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

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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.)

Abolitionism:

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.)

Other:

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.)

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