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

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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.)

Miscellaneous:

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.)

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

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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:

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.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 28 – The Age of Sail and Other Things

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I know that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, but if there’s any film that embodies the Age of Sail, it’s this one. Of course, this movie was based on the Aubrey-Maturin bromance series by Patrick O’ Brian with the characters played by Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Nevertheless, this is a fairly more accurate film than a lot of Age of Sail films Hollywood has made. Nevertheless, by the standards of his day, Jack Aubrey is a fairly good captain though the contentedness of his crew may not have been typical on a British war ship. I mean there has to be at least many British seamen on the HMS Surprise who didn’t want to be there since many were kidnapped by press gangs at the time, especially since the British Navy’s habit of abducting American sailors led to the War of 1812.

In a way, the age of Colonial Empire in movies could never complete without discussing the Age of Sail which spanned from the 1400s up to the mid-19th century. It was an era of great big wooden ships with high masts, billowing sails, and a crew of jolly old sailors. Of course, these ships were among the primary methods of long distance transportation for nearly 400 years and it’s usually with these ships that European nations were able to become rich, build navies, and create a colonial empire ushering an age of globalization. Nevertheless, naval strength in the Age of Sail also made countries powerful, explaining why Great Britain managed to become a world superpower with an empire that lasted so long. Since Hollywood has made pirate movies and adventure films in the era of colonization or Napoleonic Wars, you will certainly see ships like these time and time again. The Age of Sail is also a highly romanticized era because of how much it has been depicted in movies, books, and television despite that life aboard these sailing vessels wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be since these were the days that people didn’t have refrigeration, modern medicine, proper sanitation, adequate pest control, or even swimming lessons. Oh, and there were so many things that could kill you.Not to mention, many of the ships in movies tend to look too much alike and are sometimes much bigger than what many of these seafarers would’ve actually used. Yet, this is mainly because smaller ships wouldn’t be good filming locations. Nevertheless, movies continue to romanticize this era and this is where inaccuracies come to play.

The Age of Sail:

Navigation:

Maps were always accurate and precise. (Many times they weren’t. Also, remember that until the mid-18th century, there was no such thing as longitude.)

Ships:

Steel haul tall ships existed in the late 1700s. (They came into fashion 100 years later.)

Late 16th century Dutch ships had arched type sterns. (They had high castle-like sterns. Arched type sterns came a century or two later.)

Wooden sailing ships sailed in every direction in all kinds of weather with the main and topsails square to the masts at all times. (They only did this when navigating by the wind in their favorable direction, and only in good weather.)

Fully rigged wooden sailing ships could be turned simply by spinning the wheel. (There’s a whole array of multi-man complex procedures to turn a ship, even for a close change. They didn’t operate like cars do today. Steam engines and electric motors didn’t exist before the 19th century.)

Disabling the rudder chain cables on a large wooden ship only took a single man a few minutes. (Disabling a rudder chain took a single man days and only with the proper implement.)

A large wooden ship could be successfully operated by a small crew. (I’m not sure if one could be operated by less than ten guys. Then again, one of Magellan’s ships was successfully crewed by eighteen guys by the end {though he had died in the Philippines}. Still, no pre-19th century naval officer would worry about two men trying to steal a ship because it couldn’t be crewed by two guys.)

All British Men of War ships were painted in the “Nelson Checker” pattern around 1720. (This pattern wasn’t common until the Napoleonic Wars when used by Admiral Horatio Nelson.)

18th century wooden ships had a Plimsoll line. (This wasn’t used until the 19th century.)

Wooden ships were always impeccably clean. (These were notoriously filthy and infested with vermin.)

Wooden ships always consisted in wood that was in the best condition whether submerged or not. (Wooden ships weren’t in nearly as ship shape upon returning. They had barnacles on the hull and perhaps rotting wood. Plus, if it’s a warship, there would need to be some repairs and cannon blasts through it. Also, a ship’s carpenter was perhaps the second most valuable person on the ship next to the doctor.)

Damage caused by naval warfare could be fixed in a jiffy. (Somehow in movies, the ship’s carpenters never seem to get killed or they’re able to patch up a ship very quickly. I don’t think fast repair work is possible without power tools.)

Sailors:

Most wooden-ship era sailors volunteered to go out to sea and were lawful, clean-cut, and loyal members of the crew. (Being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs in the era of wooden ships. Most sailors in the Royal Navy were kidnapped by thugs as a four-limbed drunk at a local tavern and were forced to serve on merchant ships. “Pressed men” were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all}, shackled onto ships while on port so they wouldn’t escape, and were whipped for any minor offense in the navy rulebook they didn’t get to read. They also had little or no chance of advancement and lived in appalling conditions. And of course, they had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, being away from their families, and tropical diseases. 75% of pressed sailors were dead within two years. Also, many Golden Age pirates started out as British sailors.)

Most sailors were content with serving on board a ship. (A lot ship crews weren’t really content because many sailors didn’t want to go to sea in the first place. The British Royal Navy recruited press gangs to kidnap four-limbed men on a regular basis. Also, the British Navy’s impressment of American sailors was one of the reasons for the War of 1812.)

Sailors mostly swabbed the deck on ships. (They did a lot of other stuff than just that.)

Most sailors knew how to swim. (Most of them didn’t and very few captains offered swimming lessons to their crews they didn’t really think it was worth it since swimming would just delay the inevitable or that it would encourage them to jump ship and desert when close to shore {remember this is a time when sailors were treated poorly and many were forced at sea against their will}. Many sailors usually expected a quick death if they were thrown overboard anyway. 16th century chroniclers of sea-life described that swimming and diving skills were valued because they were so rare.)

Drunken sailors were looked down upon. (Actually all sailors were looked down upon whether they were drunk or not. Also, officers thought a drunken sailor was less of security risk because drunk sailors were less likely to mutiny under horrific conditions. Yet, this doesn’t mean they were less likely to get flogged though.)

Most sailors were heterosexual and were willing to delay sexual gratification. (Maybe some sailors but it didn’t seem to prevent them screwing whores at ports, contracting STDs, and having a reputation of being sodomites. And sometimes in situations with a crew full of men, let’s just say there’s so many naval related gay stereotypes for a reason. Not to mention, there may be some gay homoerotic undertones in Moby Dick and Billy Budd. Make that what you will.)

Sailors were usually clean shaven by the time they returned home. (During the Age of Sail, most of them would’ve returned with a full beard since shaving requires fresh water and supplies were limited on a ship. Most pirate captains would certainly have had one.)

Most seamen were very healthy, well fed, and well cared for on a wooden ship. (Medicine before the 19th century wasn’t very reliable and naval seamen didn’t really have a long lifespan since there were so many ways to die on the ship like drowning, disease, starvation, or cannonball. Also, sailors on lawful vessels were usually treated rather shitty.)

Sailors almost never got seasick. (Many did including Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson {yet he was still a very capable officer who rose through the ranks and earned his noble title}.)

