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.)

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