he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for Senate from Illinois.)

The Armstrong case took place in 1837. (It took place in 1858, a few years before Lincoln would be elected president and at the time known as “the guy who debated Stephen Douglas.” He was 49 years old at the time.)

“Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Rally Around the Flag,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” were songs played during Lincoln’s presidential election in 1860. (They were American Civil War songs written in the 1860s.)

Abraham Lincoln met Joshua Speed in New Salem, Illinois. (They met in Springfield.)

Abraham Lincoln’s first love was Ann Rutledge. (This is widely believed but there’s no evidence to support that they were anything more than friends {but even so, he might’ve been willing to marry her}. Same goes for his relationship with his roommate Joshua Speed {for all those who think Lincoln was gay, yet understand sharing a bed was what roommates did in the 19th century regardless of sexual orientation. Besides, the Lincolns had absolutely no trouble consummating their marriage since their son Robert was born almost exactly nine months after their wedding}. Also, Ann died at 22 not 19. Still, his first love would more likely be Mary Owens but their relationship ended with a mutual breakup {yet most people have never heard of her}. Nevertheless, the Ann Rutledge story seems to be popular in Lincoln biopics since her untimely death gives an ideal Victorian death scene.)

Abraham Lincoln jilted Mary Todd at the altar. (They did call off their engagement in 1841 but there was no jilting involved. They did get back together as history shows.)

The Lincoln and Douglas debates were about an argument pertaining to secession and slavery. (It was an argument about slavery. And he was already the Republican nominee for Senate by that time.)

Joshua Speed died before Abraham Lincoln. (Speed outlived Lincoln by decades.)

Abraham Lincoln was just a simple country lawyer before his presidency. (He was a man of political ambitions as well as ably and profitably represented the Illinois Central Railroad and the Rock Island Bridge Co. {which would build the first railroad bridge over the Mississippi River}. Had he not tried to seek office or compelled to speak out against the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 before running for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln would’ve remained a full-time lawyer and earned fame and fortune at the bar.)

Martin Van Buren:

Martin Van Buren was nominated by the Democrats for the 1840 presidential election in 1839. (Well, not in an official stance.)

Martin Van Buren was photographed during his presidency. (The earliest photo of him that exists is from 1845. Still, the first president to be photographed while in office was James K. Polk in 1849 {though William Henry Harrison may have been in 1841}.)

Davy Crockett:

Davy Crockett was the first modern American celebrity to bore everyone silly moaning about his fame. (Actually he courted fame and was a swaggering braggart, not a soft spoken wry adventurer like in the Billy Bob Thornton portrayal.)

Davy Crockett fought the British during the War of 1812. (There’s nowhere in his biographies that indicate he participated in any battles against British troops.)


Gen. Philip Sheridan was the head of West Point during Custer’s time there. (Sheridan was never head of West Point and was nine years older than Custer as well as only a first lieutenant when the Civil War began.)

The Whig Party was around in 1832. (It was formed in 1836.)

At least one Pinckney family member served in Congress during the Amistad case. (No member of the Pinckney family was holding office at the time.)

Robert E. Lee was in uniform during the capture of John Brown. (He had been on leave when he was suddenly called back to duty. Thus, during John Brown’s capture, he was in civilian clothes. Also, he  didn’t sport that Civil War signature look then either. Nevertheless, his troops at Harper’s Ferry were marines not army.)

“Beautiful Dreamer” came out in the 1850s. (It wasn’t written until 1864.)

Joseph Smith got to trial. (He was murdered by a mob of 200 people and was willing to turn himself in to prevent a battle between the mobs and the persecuted Mormons. Yet, the Mormons didn’t flee when Joseph Smith was killed and left Illinois for Utah 2 years after his death.)

West Virginia was a separate state in this era. (It would become a state in 1863 when it split from Virginia to join the Union.)

Early American congressmen and senators didn’t carry guns in the US Capitol. (They did. Also, you won’t believe how many guys in congress got into duels in Washington DC during that time.)

“In God We Trust” was on silver coins during the 1850s. (It wasn’t put on coins until 1867.)

Artillery at Harper’s Ferry was pulled by 4 horse teams. (Artillery pieces were pulled by 6 horse teams until the Civil War.)

J. E. B. Stuart’s first assignment after West Point was the 2nd Cavalry. (It was the U. S. Mounted Rifles in Texas followed by the 1st Cavalry.)

The Armory at Harper’s Ferry just consisted of an arsenal where John Brown was. (From Imdb: “The Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry was actually a complex of manufacturing, storage, and office buildings. During the fighting, John Brown’s force finally took refuge in the Fire House, one of the smallest of the buildings on the Armory grounds. The Fire House was built of brick but had three large wooden doors through which the firefighting equipment could move. “)

Stephen Foster’s wife was from the South. (She was from Pittsburgh like he was.)

Martin Van Buren was a well known politician in the 1820’s. (It would’ve been impossible for a 12 year old boy in New Hampshire to carry the name of the 8th president of the United States since during the 1820s, he was an obscure politician and a relative unknown and of no particular consequence to anyone outside New York.)

The slave trade was legal in the US by the 1850s. (It had been abolished in 1807.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 37 – The Birth of the American Nation


Who would’ve thought Ramses II and Moses from The Ten Commandments would be together again to fight the Battle of New Orleans together in the 1958 film The Buccaneer? Of course, if there are any movies based in this era, this movie and it’s 1938 premake with Frederich March, are probably the best you’re ever going to get in terms of historical accuracy. Still, Yul Brynner’s character is a French pirate named Jean Lafitte whose services were vital to Charlton Heston’s Andrew Jackson (which is well cast despite the hilariously botched make up job) winning the Battle of New Orleans. Had Lafitte had not intervened, the British might’ve won and American history would’ve taken a very different direction.

While there aren’t many movies made covering the US between the end of the American Revolution and the War of 1812 (and the ones we do have tend to be rather inaccurate), these years tend to be trying years for the new United States (yet, why Hollywood doesn’t do many movies on these years I have no idea since there’s much creative potential). In the 1780s, the US was under the system of government known as the Articles of Confederation, which was a loose set of rules for the nation that wasn’t very effective, which was shown by Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts. So the summer 1787, a bunch of delegates gathered in Philadelphia to draft a new constitution with a stronger federal government which the United States pretty much runs on today. In 1789, George Washington would be elected America’s first president (in a modern sense) who would set precedents in the American presidency which are still followed today as well as Alexander Hamilton’s financial system. Still, this is an era when the US comes into its own as a nation with things like the XYZ Affair, the Whiskey Rebellion, clashing with the Barbary pirates, the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Marbury vs. Madison, and finally, the War of 1812. Yet, many of these subjects don’t have their own movies to them for some reason. Yet, ones that do have a lot of inaccuracies in them which is a shame because this is a very important time in American history and knowledge of it shouldn’t be confined to an American classroom.