Seamen were punished by flogging most of the time. (They could also be tarred and feathered, keel-hauled, or other things and the whole crew was made to watch. Flogging was the most common punishment though and even that could be deadly. However, good captains would try not to punish their men this way unless it was necessary.)

Sailors on wooden ships always had quality food. (Maybe at first, but the quality would deteriorate as the voyage went on and could be infested with vermin. Yet, for some, the ship cuisine would’ve been better than what they ate ashore.)

All seamen were white. (There was a sizeable number of black sailors during the 18th century since officers were willing to take all the healthy four-limbed men they could get even if they were runaway slaves. Practically every harpooner in Moby Dick is non-white.)

There were no children on board. (There were powder monkeys who assisted gun crews, ship’s boys who carried ammunition, and boy cadets as young as twelve or nine.  Also, seamen generally started their careers as boys before reaching the seaman rank at 16 and leaving the sea at 26. )

Officers:

Captains on ships usually dished out orders on deck. (They also relied on their helmsmen to do such tasks.)

Captains on wooden ships would halt a thousand man ship of the line battle to rescue a single enlisted man who had fallen overboard. (Captains would’ve done no such thing since a naval battle was impossible to stop. Also, seamen were viewed as expendable in those days. A ship’s carpenter or doctor was more likely.)

Sadistic captains got away with everything. (Captain Bligh would’ve been court-martialed for tying a guy to the masthead during a storm, which he most certainly didn’t do.)

There were no child naval officers. (Most Royal Navy officers up until after the Napoleonic Wars {as far as I know} started as midshipmen  as early as their teens or younger. Midshipmen could be as young as twelve or even nine while lieutenants could be as young as eighteen. Of course, many of these kids were from prominent naval families, aristocrats, or the professional class. Master and Commander is perhaps one of the few movies that shows this. So yes, many seamen had to follow orders from teenagers believe it or not.)

Weaponry:

Triple cannons could fire multiple shots around the 17th century. (Cannons were muzzle loading at this time and couldn’t be reloaded.)

No wooden warship ran out of cannon balls.

Sea battles were fairly clean affairs starting with cannons firing at close range eventually with crews engaging in close combat. (Most of the time there would be debris everywhere due to cannon balls at close range.)

Loading cannons on ships took seconds. (It took longer than that.)

Naval:

The 18th century British Navy used Semaphore code with holding two flags in different positions. (They set up different flags on the masts on ships.)

British fleets in 1720 could have some 10 3-decked ships in a single line. (The Royal Navy had only six of these ships on commission worldwide in 1720.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Commodore during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1796.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Lieutenant Commander during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1877.)

Royal Navy press gangs only kidnapped adults into naval service. (They also abducted boys as young as eleven to serve as powder monkeys or teenage seamen. Powder monkeys assisted gun crews and learned most of the ship basics but were paid little {if anything}, treated poorly, and were expendable. Most boy pirates probably started out as powder monkeys.)

Royal Navy midshipmen went to school to learn how to become officers during the Age of Sail. (They didn’t attend school but learned on the ship as children.)

Other:

Ship surgeons performed slow and careful surgery. (Most ship surgeons usually cut limbs as fast as they could in order to spare the patient extra pain because they didn’t have any anesthesia in those days {except maybe alcoholic beverages}. Nevertheless, I don’t think that kid in Master and Commander would’ve been so laid back while Maturin was taking his freaking arm off since the pain would’ve been excruciating. I’m surprised this boy wasn’t screaming like a little kid getting a vaccination.)

Natives:

‘Wild Indians” were vicious, or at least more vicious than Europeans.

Tropical island locals and Africans practiced cannibalism and were headhunters. (Not really. Also, accounts of cannibalism among Indians in the Caribbean were greatly exaggerated and stemmed from the notion of a tribal practice keeping the bones of one’s ancestors in their homes so their spirits could watch over them. There has never been any evidence of indigenous cannibalism ever found in the Caribbean.)

Native warriors were usually bare chested and were threats to civilized society.

Natives had loose sexual customs.

Natives were primitive and savage. (Many indigenous cultures were rather complex as well as sophisticated and not all consisted of hunter-gatherer societies.)

Only converting to Christianity made Indians less violent and savage. (I don’t think this is the case since Indians all had their reasons of whether to convert to Christianity. Indian women in French territories even had French husbands like Sacajawea.)

Indian princesses (or a chief’s daughter) usually ended up with a white protagonist. (Many cultures didn’t have hereditary royalty. However, there were plenty of normal native women who ended up with whites as well.)

Native women were scantily clad. (I’m sure some women from indigenous tribes wore more than a bikini made out of coconuts.)

Natives believed white people were gods. (White people would like think native tribesmen did. However, many natives weren’t that naïve.)

Native Polynesian women wore grass skirts and coconut bras, especially in Hawaii.

Miscellaneous:

Martini Henry rifles had repeating ammunition. (They were single shot breech loading weapons.)

Singapore was a metropolis during the 18th century inhabited by Chinese. (It was a minor fishing village called “Temasek.” Also, it would’ve been inhabited by Malays and nobody would’ve heard anything about it. Singapore as we know it was founded Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles {love the guy’s name} in 1819 on behalf of the East India Company.)

Archaeologists were adventurers who discovered legendary artifacts, lost cities, and fought bad guys. (Even in the time of Imperialism a lot of archaeologists weren’t like Indiana Jones. T. E. Lawrence may have been an exception of this, however. Still, there were plenty of archaeologists with not so glorious discoveries as well.)

Old timey big game hunters were real manly men. (Yet, they somehow put a lot of animals on the endangered species list. Nowadays, many are known as “poachers.” However, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson at least didn’t kill those maneating lions for sport.)

All adventurers, archaeologists, and hunters wore safari outfits in Africa. (Some were in conventional dress.)

In 18th century Tortuga, women could safely walk around without any fear of being raped. (Considering that this was one of those hangouts for pirates who had no qualms about murder and spend long periods of time without women around, would I consider Tortuga safe in the 1700s? Hell, no.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 27 – The British Scramble for Africa

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The 1964 movie Zulu which pertains to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in which the exhausted British forces manage to defeat a large Zulu force. Also, this was a big movie for Sir Michael Caine pictured here as Lt. Bromhead. Nevertheless, this features British soldiers fighting in their dress uniforms and severely lacking the Chester A. Arthur whiskers characteristic of 1879. Not to mention, it even slanders a Victoria’s Cross recipient. Oh, and the battle was fought from late afternoon until dawn.