Articles of Confederation Years:

Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Martha was in her 20s when she and her family arrived in Paris. (She was 12 years old in 1785. Ironically, in Jefferson in Paris she’s played by Gwyneth Paltrow while in 1776, her mother is played by Blythe Danner {Danner and Paltrow are mother and daughter in real life}. )

Thomas Jefferson was willing to break his vow of never remarrying by hitching up with Maria Cosway. (Make no mistake, Jefferson did have an affair {or a romance} with Maria Cosway and did invite her to Virginia, but there’s no record that he ever proposed to her. Also, Maria Cosway had a husband who Jefferson also invited to Virginia as well.)

Sally Hemings was in her twenties when she began her sexual relationship with Thomas Jefferson. (She was 14 while Jefferson was 44 {yes, these are the right ages and a bit creepy} but since she’s played by 23 year old Thandie Newton in Jefferson in Paris, we’ll allow that. No one wants to see Jefferson sleep with a teenager, even though he actually did.)

Thomas Jefferson witnessed the first Mongolfier balloon ascent. (The Mongolfiers launched their first balloon in 1783. Jefferson was in Paris between 1785 and 1789.)

Sally Hemings was pregnant while in Paris. (She had her first child after she and the Jeffersons returned to America.)

Federalist Era:

Alexander Hamilton was a wizened old fox. (At times he could be loyal, brilliant, and arrogant. Also, he died at 49. Not to mention, he saw George Washington as a father figure.)

Alexander Hamilton drew up his financial plan for the US during his affair with Maria Reynolds. (He banged Reynolds after he drew up his plan.)

Alexander Hamilton toyed around with Maria Reynolds only because his wife was out of town. (He barely missed an opportunity for sex from anyone.)

Jack o’ lanterns adorned American homes in the 1790s. (Carving pumpkins weren’t commonplace in the US until the wave of Irish immigrants in the 1840s.)

The New York Police Department existed in the 1790s. (It was founded in 1844 and first issued the dark blue uniforms in 1853.)

New York City was the capital of New York in 1799. (New York’s capital was moved to Albany in 1797.)

The Presidential residence in Washington D. C. was called the “White House” in 1806. (The earliest reference of the President’s house called “The White House” was in 1811. At this time, it was mostly known as “The Executive Mansion.”)

Monticello was in tip top shape at this time. (The Monticello you see today looked nowhere near like it did during Jefferson’s lifetime. Jefferson never finished its construction and it was a mess by the time he died in 1826. Actually the Monticello you see today was more of the work of historical renovators which was completed in 1954.)

There were no slaves in Washington at this time. (Blacks slaves served as footmen in the White House at this time.)

Lewis and Clark Expedition:

William Clark and Sacajawea had a romantic relationship during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (No such relationship ever took place. For one, Sacajawea was already married {and heavily pregnant with her son Jean Baptiste for part of the trip} and Clark was engaged. Second, her husband was also an important member for he was the only one who understood his wife and was happy to give his assistance. And it was him Lewis and Clark actually hired as an interpreter who agreed to go only if his pregnant wife tagged along with him and it was a good thing she did. Third, do you think Clark would be that stupid?)

Sacajawea was promised to Toussaint Charbonneau and had no baby during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (She was married to Charbonneau and would have a son named Jean Baptiste during the trip. Furthermore, her accompaniment was a stipulation by Charbonneau himself who agreed to go along with Lewis and Clark as long as he brought her with him.)

Sacajawea met Thomas Jefferson. (They never met each other because Sacajawea was never in Washington or Monticello.)

Lewis and Clark didn’t get along with each other during the expedition. (They got along splendidly and had no problems sharing overall command. Also, Lewis never threatened to have William Clark court-martialed. They faced many problems during the expedition but fighting over romance wasn’t one of them.)

William Clark got into a knife-fight with Charbonneau. (This never happened, nor would anyone in the expedition come at each other with knives.)

Toussaint Charbonneau was a jealous husband as well as a complete villain of a man. (He was actually a very nice guy eager to help Lewis and Clark with his assistance. Also, he was a very important member of the group who was one of the reasons why Sacajawea was so helpful to the group {since the Corps of Discovery only had two guys who spoke French.})

Sacajawea accompanied William Clark back to Washington D. C. (Her and Clark’s relationship was no more than professional {though he did help support her kids} and she didn’t accompany him back to Washington. Still, Hollywood, why do you make up these romances that never existed?)

There were no black guys in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (William Clark brought his slave and manservant York with him who the Indians treated with respect and wonder {since they never saw a black man before}. Still, he could’ve been played by Sidney Poitier in The Far Horizons.)

William Clark and Meriwether Lewis had the hots for the same girl named Julia Hancock. (Lewis had no interest in Clark’s fiancée. Besides, she was only 14 at the beginning of the expedition which was rather creepy since Clark was 33.)

Lewis and Clark had adversarial relations with most of the Indian tribes they encountered during their expedition and killed a dozen Indians in one attack. (They were on friendly terms with many of the Indian tribes they encountered {save the Blackfeet}, much due to the services of Sacajawea and her baby son Jean Baptiste. And the only Indians that were killed during the trip were a couple of teenage Blackfeet during the return.)

Lewis and Clark lost several men during their expedition due to Indian attacks. (They only lost one guy during the whole trip to a ruptured appendix {which really couldn’t be treated}. No one in Lewis and Clark’s team was ever killed in an Indian attack during the whole expedition which is a truly remarkable feat.)

Lewis and Clark saw the Grand Tetons during their famous expedition. (They never saw these mountains in Wyoming.)

War of 1812:

The Mississippi Valley escaped British Conquest during the War of 1812 largely because of Jean Lafitte’s longings for an American belle. (Actually the Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks after the War of 1812 but the Treaty of Ghent had no bearings on the New Orleans crisis there {since the British had considered the Louisiana purchase invalid anyway}. Had the British won, treaty or no treaty, North America would’ve looked very different than it does today, and Chicago and St. Louis may as well have been part of Canada. Still, Lafitte’s motives were more about getting his brother Pierre out of British custody from a New Orleans jail than anything. This explains why he was willing to help Andrew Jackson when the latter captured his men in exchange for services and munitions. Jackson had little choice but to give Lafitte’s men a full pardon due to steady pressure from the leading citizens and Lafitte’s personal appeal.)

Andrew Jackson gave Lafitte and his brother orders to clear out in an hour after one of his men sunk an American ship. (Lafitte and his men actually ended up receiving a full pardon by President Madison for his services as well as Jackson’s warm public thanks. Still, the love stories in the movies about Lafitte are 100% made up.)

The Americans were outnumbered by the British during the Battle of New Orleans. (Both sides were about even.)

Tennessee sharpshooters caused the majority of British casualties in the Battle of New Orleans. (Most of the British casualties were due to American cannons.)

Louisiana Governor William Claiborne was sympathetic for the Baratarians’ plight. (He was only willing to accept Jean Lafitte services in exchange for Pierre Lafitte’s release because he was desperate for allies. He was actually against Lafitte’s cooperation.)

Governor Claiborne’s house slave Cato fought on the Americans’ side during the Battle of New Orleans. (Slaves were forbidden to fight on the American side during the War of 1812 for fear they’d turn their guns against their masters. However, resident free blacks in New Orleans did fight on the American side, in compliance with Andrew Jckson’s orders.)

Jean Lafitte was willing to join Andrew Jackson’s forces over democratic idealism. (It was actually because Jackson had took 80 of his men hostage {including his other brother, Dominique You} and that Jackson needed Lafitte’s munition supply. Nevertheless, the Baratarians’ services were vital to American success during the Battle of New Orleans.)

Dominique You and Jean Lafitte weren’t related to each other. (They were brothers, but movies don’t point this out.)

Jean Lafitte had a romance with Governor Claiborne’s daughter Annette and was willing to find a better line of work to win her over. (Claiborne did leave descendants but I’m sure Annette Claiborne didn’t exist. Also, even if she did, her dad wouldn’t want her to date a French pirate like Jean Lafitte. Also, Lafitte never gave up his profession and died in 1826.)

The American militia in New Orleans was quickly raised and the defensive line of the Rodriguez Canal was built only when the British threatened the city. (The defenses at the Rodriguez Canal were constructed only in the course of a week while Andrew Jackson used martial law to raise several militia units and had almost 4,000 reinforcements. Also, unlike what 1958 film The Buccaneer says, the Americans weren’t standing behind a flimsy wall but high and solid fortifications.)

Andrew Jackson used delaying tactics to slow down the British advance at the Battle of New Orleans. (Jackson was an aggressive man who later attacked a man who tried to assassinate him while he was president. He would’ve done no such thing and led his troops in an immediate attack, taking the exhausted British by surprise and staged an artillery duel several days later.)

Andrew Jackson never swore. (It’s said when he died, his pet parrot had to be removed from his funeral. Still, Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Andrew Jackson is almost dead on.)

The rich citizens in New Orleans refused to pay taxes because no one wanted to pay them in a war that was being lost. (The French and the Spanish residents of New Orleans refused to pay taxes because they had little interest in following the American government’s laws.)

Andrew Jackson had a heart condition. (Well, The Buccaneer points this out. However, while Jackson wasn’t the healthiest specimen, he had been in a duel in which he dealt with a bullet in the chest. It would remain with him for the rest of his life.)

Andrew Jackson knew which direction the British were coming during the Battle of New Orleans. (He didn’t so he spread his forces over a wide area to cover all possible approaches.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 36 – The American Revolution


Of course, I couldn’t do a post on the American Revolution without posting a picture from the 2000 film The Patriot in which Mel Gibson plays a simple family man who kicks Great Britain’s ass and all the British soldiers are stand-ins for the Nazis. This movie covers the Revolutionary War in the South which is much more complicated and brutal than the movie portrays. Also, there’s no way Mel Gibson’s character would have black workers toiling at his plantation. That’s just not possible. Not to mention, Banastre Tarleton and Lord Cornwallis weren’t that bad guys either.

Anyone who lives in the United States knows that the American Revolution is a pivotal point in American history, even though it’s not as important anywhere else. Of course, if you want to know why we entered into this war with Great Britain, look no further than the French and Indian War which the colonists fought on the British side so some of them could move out west to places like Pittsburgh or some where. I mean if the French won, I would’ve written this article in French and be a Canadian citizen. Still, after the war ended in 1763, Indian Wars against Pontiac led to the Prohibition line of 1763 across the Appalachian Mountains. Then you have Britain in debt which led to the Stamp Act, Townsend Acts, Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and before you know it, the shot heard around the world at Lexington and Concord. Thus, the American Revolution has begun which leads to other events like The Battle of Bunker Hill (should be the Battle of Breed’s Hill), the Declaration of Independence, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Saratoga, Valley Forge, and finally Cornwallis’ Surrender at Yorktown. There are quite a few movies made in this time, which have quite a few historical errors in them of which I shall list.

Road to Revolution:

The American Revolution was fought over taxes. (It was fought over being taxed but without being able to send representative to Parliament. However, little did they know about how many people were unrepresented in Britain. Also, they didn’t like being treated as a colony.)

The Liberty Tree was full of leaves during the Boston Tea Party. (The Boston Tea Party took place in December.)

Paul Revere shouted “The redcoats are coming!” during his ride. (He said “The regulars are coming!” which doesn’t seem to have the same gist to it. Also, he wasn’t the only rider and didn’t make it to Concord.)

The American Revolution:

George Washington:

George Washington was pessimistic about his army’s progress by the spring of 1776. (Actually he was a little more hopeful. Despondence didn’t set in until seven weeks after the Declaration of Independence came out.)

Benjamin Tallmadge:

Major Benjamin Tallmadge and Major John Andre had a long and deep friendship. (Yes, they had some kind of friendship but it wasn’t for the longer term. Also, Andre knew he was a goner anyway. Still, Tallmadge did nothing to save Andre’s life nor did Andre save Tallmadge’s. Not to mention, Tallmadge was never a spy out of uniform and was much more ruthless nor was above employing brutal methods to accomplish his own ends unlike his expy in The Scarlet Coat.)

Francis Marion:

Francis Marion was a forward-thinking family man during the Revolution who defeats countless Brits single-handedly. (In reality, Francis Marion was a slave-owning serial rapist who didn’t get married until after the war {to his cousin} and he also killed Cherokees for fun. In Hollywood terms, this would make the real Francis Marion truly undesirable for any Hollywood film adaptation because who wants to see a movie where the hero rapes his slaves and takes great sport in killing Indians? As for defeating countless Brits singlehandedly, how can you manage that with a musket? Also, why would any Southern man hire black workers for wages? That’s as impossible as them working voluntarily. How could a black person voluntarily work on a South Carolina plantation during the American Revolution, really?)

Henry Lee:

Henry Lee was known as “Lighthorse Harry” Lee throughout the American Revolution. (He didn’t get the nickname until 1778.)