When it comes to movies based in the British Empire, Africa is always one of the more popular locations for some reason. Be it maybe that it’s continent of hostile tribes and creatures, a place of many famous wars, or what have you. Yet, for some reason whenever you see movies on the Scramble for Africa, they will usually feature the British Empire as the entity the white male protagonist is working for (unless he’s an archaeologist). Nevertheless, you have the explorations with men like Sir Richard Burton, Dr. David Livingstone, and others braving hostile natives, Arabs, and jungle to find the source of the Nile. You have the Anglo-Zulu Wars in Southern Africa with British forces going against hostile African tribes wielding spears. Then you have The River War in which the British faced a Islamic fundamentalist leader named the Mahdi who may have saw himself as an Islamic Messiah or Tecumseh. General “Chinese” Charles Gordon is featured in this war as well since he tried to protect Khartoum from falling into Mahdist hands only to die and be immortalized for the British public for generations. Then you have the Boer Wars where the British were fighting against the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Still, when you watch movies relating to the British Scramble for Africa, you may find yourself cheering for the British Imperialists even though they weren’t necessarily the good guys. Also, expect the white man’s burden and other unfortunate implications to turn up as well. Nevertheless, I shall list the historical inaccuracies many of these British Empire movies in Africa tend to make.

Exploration:

Sir Richard Burton published a translation of The Perfumed Garden in the mid-1850s. (It wasn’t published until 1886.)

By the 1850s, Sir Richard Burton spoke 23 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese. (He spoke fewer languages in the 1850s but he definitely spoke Arabic at that point since he was really into Islamic culture. However, he never mastered Chinese and learned Hebrew much later in life.)

Larry Oliphant was gay. (He was straight. The filmmakers in The Mountains of the Moon were trying to make Speke’s betrayal of Burton more dramatic after all they’ve been through. Still, Oliphant was on Burton’s side the whole time and while he did manipulate Speke to gain publishing rights on his claim, he eventually realized his errors. And Speke didn’t really betray him inasmuch as “bruised his ego.” Burton didn’t like being upstaged and tried to make Speke’s discovery of Lake Victoria much less notable than it really was as well as attacked his character. Also, Burton had a habit of making enemies in high places since he was a Victorian non-conformist.)

Henry Stanley was English since he was born at St. Asaph. (St. Asaph is in Wales. Also, he was born John Rowlands.)

Dr. David Livingstone was an honorable man to the very end. (His private diaries tell a very different story. Also, he probably wasn’t altogether there when he met Henry Stanley. Also, Stanley wasn’t what you’d call a Boy Scout.)

John Speke was gay and in love with Sir Richard Burton. (There’s no evidence he was one way or the other or even in love with Burton. Speke is said to harbor a deep resentment toward Burton and was willing to hide it until they returned to London. There, he beat Burton to the report of the Royal Geographic Society and claim success as his own.)

John Speke had light hair and was clean shaven. (Photographs depict him with dark hair and a beard.)

John Hanning Speke committed suicide. (An inquest into his death concluded he died in a hunting accident and he had a fatal wound just below the armpit. Nevertheless, even a Victorian gentleman like Speke who had so many years of meticulous gun handling could die of a an accidental gunshot wound. Gun owners know that accidental discharges happen all the time.)

Sir Richard Francis Burton was a believer in racial equality.  (Burton was no less racist than his contemporaries and enjoyed living and studying with other cultures as well as wrote numerous travel books. He also knew 29 languages, some of which he mastered so well to pass as native. Speke, on the other hand, thought living among Africans was repugnant and referred to them as creatures and savages.)

John Speke met Sir Richard Burton in Zanzibar. (They met at Aden in Yemen.)

Sir Richard Burton went into Harrar with John Speke. (Speke wasn’t with him in Harrar.)

Anglo-Zulu War:

Color Sergeant Bourne was a towering middle-aged man. (He was a slight build and 24 years old as well as the youngest Color Sergeant in the British Empire. His nickname was “The Kid.” At least he had some decent Victorian whiskers in Zulu.)

The Battle at Rorke’s Drift was fought in broad daylight. (It began in the afternoon and went throughout the night.)

Most of the 24th Regiment of Foot B Company were clean shaven. (From the Guardian: “photographs of the real veterans of Rorke’s Drift look like candidates for Britain’s Best Walrus Impersonator 1879. (Winner: Lieutenant Chard; Mr Congeniality: Lieutenant Bromhead.)” Yeah, but I don’t think Michael Caine would look good in a pair of mutton chops. Besides, the walrus mustaches may have made it very less likely to take Zulu seriously.)

Private Henry Hook was a shambling boozehound, dirty coward, and a trouble until his moment in battle when he had a sudden burst of courage that he was bayoneting and shooting Zulu warriors all over the place. (He was a churchgoing teetotaler with an exemplary record who earned a Victoria’s Cross for saving a at least a dozen patients in a hospital. Hook’s daughter was so offended by her father’s portrayal in the film that she walked out of Zulu’s premiere. Also, he received a distinctive scar due to his encounter with a Zulu assegai knocking off his pith helmet while he was defending a hospital. And he doesn’t wear a pith helmet in the movie.)

The last shot at the battle at Rorke’s Drift was fired at first light with another wave of Zulu turning up. (The last shot of the battle was fired at 4 a.m.)

The 24th Regiment of Foot consisted of Welshmen in 1879 and their song was “Men of Harlech.” (It would become affiliated with Wales in 1881. The 1879 24th Regiment was affiliated with Warwickshire and most of the men at Rorke’s Drift were English, Welsh, and Irish. Oh, and their song was “The Warwickshire Lads.”)

Gonville Bromhead and John Chard received their commissions in 1872. (They had already received them by that year. Chard had held his commission three years and three months longer than Bromhead.)

Bromhead was a fresh young lieutenant. (Both him and Chard were old for their rank who’ve been repeatedly passed over for a promotion as unlikely to amount to much. He’s also said to either be partially deaf or suffering from PTSD. However, Bromhead would later end his career as a major while Chard’s would end up a colonel.)

Zulu chief Cetshwayo sent his impi to attack Rorke’s Drift. (He actually ordered his impi to leave the installation alone for good reason. However, it was his half-brother Dabulamanzi who ordered the attack thinking he would get a quick victory that would impress the king. He also commanded the uThulwana and led the Zulu forces in the attack. Of course, you can figure out where that was headed.)

Gonville Bromhead was a sharp steely soldier. (One of his fellow officers described him as, “a capital fellow at everything except soldiering.” He’s said not to be very bright and may have been assigned to Rorke’s Drift because of his supposed partial deafness {which might’ve been a misinterpretation of PTSD} was thought to limit his ability to command {with his superiors thinking he wouldn’t see any action}. He probably wasn’t a pansy aristocrat turned hardened soldier after his first battle like the Michael Caine portrayal but he was very well-liked.)

John Chard was the epitome of British manhood. (He was widely considered lazy and useless.)

Reverend Otto Witt instigated the Natal soldiers to desert their post by warning them of the Zulu approach. (The native Natal soldiers did desert their post {leaving at their own accord} but not at the Witts’ instigation. He didn’t warn them of the Zulu approach either but he was one of the lookouts who initially saw them arrive. However, the Natal Native Contingent deserters were fired at as they left and one of their NCOs was killed. Their captain would later be convicted at a court-martial for desertion and dismissed from the British Army.)

Soldiers of the Natal Native Contingent were issued European style uniforms. (They weren’t.)