The Mohawk Valley:

Fighting in the Mohawk Valley was mostly Indians vs. settlers. (The British soldiers played a much bigger role. Also, the Continental Army and local militias raided and destroyed Iroquois settlements in the region. So maybe the Iroquois had some reason to get pissed off and attack settlers.)

The Battle of Oriskany was an American victory. (Nearly half of the American forces were killed, wounded, or forced to retreat and it led to lifting the siege at Fort Stanwix two days later because the militia could no longer do so. However, this happened in 1777 not 1781.)

Fort Stanwix and the Mohawk Valley were of no strategic importance whatsoever. (The events in the Mohawk Valley and Fort Stanwix would later lead to Saratoga, which would be a turning point in the American Revolution.)

William Caldwell was killed on the Mohawk Valley assault. (He lived to fight on the British side during the War of 1812.)

Banastre Tarleton:

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton wore a red uniform. (He was a Dragoon and his legion wore green. Still, love the Jason Isaacs portrayal though I prefer him as Lucius Malfoy with his pimp cane wand and blond hair.)

Banastre Tarleton burned down a colonial church full of villagers during the Revolutionary War. (There’s no evidence he did such a thing or that any other commander during the American Revolution did either {though Oliver Cromwell did burn a church full of people in Ireland and the Nazis staged a similar massacre in France}. And unlike what The Patriot tells you, he did survive the war and went on to have a political career. Still, was an asshole though for he supported slavery. Nevertheless, he had a bad reputation for his men slaughtering colonial prisoners at Waxhaw, though we’re not sure if he was directly responsible but the massacre wasn’t a premeditated thing. He also burned colonial homes and execute suspected guerillas but that’s about it. If he had burned a church full of people, we would’ve known about it. Also, the Loyalists were much worse in their brutality toward the Patriots {who were happy to return the favor}.)

Charles Cornwallis:

Lord General Charles Cornwallis was present at the Battle of Cowpens. (He wasn’t.)

Lord General Charles Cornwallis held the colonists in open contempt and disdain. (He was a Whig who was sympathetic to the colonials as well as an MP who voted on their behalf several times before the war. He was just fighting for his country.)

Lord General Charles Cornwallis was a rather older man during the American Revolution. (He was only in his forties and six years younger than George Washington.)

Benjamin Franklin:

Benjamin Franklin was an abolitionist during the American Revolution. (He wasn’t until after the war but he did become president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1785.)

Benjamin Franklin was a pervert. (Yes, he had a racy side which does show in his writings. However, in 1776, he was quite an angry man who was out to even the score with a British government that had hauled him before the Privy Council in 1774 and called him a liar and a thief.)

John Adams:

John Adams sent for Martha Jefferson to visit her husband in Philadelphia while Thomas struggled writing the Declaration of Independence. (Sure Jefferson was deeply worried about Martha during the times he struggled writing the Declaration of Independence, yet his wife was at Monticello too ill and depressed even to write him a letter {due to suffered a miscarriage and a bout of gestational diabetes}, let alone visit him in Philadelphia. Still, Jefferson could’ve used some other alternative to fuel his sexual frustrations like many slave owners did at the time {Jefferson included}. However, Mrs. Mary Norris Dickinson was present in Philadelphia at the time but she’s absent from 1776 mostly because the Dickinsons’ marriage was more egalitarian and not bound by gender stereotypes {which is kind of a shame that it wasn’t included}.)

John Adams was an obnoxious and disliked person in the Continental Congress. (This is based on Adams’ self-description from 1822 but David McCullough and Gary Wills say that no one viewed him this way and much of Congress actually had a lot of respect for him. John Dickinson was actually advocating an unpopular position in 1776, according to them. Still, he was kind of a brilliant and abrasive guy who hated to shut up but missed his wife during that time {yet they did flirt passionately in their letters}.)

John Adams hated Richard Henry Lee and liked Benjamin Franklin. (He actually admired and respected Lee but disliked Franklin.)

Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson resolved to free his slaves in 1776. (He never did except for a few after his death 50 years later. Also, he would have children by one of them later on in his life.)

Thomas Jefferson was so anxious to get home during the independence debate was because he needed to get laid. (No, it was because his wife was extremely ill at the time from a miscarriage.)

Thomas Jefferson was a sex addict. (No, he may have been a guy on the Autism spectrum who may have slept with his slaves but he was no sex addict. But we understand he did have his needs.)

Thomas Jefferson cut out his antislavery paragraph from the Declaration of Independence over Edward Rutledge’s speech about how both north and south were equally responsible for it while John Adams defended him. (Actually, the paragraph was more on the slave trade, not slavery. Still, while Adams did defend him, Jefferson cut it because due to objections from Georgia and South Carolina while some northern states were uneasy on the subject.)

John Dickinson:

John Dickinson was a loyalist. (He wasn’t at all since he had been anti-British before the Revolution with his Letters of a Pennsylvanian Farmer as well as fight against the Brits in the militia as a private and brigadier general. He just didn’t think 1776 was a good time to declare it since the government structure was too uncertain and that the Americans had no European allies. Also, he wasn’t at the Continental Congress when independence was being debated and voted upon. Still, he was a pacifist Quaker who objected to revolution, not a loyalist Tory {or a Nixon clone as he is in 1776}.)

John Dickinson resigned from Congress without signing the Declaration of Independence. (He didn’t resign but he did leave without signing. However, he was on the committee to draft the Articles of Confederation.)

John Paul Jones:

John Paul Jones spoke in an American accent. (He born and grew up in Scotland. Seriously, his biopic casting would’ve been more accurate if he was played by Sean Connery, not Robert Stack. )

John Paul Jones only had two vessels in his squadron of privateers. (He actually had four. His Captain Landais of the Alliance just didn’t want to obey Jones’ orders and regularly ignored them mostly because he felt he should’ve been in command.)

John Paul Jones ordered Commodore Hopkins to the Bahamas. (He sent him to the Virginia coast but Hopkins went to the Bahamas anyway attacking the islands for military supplies. He was later court-martialed for this and other questions regarding his command. I guess being one of the first US officers to be court martialed doesn’t look good for one’s resume.)

Captain Pearson knew that John Paul Jones was in his vicinity. (He knew there was a raiding force in the area. However, he mistook Jones’ fleet was a Royal Navy squadron. This allowed Jones to get close to the Serapis before the sea battle began.)

John Paul Jones refused to accept Captain Pearson’s sword during the latter’s surrender. (Jones actually accepted Pearson’s sword after the battle but returned it a few days later.)

Richard Henry Lee:

Richard Henry Lee was a giggling buffoon who made endless puns with his own name and didn’t have any idea about American independence. (He was the second most powerful orator in the Continental Congress after John Adams who supported independence the moment he entered Congress. Also, he was an intense, high minded, and humorless Puritan who would’ve certainly hated his portrayal in 1776.)

Richard Henry Lee was governor of Virginia. (He never served as governor. His cousin Henry Lee was {who ended up fathering a future Civil War general}.)

Caesar Rodney:

Caesar Rodney was short. (He’s famously depicted as tall.)

Caesar Rodney had a small patch covering his cheek. (During 1776, Caesar Rodney was suffering from skin cancer which would later kill him 9 years later {at 56 being 47 in 1776}. However, by that time, he was actually missing half his face due to 18th century surgery and cauterization treatments. He kept the afflicted area under wraps under a green kerchief wrapped around his head. Still, despite this and asthma, he managed to ride eighty miles during a thunderstorm. However, he was absent from Congress in 1776 because he trying to stiffen the spines of his fellows Delawareans.)

James Wilson:

James Wilson was a timid fool who only voted for independence because he didn’t want the notoriety of turning it down. (He was a shrewd and contentious lawyer from Pennsylvania perhaps the greatest intellect in America after James Madison. Also, he was staunchly committed to independence from the beginning but delayed his vote until he checked with his constituents to make sure they agreed with him. Contrary to 1776, he wasn’t a judge at the time and the swing vote for independence was a guy name John Morton who’s absent from the film. Still, Wilson’s portrayal in 1776 is as about accurate as it could be at the time.)

Robert Livingston:

Robert Livingston was an utter twit. (This man would go on to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.)

Edward Rutledge:

Edward Rutledge was in his forties in 1776. (He was only 26 and the youngest delegate. In 1776, he’s played by a 40ish Jack Cullum.)

Lewis Morris:

Lewis Morris was an idiot who willingly abstained his vote until his sons enlisted. (He wasn’t in Philadelphia to vote on Independence because he was serving as Brigadier general in his local New York militia. Also, he was very pro-independence as well as later signed the Declaration of Independence months after the vote.)

Lewis Morris had 12 children in which 4 of the oldest boys fought in the Revolution. (He had 10 kids and his 3 oldest sons fought.)

War in the South:

The French only fought in the Battle of Yorktown as colonial allies. (They arrived in 1778.)

Slavery was practically nonexistent in Revolutionary South Carolina and not particularly bad anyway. (South Carolina was one of the biggest pro-slavery states in the Union for much of American history {it was the first state to secede from the Union after Lincoln’s election in 1860}. And, yes, it was one of the most inhumane institutions ever in existence in America. I mean the US became bitterly divided and fought a whole war over it. Also, read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography in which he talks about all kinds of childhood horrors and how his struggle to be free took up most of it.)

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was colonial victory during the American Revolution. (It was actually ah heavy loss.)

Most of the South was pro-patriot during the Revolutionary War. (There were significant factions in the South that remained Loyalist.)

The Battle of Cowpens was a mostly infantry affair that resulted in heavy American losses. (It was a cavalry battle lasting less than an hour which resulted in only 12 Americans getting killed.)

Americans of all stripes took up arms out of patriotism during the American Revolution. (Well, maybe but it took some congressional measures to keep them in the Continental Army which wasn’t an easy task since it had few resources and more Americans served in militias. Some also served for money and or because they had nowhere else to. And not everyone in the colonies supported independence either.)

British soldiers were mostly responsible for the atrocities in the South during the Revolutionary War. (Loyalists and Patriot Americans were and many used the war as an excuse to settle old scores. However, in Hollywood, the Patriots are the good guys, and the Loyalists mostly don’t exist.)

Declaration of Independence:

30-35 delegates of the Continental Congress were present in 1776. (65 delegates were but 1776 was adapted from a musical so the reduction kind of made sense.)

The debate over American Independence boiled down to the argument of the phrasing of the Declaration and whether slaver ought to be legal. (As with the slavery question, the issue very well could’ve been debated but it wasn’t the point in which the issue of independence hinged at least for the Continental Congress. Yet, since many of the Revolutionary leaders were slave owners {I’m talking to you, Jefferson}, they kind of passed the buck to the next generation by silent agreement. As with independence, they already voted in favor of independence before making changes to the Declaration.)

The anti-independence faction in Congress were filled with “conservatives.” (There were no conservatives in Congress at this time since every delegate was liberal in the classical sense in English 18th century politics. To be a conservative at the time, you would have to be vehemently pro-monarchist and have found the idea of an unauthorized congress distasteful no matter what they were discussing. Also, the left-right spectrum wouldn’t exist until the French Revolution.)

The vote on independence came on July 4, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. (It was on July 2. Some historians believed the Declaration of Independence was actually signed on August 2, {though most of the delegates signed it at different times}. Also, John Hancock was the only person to sign it on July 4.)

There was a mandate for a unanimous vote for independence. (There wasn’t but rather an understanding that a less than unanimous vote risked the fatal split of the colonies, especially if the delegates were from Pennsylvania which is why it’s known as the Keystone State and why a keystone is used as a state highway logo.)


During the American Revolution, both sides spoke in British accents. (Yes, but not in the British accents we know today. British accents have changed considerably since the nineteenth century and American accents have changed very little. And since there was no recording equipment at the time, we can’t really know for sure how they talked.)

Colonial soldiers saluted by placing their hands on their hats. (It actually consisted of taking off one’s hat, lowering it to the side, and putting it on again.)

The Founding Fathers were all God-fearing Christians. (Christians, yes, but they were also secularists and some had rather unconventional ideas about religion. Still, most of them did go to church and certainly weren’t atheists.)

Revolutionary soldiers wore blue uniforms. (This is true only near the end of the war and mostly among the officers. Most Continental soldiers wore whatever they had on or their militia uniform if they were in one. This is played to a lesser extent than the Confederates wearing grey uniforms though.)

The statue of King George III in New York City was of dark lead. (It was painted in gold according to a Continental army lieutenant.)

The Bonhomme Richard sank immediately after the battle with the Serapis while it was being pumped out during the action. (It actually sank late the next day after the battle in a failed attempt at repairs begun after the surrender since the men couldn’t be spared during the fight and the extent of damage couldn’t be fully judged during the chaos.)

American marksmanship was not only key to American victory during the American Revolution, but also to the vote of American independence. (No, I don’t think so. This is a myth. Besides, muskets had terrible aim.)

Samuel Chase, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were sent to a training camp in New Brunswick, New Jersey which George Washington reported as full of disorder and prostitutes. (They probably didn’t make such a visit. Also, Continental army training camps in 1776? Still, at least Washington’s view on camp followers is accurate in 1776. Also, New Brunswick did have that reputation for debauchery back then despite being the home of today’s Rutgers University.)