Reverent Otto Witt was a pacifist old missionary with a daughter. (He was a much younger and married man with two kids. Also, he wasn’t a pacifist since he helped the British at Rorke’s Drift in any way he could as well as defended the interests of white colonists. However, he did leave before the battle but only because he wanted to protect his family.)

Zulu warriors saluted the British officers at the hill after the battle. (They did appear on the hill the following morning but just observed in silence for some time before leaving again since they were just as exhausted as the Brits, hungry, and low on ammunition. Oh, and there were British reinforcements coming so they didn’t have time to salute any British soldiers. Still, any remaining Zulu who were wounded and left behind were rounded up and executed. )

Private Hitch was shot through the thigh by a Zulu sniper. (He was shot through the shoulder in which the bullet shattered his shoulder blade. There’s even a photo of him with his arm in a sling and there are paintings of the 1879 battle depicted in Zulu in which he has his arm held still by a belt. He would later become a London cab driver.)

C Company was stationed at Rorke’s Drift. (It was B Company of the 24th Regiment of Foot.)

Corporal Schiess was a member of the Mounted Police. (He was a member of the Natal Native Contingent. Also, he was 22 years old.)

The 17th Lancers were stationed in South Africa during the Battle of Isandlwana. (They were only sent after the battle with the 1st Dragoons.)

Surgeon John Henry Reynolds was a “Surgeon-Major, Army Hospital Corps” during the battle of Rorke’s Drift. (He was promoted to this rank after the battle.)

The detachment of cavalry from “Durnford’s Horse” consisted of white settler farmers who rode up to the mission station to their deaths in the Battle of Isandlwana.(They actually survived the battle and consisted of black riders sent to Rorke’s Drift to warn the garrison there. They were present in the opening action with the Zulus but rode off due to lack of ammunition. Also, they weren’t lead by Captain Stephenson who was head of the infantry Natal Native Contingent.)

Corporal William Allen was a model soldier. (He had been recently demoted from sergeant following the battle of Rorke’s Drift. Oh, and he was 35 years old at the time.)

Gonville Bromhead was blond. (His 1872 picture makes him a dark haired Chester A. Arthur look-alike. However, he’s played by Michael Caine who has a significantly lighter hair color.)

The Mahdist War:

General Charles George Gordon was a fallen hero to British presence and a great military leader against the Mahdi in Khartoum. (Yes, he was a great general, but he was also an Evangelical Christian who had some whacked out views about cosmology but set up a boys camp as well as visited the sick and the old, was a robust 5’ 5” feet all, and never married. Other than that, most of what is said about his character is speculative. Also, though he and the Mahdi corresponded, they never met {though the Mahdi’s grandson really thought they should’ve so it was left in Khartoum}.)

General George Gordon and the Mahdi were killed around the same time. (Yes, Gordon was killed in battle. However the Mahdi died several months later probably attributed to typhus.)

The battle at Abu Klea was a British defeat. (It was a British victory.)

The Mahdi’s spectacular jihad was just out of plain religious fanaticism. (Not really. Actually it was related to the Egyptian penetration into the Sudan in the 1820s, the Suez Canal, modernization, and other factors associated with imperialism. It’s a long complicated history, but imperialism was more or less was what the Mahdi was rebelling against.)

The Mahdi presented Colonel Stewart’s hand to General Gordon. (This didn’t happen because they never personally met in real life. Also, though the Mahdi’s men did murder Colonel Stewart and Frank Power, but the Mahdi only received the former’s head as a trophy. Also, he only told Gordon to get out of Sudan so further bloodshed would be avoided by writing a polite letter to him. Of course, you couldn’t have a polite letter exchange in Khartoum.)

General Charles Gordon came out facing the Mahdists storming Khartoum calmly and with dignity before getting killed with a spear. After that, his head is brought back on a stick for the Mahdi who was displeased. (He actually came out shooting and ran out of ammo on the staircase {like in a Tarantino movie if you get my drift}. Also, he was killed by a gunshot to the chest, not a spear. And he was killed for being mistaken as a Turk out of all things. Oh, and the Mahdi specifically ordered that General Gordon shouldn’t be killed.)

The famous charge of the 21st Lancers during the Battle of Omdurman happened the day after the main battle. (Both main battle and charge occurred around the same day.)

British soldiers in the Omdurman campaign of 1898 wore scarlet jackets. (They wore khaki uniforms while the cavalry wore blue jackets.)

The Royal Suffolk Regiment served and Egypt and was a relief force to rescue General Gordon. (There was never a Royal Suffolk Regiment. Yet, there was a Suffolk Regiment but they took part in neither. Actually during this period, the First Battalion was posted in India and the Second Battalion was in various locations.)

The two-day relief force for General Gordon managed to recapture Khartoum in 1885. (They discovered that the city was already taken and the Mahdist forces were strong so they were forced to retreat, leaving Sudan to the Mahdi. The British would recapture Khartoum 13 years later in 1898.)

Other:

The Tsavo maneating lions killed for sport. (No predator does this except humans. Also, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson doesn’t mention this and he killed the two lions over a nonhuman bait. He even says their killing pattern was consistent with normal lion hunting patterns.Still, Patterson states that he had a leopard kill 30 of his sheep and goats in one night. Still, for the Tsavo lions to kill and eat people, they must have been in a desperate situation {one was said to have a severe dental disease which would’ve made him a poor hunter} since most big cats usually kill to survive.)

The lions at Tsavo, Kenya killed 135 people. (They more likely ate 35, but we’re not sure how many were killed and not eaten. Still, there were 135 African and Indian workers employed at the construction of the Ugandan railway.)

Both maneating lions at Tsavo had large manes. (The maneating lions at Tsavo were male but they didn’t have manes {they’re actually taxidermied and put on display and at the Field Museum of Natural History at Chicago}. Also, male Tsavo lions either have minimal manes or none at all and Tsavo lions generally are far more aggressive and unpredictable than lions you normally see. Not to mention, animal handlers hate the idea of shaving a lion’s mane. Still, I don’t understand why the makers of The Ghost and the Darkness didn’t consider using lionesses as Tsavo lion stand-ins. I mean they had a male dog play Lassie for God’s sake.)

Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson killed the lions with the aid of an American ex-Confederate soldier Charles Remington. (Charles Remington never existed and there was no professional hunter ever present at Tsavo or anyone like the Michael Douglas character {who was in there because they didn’t want it to look like a pure ego project on Val Kilmer’s part. Also, Douglas helped produce the film}. Nevertheless, Patterson had to kill the maneating lions all on his own but he was a lot more badass than his Val Kilmer portrayal.)

One of the Tsavo lions escaped a trap surrounded by three Indian railroad guards firing that failed to kill him. (This happened except it involved ten guys firing it {which included Mombasa police} and the one bullet that came close to the target broke the cage’s lock, letting the lion escape.)

The Tsavo Bridge was a truss. (It was a plate girder type.)

Karen Blixen caught syphilis from her philandering husband Bror. (Yes, Bror cheated on her but there’s some doubt he might’ve been the cause. Oh, and she hadn’t miraculously recovered when she took up with Denys Finch-Hatton as seen in Out of Africa.)