The attack of Whitehaven was a smooth operation. (It was far from it. The second boat sent during the attack did very little and its crew might’ve spent the attack in the Whitehaven pub {which would’ve made for a very funny scene}. Whitehaven’s fortifications had no troops {but housed a couple of caretakers} since the town was too cheap to pay for them and there was no confrontation with the townspeople. Also, only one of the 200 vessels docked there were burned since the attackers didn’t have enough oil to set the rest alight.)

American militiamen reloaded their guns very speedily and efficiently in combat. (They were notoriously slow reloading in combat due to lack of training, practice, and experience. The British, however, were well trained in this procedure.)

Continental soldiers were always ragged and hungry. (Sometimes but not all the time.)

The Americans won the Revolutionary war with frontier savvy and guerilla tactics. (We forget the British had as much guerilla chops as the colonies as well as Indian allies, even the guy who wrote the book on being an army ranger fought for the British. Ordinary pitched battles and European allies helped the Americans win.)

The stars and stripes was adopted in 1781. (It was adopted in June 1777.)

The Founding Fathers kept a secret treasure trove. (Several Founding Fathers were Freemasons but no, they didn’t put a treasure map on the Declaration of Independence.)

Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a Freemason. (He wasn’t.)

Ethan Allen took Fort Ticonderoga in 1776. (He took it in 1775.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 35 – Colonial America


Of course, no post on Colonial America will be complete without a picture from The Crucible with Daniel Day Lewis and Joan Allen as the Proctors. Still, Daniel Day Lewis is much too hot to play John Proctor since the real guy was a much older and heavier man who had a much larger family. Elizabeth Proctor was also significantly older but not much. Still, John Proctor never recanted and never had an affair with Abigail Williams.

The United States hasn’t had a long history yet there are plenty of movies recalling it nevertheless. What was once seen as untamed wilderness by the Jamestown explorers would later become set for a world power status by the 20th century. Of course, for many people outside the US, the movies are a way to learn about American history. For Americans, the movies are a way to remember it. Still, these don’t all consist of cowboy movies or Civil War pictures. Yet, this is a nation which many believed was founded on the basis of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as said in the Declaration of Independence. Few may not know that the US was once a colony of Great Britain or that certain events in American history didn’t even happen like the Mexican American War and the War of 1812 since much of Europe was fighting Napoleon a the time. In fact, not many people in Britain know much about the War of 1812 and they fought it, which is just as well because the Battle of New Orleans was a pretty humiliating defeat for them. Still, at least everyone remembers the American Civil War whether they like it or not as well as cowboys.

Of course, during the Age of Sail and the Cavalier Years, the world saw the rise of what would become a new country: America. However, under this time, the future nation would consist of 13 British colonies along the East coast. Of course, this is the time of the Pilgrims arriving in Massachusetts in pursuit of religious freedom and celebrating the first Thanksgiving with the Indians. You also have the Puritans who came for religious freedom as well as set up their own theocracy and later hunt witches. Still, when it comes to movies set in Colonial America, you’re mostly going to have it set in Massachusetts which will usually revolve around the Salem witch trials despite the fact that it didn’t cover most of colonial American history. Of course, from Hollywood, you won’t find out about things like New York being taken away from the Indians by the Dutch and later by the English, the infamous slave trade from the memoirs of Oladauh Equiano, the rise of Virginia growing tobacco, Indian Wars, a tale of a drag queen in colonial New Jersey, the founding of Georgia as a colony of debtors, and the one time George Washington accidentally started a world war after a diplomatic misadventure in Western Pennsylvania due to his inability to understand French or Native American languages. However, what does get into the movies, there is a potential for a great deal of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Plymouth Colony:

The Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Rock. (No, they landed in what is now Provincetown at first, but later landed in Plymouth near an abandoned Indian village they specifically chose as a landing place, but there was no rock.)

The Mayflower established the first settlement in New England. (George Popham had founded a colony along the coast of present day Maine in 1607 with 120 others. However, it failed within the year due to family changes in leadership ranks and most of the colonists got fed up and returned to England. Still, Wikipedia does have pictures of the map and the site. Nevertheless, compared to the Pilgrims, the Popham settlers were wimps.)

John Alden was a ships’ carpenter. (He was a cooper {barrel guy} and came on the Mayflower as a crew hire who later decided to stay, but he wasn’t a Separatist.)

Most on board the Mayflower came to America for religious freedom. (Yes, but the Pilgrims also came because they didn’t want their kids to grow up Dutch nor live in a land where other people could practice their religion just as freely {like Catholics, Jews, and atheists}. Some came as crewmembers and others to help provide governance for the colony. Also, many servants came along as well. Nevertheless, the Pilgrims who were religious Separatists consisted of 56% of the passengers and crew.)

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins met on the Mayflower. (Maybe but they wouldn’t get married until two years later. However, Myles Standish was probably not interested in her at the time since his wife was on board. Yet, the love triangle between Standish and Alden may have arisen that they were likely roommates and that Priscilla Mullins was the only single woman in Plymouth Colony of marriageable age at the time {but Alden and Standish probably weren’t the only guys competing for her affections. Still, it was probably her choice to marry Alden since she didn’t have any family left at Plymouth Colony and that he was close to her own age}. However, Standish isn’t known to take it personally.)

Dorothy Bradford had an affair with Captain Christopher Jones, which was why she threw herself over the ship and drowned. (There’s no evidence that Captain Jones and Mrs. Bradford had an affair {though Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney did during the making of Plymouth Adventure}. However, the Mayflower had already landed when she drowned while her husband was on an expedition. Also, she’s said to have slipped over the side, which probably was an accident, not suicide. Still, she probably drowned because she probably couldn’t swim and there was no one else who could’ve saved her since most people didn’t know how to swim in those days. Still, William and Dorothy Bradford did have a 3 year old son who went with them who’s absent in Plymouth Adventure.)

Prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival, no white person had ever set foot in New England. (Actually there had never been a successful settlement in New England until that time. However, there had been several English expeditions as well as an attempted settlement in Maine that failed. One of these was led by Captain John Smith himself {yes, that John Smith from Pocahontas}. Not only that, but Squanto was kidnapped during a couple of these, lived in Europe for nearly 14 years, was trained as an interpreter, and had his whole hometown wiped out by European diseases. He crossed the Atlantic six times in his life.)

Puritan Massachusetts:

In Puritan Massachusetts, a pregnant woman caught in adultery would be put in prison until the child was born then subject to public humiliation, ostracism, divorce, as well as be made to wear a scarlet letter A for the rest of her life. Also, she was allowed to fight for her child’s custody and keep the father’s identity a secret. (Actually Hester Prynne got off pretty easy with the Puritan Massachusetts equivalent of a slap on the wrist even though people who committed adultery did have to wear letters on their clothes but it was AD not an A. They also could be fined, beaten, branded, imprisoned, or banished from Massachusetts Bay. The most severe punishment for adultery in Puritan Massachusetts was death by hanging but it wasn’t always applied. Had Hester Prynne received the traditional punishment, there probably wouldn’t be a story like The Scarlet Letter.)

Salem Witch Trials:

Witches were burned at Salem during the trials. (Actually those who were executed in the Salem Witch Trials were those who accused of witchcraft who asserted their innocence but were found guilty anyway. All but one were hanged and one was crushed. Also, only 20 accused witches were executed. Those who admitted guilt didn’t face execution for they remained to name names.)

The accusers during the Salem witch trials were a dozen teenage girls. (Yes, but they also included men and adult women including Tituba’s husband John Indian {absent from the film}, Ann Putnam Sr., and Sarah Bibber as well as more in Andover, where the number of accused exceeded those of any town including Salem Village.)

A goat got into another person’s garden which caused tempers flaring during the Salem witch accusations. (This happened three years before and the animal was a pig getting into the Nurse’s family fields with Rebecca Nurse making an outburst at the neighbor. He died of a stroke a few months later. This incident was used at the trial to convict Rebecca Nurse of witchcraft.)

The judges during the Salem Witch Trials were Thomas Danforth, John Hathorne (ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the main reason for his name change), and Samuel Sewall. (The panel consisted of William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Wait Winthrop, Bartholomew Gedney, Samuel Sewall, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin and Peter Sergeant. Thomas Danforth was the Deputy Governor and a member of the Governor’s Council but he did preside on a few occasions. However, William Stougton did become Lieutenant Governor and Chief Magistrate. Saltonstall had to quit early. Still, Hathorne, Gedney, and Corwin were the primary magistrate who took the depositions at Ingersoll’s tavern.)

Rebecca Nurse, Martha Corey, and John Proctor were hanged for witchcraft around the same time all reciting the Lord’s Prayer. (They were hanged separately in 1692 with Nurse in July, Proctor in August, and Corey in September. Also, the person hung while reciting the Lord’s Prayer was the Rev. George Burroughs causing a stir in Salem because it was believed a witch couldn’t’ say the Lord’s Prayer without making a mistake. Proctor is also said to do the same.)

The witch hysteria didn’t die out in Salem in 1692 as more and more people refused to save themselves by giving false confessions. (The opposite was true. According to Margo Burns: “more and more people were giving false confessions and four women actually pled guilty to the charges. Some historians claim that this was because it became apparent that confession would save one from the noose, but there is evidence that the Court was planning to execute the confessors as well. What ended the trials was the intervention of Governor William Phips. Contrary to what Phips told the Crown in England, he was not off in Maine fighting the Indians in King William’s War through that summer, since he attended governor’s council meetings regularly that summer, which were also attended by the magistrates. But public opinion of the trials did take a turn. There were over two hundred people in prison when the general reprieve was given, but they were not released until they paid their prison fees. Neither did the tide turn when Rev. Hale’s wife was accused, as the play claims, by Abigail Williams (it was really a young woman named Mery Herrick), nor when the mother-in-law of Magistrate Jonathan Corwin was accused — although the “afflicted” did start accusing a lot more people far and wide to the point of absurdity, including various people around in other Massachusetts towns whom they had never laid eyes on, including notable people such as the famous hero Capt. John Alden (who escaped after being arrested).”)

The Salem Witch Trials were a landmark event in world history. (Only in American history. Witch trials were already happening all over Europe which killed way more people.)

The Salem Witch Trials were confined to Salem, Massachusetts. (It started with Salem but it extended to the Northeast Massachusetts area.)

Abigail Williams:

Abigail Williams and her friends were teenagers in 1692. (They were pre-teens while some were older. However, Abigail was 11 or 12 at the time and so was Betty Parris and Ann Putnam Jr..)

Abigail Williams was Reverend Parris’ niece. (There’s no genealogical evidence to prove that they were related. It’s possible she may have been a household servant. Yet, it was also customary for orphans without surviving family to live with the local minister. Still, most historians think her motivation for testifying was due to her wanting more attention since she was a “poor relation” to the Parris family with no marital prospects {she’d get no dowry}.)

Abigail Williams worked for the Proctors. (She never did, but maybe for the Parrises.)

Abigail Williams was Elizabeth Proctor’s first accuser. (It’s said Ann Putnam Jr. was. Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren also accused her as well.)

Abigail Williams was the ring leader in the Salem accusers. (She’s considered this. However, Ann Putnam Jr. was the most active whose name appeared 400 times in the court documents. Actually many of those involved with the Putnams had some relationship with the accused, accusers, and afflicted girls. In fact, many of the accused previously had disputes with the family. Not to mention, Ann Putnam Jr.’s court performances were notorious as the “star” witness in the trials.)

Abigail Williams stole £31 of Rev. Samuel Parris’ cash in order to flee to Barbados. (She would never have been able to get that kind of money since Rev. Parris earned £33 for his annual salary in cash. Still, we don’t know what happened to her though it’s said she died young.)

Abigail Williams and Betty Parris were the only two children in the Parris household. (Betty had an older brother and younger sister who also lived with them.)

Abigail Williams started the Salem Witch Trial hysteria just to get John Proctor’s wife bumped off. (For one, there’s no evidence that Abigail knew the Proctors and certainly didn’t have an affair with John {since she was a child at the time}. It’s more likely she just an attention seeking teen who acted out and was accused of witchcraft herself. More likely she accused someone else to take the heat off herself. And though she was the first accuser at the Witch Trials, she wasn’t much of a ringleader.)

Betty Parris:

Betty Parris participate in the proceedings at Salem. (She was shuffled off to live with Stephen Sewall’s family in Salem Town soon after the hysteria broke.)

Betty Parris’ mother was dead by 1692. (Her mother would die in 1696 so she was very much alive during the Salem witch trials. The Parrises also had two other children at the time.)


Tituba was black using Caribbean voodoo magic. (She may have been a Chrsitianized Indian using European white magic at the instruction of her English neighbors and married.)

Tituba led a wild dancing rite in the woods which Rev. Parris stumbled upon. (There’s no historical evidence of this, though she did bake a strange cake after the girls were afflicted {but at a neighbor’s suggestion} which led to her to being charged with witchcraft. She also dabbled in fortune telling and other non-Puritan activities.)