Sir Henry “Jock” Delves Broughton shot himself dead in the Happy Valley region of Kenya via shotgun shortly after he acquitted for killing his wife’s lover in 1941 while Alice de Janze died of an overdose. (He died a year later in England of a morphine overdose which he had been taking for a back injury, it was ruled a suicide. Still, he was no longer accepted among the Happy Valley society and it’s very likely he killed his wife’s lover {though the case remains unsolved}. Alice de Janze shot herself that September {who’s also suspected}. Interestingly, Kenya’s Happy Valley consisted of a group of colonial ex-patriate British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats during inter-war period in the Wanjohi Valley, notorious for their decadent, hedonistic, eccentric, and scandalous lifestyles which seem straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. )

Karen Blixen thought it was baseless prejudice when she was asked whether she sided with the Germans during World War I. (Well, she may have thought this but she was an old friend of legendary German General Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck {who’s not in Out of Africa unfortunately} as well as offered to send horses for his cavalry and carried his signed photo with her. So I don’t think Karen’s friend was being biased here when she asked her whether she was rooting for the Kaiser.)

Karen Blixen once fought attacking lions with a bull whip while on the Savannah. (Most of her biographers believe she just made this up.)

When Karen Blixen lost her land, she plead with the British governor on her knees at a garden party for the rights of the Kikuyu people to live on her farm. (British governor Sir Joseph Byrne probably did grant territory to the Kikuyu people as a favor to Karen but there’s no record that she begged him on her knees at a garden party.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 26 – The Golden Age of Piracy

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Of course, it would be very appropriate for me to show a picture from Pirates of the Caribbean series which has brought this era to a new generation. Still, these movies aren’t meant to be historically accurate but even they aren’t very good, you still can look forward to Captain Jack Sparrow. Nevertheless, Orlando Bloom perhaps may have looked more like a real Golden Age pirate than Johnny Depp would since the latter was in his forties at the time.

Ahoy, mateys! We come to the post of perhaps one of the most popular cinematic eras of all time, the Golden Age of Piracy. You may be wondering why in the hell does the Golden Age of Piracy have anything to do with Colonialism or Imperialism. Well, quite a lot actually since these pirates were the organized crime syndicates and highwaymen of the high seas with a Golden Age lasting roughly between 1650-1720. Whenever there is trading going on in history through water transportation, you’re going to have pirates. And with European colonial expansion, you have an influx of trading goods coming and going through the trade routes of the Atlantic Ocean. At first many of these European pirates were hired as privateers to cause trouble for Spain or act as a stand-in for a navy, but once England and France had a professional navy as well as the War of the Spanish Succession, the privateer tradition had died. Yet, rather than give up their privateering life to go straight, many of them opted for piracy and led the risky life of an outlaw. Nevertheless, the Golden Age of Piracy has been a subject of frequent romanticization, especially in Hollywood adventure movies and many have become legends in their own right. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things that movies get wrong about pirates in this Golden Era of lawlessness and adventure.

Anne Bonny:

Anne Bonny disguised herself as a man during her career. (She disguised herself as a boy when she was a kid, but not when she was a pirate. Her gender was public knowledge. However, Mary Read certainly did {and so did other female pirates since cross-dressing as a guy was much easier for women to do in those days}.)

Anne Bonny’s mentor was Blackbeard. (They didn’t know each other.)

Anne Bonny commanded her own ship. (She never did. She was always on Calico Jack’s ship with Mary Read. Still, she probably should’ve.)

Anne Bonny’s pirate boyfriend was French. (Her pirate boyfriend was Captain “Calico Jack” Rackam. She may have even had a couple of kids with him. Mary Read may also count as an intimate partner.)

Anne Bonny died on an islet at a sandy beach. (She more likely died in South Carolina at the age of 84 since her dad managed to ransom her while she was pregnant in jail {or so she said}. It’s said she married a respectable man and had eight children in addition to her two by Rackam. Still, we’re not sure what really happened to her.)

William Kidd:

Captain William Kidd was a pirate as well as savvy manipulative sociopath ultimately undone by the son of a man he had killed. (There’s only evidence that he was a privateer and that his fame springs from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial perhaps in a desperate attempt to clear his name. Also, compared to other pirates and privateers, his actual depredations on the high seas were less destructive and less lucrative than those of his contemporaries. Still, he may have been a notorious pirate or just an unjustly vilified and prosecuted privateer in an age typified by the rationalization and empire.)

William Kidd was ugly. (His portrait on Wikipedia suggests he was quite handsome. Still, he probably didn’t look anything like how Charles Laughton portrayed him.)

Blackbeard:

Henry Morgan and Blackbeard were contemporaries. (Morgan had died in 1688 when Blackbeard would’ve been at least a child if he was ever born at the time.)

Blackbeard was the pirate whom all pirates feared as well as an evil dick. (Yes, he was feared but he wasn’t evil or as violent as most pirates at the time. He tried to avoid violence whenever he could and went out of his way to take care of his men even though he did shoot and wound his first mate, it was said he did it to save the guy from dying in an upcoming battle. He commanded his ships with the permission of their crews and was seen as a more shrewd and calculating leader who relied on this fearsome image and PR more than violent force. Oh, and there are no accounts of him ever killing anyone who didn’t try to kill him first {not even those he held captive}.)

Blackbeard was short. (He was a tall and imposing man and looked almost nothing like Ian McShane. Actually, Sacha Baron Cohen would better fit his description.)

Blackbeard lived to be 70. (He was caught and killed at 40. Also, we’re pretty sure he didn’t fake his own death because he was shot no fewer than five times and cut about twenty. Oh, and there are reports that his body was thrown in an inlet while his head was suspended by a bowsprit of his Lieutenant Maynard’s sloop so he could collect the reward {but he was screwed over in the process after all he’d been through to get him}.)

Blackbeard was a pirate when the British were using privateers. (The British had outlawed privateering before Blackbeard came along.)

Blackbeard’s flag depicted a flaming skull. (It featured a devil horned skeleton spearing a heart holding an hourglass.)

Golden Age Pirate Life:

Some pirates had dads who were in the same profession. (I suppose some did, yet pirates didn’t have long careers so I’m not sure if they knew people from different generations. And even if they did, they wouldn’t know it {and neither would anyone else}. Still, it’s very unlikely that a blacksmith would go into the pirating trade since these master tradesmen had their own shops as well as a steady source of income. Having Will Turner as a Royal Navy sailor would’ve made more sense.)

There was no distinction of appearance between a pirate and a common sailor. (For God’s sake, Robert Louis Stevenson, there’s no way that anyone in the 17th century would hire a pirate crew and not even know it. I mean pirates like Long John Silver would never work for a regular captain even for buried treasure.)

Pirates wore clean clothes. (The only time their clothes were washed was in a rainstorm. They also didn’t bathe.)