John Proctor:

John Proctor cheated on his wife Elizabeth with Abigail Williams. Not only, that he and his wife also tried to stop the witch craze that wreaked Salem, Massachusetts. (Actually, he was good to his wife, and even if he wasn’t he wouldn’t go for Abigail Williams who was 11 at the time of the Salem Witch Trials. As for the Proctors’ fate, he was hanged way before the Salem witch craze ended and Elizabeth only escaped because she was pregnant. She was released when the craze ended. Also, contrary to what the movies say, some of the witches hung at Salem were men, not women.)

John Proctor was accused of witchcraft for ditching Abigail Williams. (They never had an affair nor is there evidence Abigail knew the Proctors. Still, he was more of a victim of town rivalries than a scorned lover. Also, while Abigail was his chief accuser it was over him and his wife sending specters to torment them {as well as defending his wife}. Not to mention, Elizabeth’s grandmother was a Quaker midwife also suspected of witchcraft. His former servant Mary Warren {who had second thoughts before being accused herself for defending the Proctors} and Mary Walcott also accused him.)

John Proctor was hanged after Giles Corey was pressed. (He was hanged before.)

John and Elizabeth Proctor were a couple in their thirties with two young sons. (He was 60 while she was 41 {though she was pregnant during the trial}, and she was his third wife. They also had about five living children at the time with the oldest being seventeen. John had a 33 year old son living with him from his first marriage as well as three others from his second {one of whom was married at the time}. In the movie The Crucible, John is played by Daniel Day Lewis who was a rather young man.)

John Proctor was a farmer. (He was a successful farmer and a tavern keeper whose interests were diametrically opposed to the old established elite of Salem Village. Also, he lived between Salem Village and Salem Town.)

John Proctor confessed to being a witch during his trial. (He maintained his innocence throughout. Yet, another accused man whose wife was also accused did recant. His name was Samuel Wardwell of Andover.)

John Proctor didn’t believe in witchcraft. (We’re not sure if he did or not. He just didn’t believe in the afflicted girls and thought they should’ve been suspected of witchcraft themselves instead of pointing fingers at respectable people like his wife.)

John and Elizabeth Proctor were the only people in their family accused of witchcraft. (Their two oldest children were accused as well along with John’s oldest son Benjamin from his first marriage, and John’s daughter Elizabeth Very from his second marriage. Elizabeth’s sister, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law were also among the accused.)

John Proctor was thin and rather attractive. (He was a large and aging man seen as a good businessman, fearless, bold, and impulsive. Yet, he’s played by Daniel Day Lewis in the 1996 film The Crucible. If he wanted to resemble the real man at the time, he’d have to age 30 years and gain 50 pounds.)

Giles Corey:

Giles Corey was executed for refusing to name a witness. (He was accused of witchcraft and refused to enter a plea which held up the proceedings {since the law required it}. Also, he wasn’t as much executed as tortured to death by being pressed by stones in order to try to force him to enter a plea so the trial could proceed. Still, he probably figured out he was going to be executed if he was tried at all so he didn’t enter a plea to protect his kids from being disinherited {despite deeding the property to most of his children anyway}.)

The Putnam Family:

Ann Putnam’s daughter was Ruth and was the only child to survive infancy from the family. (It was also Ann. Arthur Miller changed it to Ruth to avoid confusion despite that the mother was referred to as “Ann Putnam Senior” while the daughter was known as “Ann Putnam Junior.” Also, the Putnams had 6 living children by 1692 with Ann Jr. being the oldest while Ann Sr. was pregnant at the time. However, Ann Sr. and her sister lost a fair number of kids in comparison while the Nurse family lost remarkably few. Still, Mr. and Mrs. Putnam would eventually have 10 children who’d survive them.)

Ann Putnam Jr. was the first afflicted with a sleep they couldn’t wake from. (Abigail Williams and Betty Parris were the first two girls who became afflicted. But their afflictions consisted of violent physical fits.)

Colonial Pennsylvania:

Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity while he was flying his kite during a thunderstorm. (Benjamin Franklin didn’t discover electricity but he did discover that electricity came from lightning and he wasn’t the only one to determine that. As for his kite flying in a storm, we’re not sure if that even happened. Or whether he flew it or made his son William fly the kite instead. If he flew it himself, it’s highly unlikely that the visible lightning struck the key or else Franklin would’ve gotten killed {though it doesn’t stop cartoons showing him getting electrocuted this way}. Though to be fair, it wasn’t uncommon for 18th century scientists to conduct life-threatening experiments like this. How Franklin made his discovery was observing the kite strings repelling each other and deduced that the Leyden jar attached to them was being charged.Thus, he determined that the lightning had negatively charged the key and the Leyden jar. However, this is based on legend as well as notes from an experiment that Franklin proposed in 1752 though it’s very plausible he would’ve done this. We just don’t have a verified record on whether he did or not. And we know that similar experiments were conducted in France and Russia with the latter case resulting in a fatality.)

Ben Franklin was a middle aged bachelor. (He had a common-law wife and three kids, one of whom became a Loyalist. But since Ben and Me perpetuated the kite myth, I list this as well. Hell, he may have had his son William fly the kite in the storm.)

William Penn was a saint. (Sure he was a Quaker who tried to co-exist with the Indians. Yet, he actually managed to piss off the settlers in what is now Delaware that they created the colony which bore the name of the future state. Pennsylvania wasn’t just a haven for religious freedom but also a profitable venture for himself and his family who managed to run it into Revolutionary times. Oh, and he called the Catholic Church “the Whore of Babylon” and Puritans as “hypocrites and revelers of God.” Not to mention, he prohibited swearing, lying, gambling, masks, theater, and drunkenness in his colony as well as grew more Puritanical later in life.)

Colonial Life:

Young courting men were sewn into bundling bags while the parents usually slept in a different room as the youngsters. (It was usually the girl who was sewn into the chastity straightjacket and the parents slept in the same room as the courting youngsters. Yet, even having parents sleep in the same room as you didn’t always kill the mood since as many as 1/3 of colonial brides were pregnant at the altar.)

Young unmarried people kissed in public in the 18th century. (They didn’t.)

English colonists lived in log cabins. (It was introduced by Swedish immigrants in the 1770s. Most English colonists lived in frame houses.)

The blunderbuss was a colonist’s weapon of choice. (They usually used matchlock and flintlock muskets.)

Most men wore wigs in Colonial America. (Wigs were very expensive and not many could afford one. Also, many aristocratic men preferred to arrange their own hair and powered. Still, only 5% of colonists wore wigs.)