Pirates were nice to African slaves who were members of their crew. (Sometimes, especially in Blackbeard’s case who had a black Quartermaster named Caesar but it depended on the ship. However, pirates sometimes resold Africans into slavery or turned them in for the reward. There are even occasions when they could be used as slaves doing menial work on board a ship. And if they were members of the crew, they may or may not be given the same shares as the rest. Yet, there were white pirates who saw them as either a commodity or less useful than “white” sailors {except marooners who’ve already proven themselves against the Spanish}.)

“Scallywag” referred to a fellow pirate. (This word wasn’t in use until after the American Civil War in which people in the Confederacy would refer to their pro-Unionist neighbors who collaborated during Reconstruction.)

Life aboard a pirate ship was unpredictably violent, chaotic, and teetering on the brink of mutiny. (Many naval ships with poorly paid sailors and autocratic captains under the thumbs of nobles or private investors were like this at the time. However, many pirate crews functioned more like organized crime families than anything. After all, they were known to be “gangsters of the sea,” than anything.)

Pirates sailed in big heavily armed wooden warships such as three masted Galleons. (Most of the time they sailed in whatever they could steal or hold on to. The average pirate ship was a small, fast, maneuverable craft that could zip around shoals larger ships wouldn’t navigate. Most of the time, they’d use single masted sloops. The heaviest pirate ships were converted merchantmen like Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.)

Good pirates never raided merchant ships or settlements. (This is the very definition of pirating. All pirates did this because that’s what they do.)

Pirates mostly raided ships through violent means. (Most pirates would try to cultivate an image of ruthlessness so they could just get merchant ships to surrender without a fight. But when they fought, God help you!)

Most female pirates were easy to detect and their gender was public knowledge. (Most of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell which pirates were women {except maybe those without facial hair but they could easily be teenage boys}. Still, it’s said many just dressed up as guys just to protect themselves than any other reason. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were probably the exceptions to this {but they were shagging their captain, bringing booty, and putting up a hell of a fight}. Some like Grace O’Malley even became captains. Yet, most pirates didn’t allow women on their ships since their presence was bad luck unless she was talented in bringing boatloads of booty.)

Pirates had democratic rule on their ship and treated everyone equally. (Some pirate ships were democratic havens sometimes they weren’t. And not every pirate crew treated everyone equally. Also, there’s little historical evidence of pirate democracy on the islands. Still, pirate governments probably functioned more like crime families.)

Pirate captains commanded with an iron fist. (Many times the captain was the ultimate power aboard a ship. If he didn’t like you, you were gone. Yet, the captain and his officers were more likely to listen to redress from their crew because he couldn’t rely on the support or threat of punishment from a higher authority. They usually commanded because of skill, daring, and the ability to win prize and booty. Some were elected by their crew members by a vote and only didn’t have the last say except in battle. Sometimes power was shared between the captain and quartermaster and some pirate crews were just a loose confederation of thieves. Still, it depended on the ship but a typical pirate captain usually commanded like a head of an organized crime syndicate than anything.)

Pirates kept parrots as pets. (They also kept dogs and cats aboard, too, since they were used to keep vermin down. Yet, they may have kept parrots as exotic pets or “booty” as well as taken other animals on board a ship while in town. They also took livestock on board, too. Of course, there are accounts of one pirate trying to steal a herd of cattle on his ship, but he learned to regret it that he was willing to surrender to the British authorities since the cows were all puking and spewing all over the place. The British authorities just left him alone.)

Pirates only killed foreign soldiers and officers and never sank any ship unless it wasn’t from their country. (I don’t think pirates cared about who they killed or whose ships they sank. Of course, they didn’t attack English ships when England was using privateers but that soon went out of favor once they had made peace with Spain. I’m not sure if they would have any sense of patriotism from governments wanting to hang them. Unless they were privateers of course.)

The cutlass was a pirate weapon of choice. (It was the last weapon they wanted to reach for. Their preferred weapons were firearms {which weren’t effective by our standards}.)

Pirates usually raided and robbed warships. (They usually tried to avoid warships since they were designed for combat except Spanish Galleons. Besides, merchant ships were their primary targets.)

Pirates attacked other ships by sinking them and slaughtering their crew. (Actually, they’d go great lengths to avoid either if they could scare the ship into submission. They’d actually ask the enemy crew what they thought of their captain. If he was bad, he’d be beaten and maybe executed. If he was just, then the pirates would send the group to a lesser ship and send them on their way.)

Good pirates were a rough, roguish, and jovial bunch. (They were also ruthless cutthroats, murderers, raiders, and thieves. And they weren’t people you’d want to take home to your mother and not because they hardly bathed.)

Pirates wore gold earrings during the Golden Age of Piracy. (There’s no evidence because earrings on men weren’t fashionable at about the turn of the 18th century. Though pirates may have been an exception of that.)

Pirates’ treasure consisted of mostly precious items like gold. (Pirates treasure didn’t just consist of gold and precious items but also clothes, jewelry, sugar, spices, citrus fruit, fresh water, and maps as well as almost any trade goods stolen from merchant ships {they’d take practically anything}. And I’m not sure if they’d go bury it on some remote island in the Caribbean either. Not to mention, pirates rarely ran into merchant ships carrying precious metals or jewelry in large quantities.)

Pirates forced people to join their crew against their will. (Most of the time they only did this to carpenters, doctors, and other skilled workers for obvious reasons.)

Pirates left a lot of buried treasure on islands and drew maps to find it. (Pirates lived fast and hard lives who usually spend their money on women and booze as soon as it was in their hands as well as never had enough gold worth hiding. Besides, they usually faced an uncertain future so there was little incentive to stash their savings. Also, they split their treasure amongst themselves since they won it together. Thus, they didn’t leave a lot of buried treasure around since there was always a possibility that they could be hung from a dock not far in the future. And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t have drawn a map to find it since they’d rather use maps to trace known trade routes. They would only bury it where it was the easiest for them to get and the hardest for others to find. Captain William Kidd was the only pirate to actually do this perhaps successfully.)

Most Golden Age pirates were adult men of all ages. (Actually the Golden Age pirates were a very young crowd with some being children and adolescents {and yes, the Royal Navy press gangs did kidnap children since no kid wants to be a powder monkey}. Still, most of them were in their twenties and their careers were short-lived due to things like battles, infighting, disease, or the punishment on piracy at the time. Not many pirates lived past 30 and very few lived into middle age. Yet, most movie pirates are played by actors in their 30s or older.)

Golden Age pirates mostly did their raiding in the Caribbean. (A lot of Golden Age piracy is attributed to the Caribbean, but many raided ships in other waterways as well.)

Pirates were only in existence during the seventeenth and eighteenth century and were only European. (Piracy has been as old as the invention of the boat and there are still pirates today. Also, pirates came from all over the world.)

A popular pirate punishment was walking the plank. (Almost never happened since it’s easier to throw someone overboard. They did do marooning, flogging, casting overboard, torture, keel-hauling, and more.)

Most pirates were outlaws working for themselves. (Actually, there were also pirate mercenaries called privateers who worked for someone else like a government.)

Pirate curses are real and do come true. (Most of the time pirate curses are based on superstition and usually didn’t come true. Of course, many pirate superstitions could be something Robert Louis Stevenson just made up.)

The most famous pirates were the best ones. (The most famous pirates were usually captured, brought to trial, and/or killed immediately because someone had to be there for their exploits to be written down. As with the best pirates who avoided capture, we probably don’t know their names. Then again, you had guys like Henry Morgan who ended up governor of Jamaica and knighted and Henry Every who successfully retired with all his loot and suffered almost no repercussions from his crimes.)

Pirates were marooned onto lush deserted tropical islands. (No, they were marooned on islands with very little vegetation which could get swept up with the tide. They didn’t want a Robinson Crusoe situation on their hands.)

Pirates were hanged without trial after capture. (They were usually hanged after they were put on trial since piracy certainly was a capital crime though pirates were robbers and thieves at heart as well as desperate men with nothing to lose.)

Pirates spoke in pirate accents using phrases like “shiver my timbers,” “arr,” or “Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest.” (No, they didn’t talk like the stereotypical pirates we see in the media. I’m sure Robert Louis Stevenson made that up. Also, there was no universal pirate accent since it makes no damn sense.)

All pirates had black flags with a skull and cross bones on them or a skull with crossed swords. (They also had red ones which were used in raids but meant that there was no quarter, no prisoners, kill or be killed. Black flags meant that the pirates were giving quarter like accepting terms of surrender and leave some of you alive. Also, black flag designs varied from ship to ship. Blackbeard’s had a devil horned skeleton holding an hourglass and stabbing a heart with a spear, lovely.)

Pirates had a hook hand as a prosthetic limb. (Yes, at least a couple pirates did have peg legs {though most pirates without a leg usually used crutches}, but it’s not very likely that pirates had hook hands because they wouldn’t be very practical. A pirate with a missing hand would more likely have a wooden arm if that.)

Pirates became captain by fighting the old one in a duel. (Sometimes they were elected by their crews. Duels among leaders could split a crew’s loyalties. Sometimes a default leader would emerge, be he the oldest, smartest, or most charismatic.)

Sailors became pirates to live a life of crime. (They actually ditched their jobs as sailors because being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs ever and conditions on lawful ships were terrible. And if you were in the Royal Navy, you were likely pressed into naval service {a.k.a kidnapped by gangs of hired thugs looking for drunks with all four limbs} after getting wasted at a coastal tavern than actually sign up for it. Impressed sailors comprised half of the British navy at one point and were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all]} as well as had little or no chance of advancement. Impressed sailors were also shackled to the ships on port so they wouldn’t try to escape and were flailed for even the most minor offense in the navy handbook they probably didn’t get to read. Furthermore, 75% of impressed sailors in the Royal Navy were dead within two years. Oh, and sailors had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, and tropical diseases. Only a minority became pirates just for the enjoyment of being an outlaw. Most sailors became pirates to escape a life of certain death and constant humiliation as well as low pay and very little room for advancement.)

Golden Age pirates treated their lawful sailor prisoners like dirt. (Pirates sometimes recruited captured sailors for their crews and treated them better than their own officers or superiors. Also, Black Bart was a sailor captured by pirates and became their captain six weeks later. And his crew knew exactly where he came from and didn’t give a shit. Blackbeard’s crew is said to be 60% black so sometimes racial divisions didn’t matter.)

Pirates were the rock stars of the 18th century. (Well, it was a time when many outlaws were considered this so this could be true.)

“Good business” for pirates consisted of plotting global maritime domination and pursuing personal grudges. (They’d more likely be arranging profitable trade deals and raids merchant companies may depend on.)

Pirates towns were filled with loose women, shooting, and endless drinking. (There were pirate settlements but they were mostly havens to escape from the civil authorities. They may have joined together to form loose confederations, dispensed vigilante justice, similar to a frontier town but they didn’t have any organized government. It’s probably wiser to say that pirates were the gangsters of the high seas.)

Pirates saw themselves as cutthroats willing to kill a merchant seaman in the blink of an eye. (They saw themselves as independent businessmen. Also, they didn’t kill hapless merchant seaman since that would give them an incentive to resist {of course, those who resisted would either be handled roughly or killed}. Besides, they’d more likely give them a job offer. Still, it’s easier to understand Golden Age pirates if you see them as seafaring gangsters.)

Pirates never swore. (Uh, they were notorious for profanity.)

Pirates had a penchant for high class women. (While most love interests in pirate movies are seen as such, real pirates would usually not go for ladies like Elizabeth Swan, because such conquests would be like telling her Port Royal governor dad to arrest and hang them. They more likely slept with lower class women and whores.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 25 – Colonial Empires

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Pardon my American bias, but perhaps the Last of Mohicans is perhaps one of the best known movies set in the French and Indian War. Of course, this war has other names but as far as the British and the French were concerned, it was a war over disputed colonial territory in both India and North America. And it was fought on a global scale lasting for nine years which Great Britain won big time. Yet, this was perhaps one of the most important conflicts in history, especially at a colonial stand point. Also, who could forget Daniel Day-Lewis as Natty Bumppo?

From the 1600s to just after World War II, the world had entered in an age of colonialism and Imperialism which had ushered an age of commerce, international trade, and globalization. The Age of Colonial Empires has two phases. The first consists of the colonization of the Americas and the second colonization of Africa, which is another post. While Spain’s influence in Europe was in decline due to the Spanish Armada Incident, losing a series of wars, aristocratic dominance, as well as generations of Hapsburg inbreeding that produced a series of feeble kings leading its ruling dynasty to die out and be succeeded by Louis XIV’s grandson (this really happened), it still enjoyed a flourishing cultural period in the arts during the 16th and 17th century as well as had a large Latin American Empire that was going to last them until the Napoleonic Wars (well, most of it anyway). And for quite some time between Napoleon and the French and Indian War, Spain’s American Empire possessed most of the land consisting of today’s United States as well as stretched as far north as Minnesota (mainly because the French gave up in North America and handed Spain the Louisiana Territory, but Napoleon would get it back once he took over Spain). Then you have France who had a major colonial empire in North America that reached from Eastern Canada to the Mississippi Delta. Of course, France would later be caught in an imperialistic war with Britain over disputed territory and then abandon its claims to North America in a conflict known as the French and Indian War. Yet, they would soon end up colonizing much of West Africa, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia. Then you have the British Empire which ended up to dominate much of the world at its peak  and is very much present in movies relating to colonialism or imperialism. Nevertheless, movies about the colonial empires seem to have unfortunate implications at times as well as historical inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

Spanish Empire:

The Spanish Jesuits were involved in the struggle with the Guarani against the Spanish and Portuguese around the Guarani War following the treaty of Madrid during the 1750s. (Only the Guarani themselves fought against the oppression resulting in a three-year war against the Portuguese.)

Jesuit missionaries directly disobeyed Altamirano’s orders and stayed to fight with their converts. (No Jesuit missionary in Paraguay directly disobeyed Altimirano’s orders nor did they stay to fight with their converts. In reality, they actually surrendered control of their missions in 1754 but the Guarani refused to relocate. However, since Hollywood likes Indian-friendly white protagonists, the Jesuits in The Mission stayed. After all, you wouldn’t want Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons abandon those poor little Indians would you?)

Luis Altamirano was a cardinal sent by the Pope who was also a Jesuit. (He was actually a Jesuit priest sent by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Ignazio Visconti to preserve the Jesuit Order in Europe in the face of attacks in Spain and Portugal, especially in the face of the transfer of territory to Portugal which consisted of seven Guarani missions that were settled by the Jesuits and Guaranis in the 17th century. Sadly, they were only suppressed a few years later anyway.)

The Spanish Navy used captured Englishmen to man their galleys as slaves. (Galleys were used by the Spanish Empire but they didn’t man them with English Protestants {even if Spain did have an Inquisition}. Nor did they enslave their enemies either.)

The reduction missions were havens for Indians. (Yet, there’s an opinion out there that these missions were repressive theocratic city-states with a high degree of coercion and imposition on the local population. The Spanish mission system often used the Indian converts as enslaved labor as well as served as a mechanism of cultural genocide with thousands of Indians dying from overwork, horrid conditions, brutal treatment, and disease. Indian resistance and escapes were a frequent occurrence. However, at a historical standpoint, you can say that the Spanish Mission System was a haven for the Indians when compared to such institutions like plantation slavery or Nazi concentration camps.)

French Colonial Empire:

The French Foreign Legion consisted of entirely of foreigners, which was why they were such a good fighting force. (30% of the members were French who lied about their nationality. The real reason why they were so effective was their insane physical training, harsh discipline, and a strong sense of espirit de corp and brothers-in-arms.)

Anyone could join the French Foreign Legion. (In the early days since its creation yes, but not anymore, they do background checks, psychological tests, and physical examinations.)

The French Foreign Legion did most of the fighting in wars France was involved in since its creation. (France’s regular army and colonial troops did.)

The Perdicaris incident consisted of an American woman named Eden Pedicaris abducted by the Berber bandit named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli. (Actually Perdicaris was named Ion and a man with a reputation as a Greek-American playboy as well. His stepson was kidnapped as well. He also renounced his American citizenship in order to be a citizen of Greece. Hollywood probably changed this for a romantic subplot, but still…)

Raisuli was a virtuous Muslim freedom fighter. (Many historical accounts list he was a mixture of feudal bandit and political power player. One account records an incident when Raisuli’s brother-in-law planned to take a second wife; Raisuli stormed the wedding party and hacked the bride and her mother to death. In The Wind and the Lion, he’s played by Sean Connery who carries a romance with Candice Bergan’s character.)

Henri “Papillon” Charriere was a prisoner on Devil’s Island. (He’s documented to have been incarcerated at Saint Laurent, not Devil’s Island. He never served any time at the infamous French Guiana penal colony.)

The tragedy of French Colonialism in Africa was that it ended. (To the Algerians, the fact that French Colonialism in Africa ended was the best thing about French Colonialism.)

The British Empire:

The British East India Company:

The East India Company did business in the Caribbean. (They didn’t, but they did business in China though.)

Veerapandiya Kattabomman was a king of Panchalankurichi during the war he raged on the British East India Company. His arsenal had a lot of guns. (He was a Polygar chieftan, not a king, but he did resist British rule during the 18th century. Also, his arsenal only had a few guns.)

The Raj:

The British were benevolent overlords to the Indians in India. (Actually, they were anything but even though they did let them go to their colleges and serve in their armed forces. Same with other imperial nations.)

Caribbean:

Port Royal was a bustling metropolis as well as a clean and proper little English town during the 18th century. (It was destroyed in an earthquake around 1692 and subsequently rebuilt but not like it’s seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.)

Port Royal was built atop a hundred-foot basaltic cliffs. (It was built on a low spit of sand south of Kingston Harbor where the elevation is no more than 10 feet above sea level.)

The Royal Navy stationed 100 gun ships of the Line in the Caribbean in the early 1700s. (The English bases of that area couldn’t support ships that size at the time. Besides, the ships would’ve been much too big and deep drafted to be of much use in the Caribbean waters anyway. Not to mention, the Royal Navy only had six such ships at the time which were most likely situated at the British shores. Of course, Pirates of the Caribbean and other pirate movies have to depict large wooden war ships.)

Oceania:

The reason for the mutiny on the Bounty was Captain Bligh’s brutal treatment to his men as well as subject them to especially cruel and harsh punishments. (Actually Captain Bligh was one of the least violent than most captains in the whole Royal Navy at the time and only flogged 11% of his men {Captain James Cook flogged 26% of his men while Captain George Vancouver flogged 53%}. What his crew really had a problem with was the banality of his command {or maybe having a terrible personality, perhaps being too nice of a guy and let discipline go to hell} which doesn’t make for an entertaining movie. It’s said that he failed to speak his roles properly in the theater of his command as well as stuck and picked at the scabs he inflicted, which breached personal space as well as his intrusive rules and regulations. He also had an incompetent crew with most of the men being under 30, which brought upon his sharpness of tongue and short temper that kept the men on their toes, especially after the 5 month Tahitian vacation. In short, historians say he was nothing more than was a foul-tempered, highly-critical authoritarian with a superiority complex. Compassion and diplomacy were not his strong suits. Also, another reason was the fact that some of the Bounty crew had taken Tahitian wives including Fletcher Christian as well as their long vacation on the island which caused them to be overly sensitive to discipline but this is made apparent in the films. Bligh should not have given his crew a long vacation, which let discipline on the ship go to hell, especially since it’s said that he personally witnessed Captain James Cook being killed by Hawaiians before the Bounty voyage. The deterioration of Bligh and Christian’s relationship was also a factor.)

William Bligh was a captain during the Bounty voyage. (He was technically a Lieutenant but he had experienced mutinies before.)

Captain Bligh ordered a dead man flogged. (He never did this, ever. Also, out of his crew only 2 people died before the mutiny which consisted of a seaman and the ship’s surgeon. He never had men keelhauled either.)

The H.MS. Bounty consisted of impressed sailors. (Though impressed sailors were a very common thing at the time, the Bounty had no impressed sailors. In fact, Bligh actually chose most of the crew himself {mostly recommended by influential patrons} and many of those on board have previously been on other voyages including Fletcher Christian. But everyone on board was under 40. Still, most of the mutineers were lower ranking officers and seamen.)

Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian had a homosexual relationship. (Bligh was married with six children and there has never been much doubt about Christian being straight {since he couldn’t keep it in his pants}. They had more of a master-pupil relationship since they’ve been on voyages together before.)

Fletcher Christian was Captain Bligh’s second-in-command. (Sailing master John Fryer was officially {who actually remained loyal despite his displacement}. But Bligh and Christian had such a warm relationship that Christian is seen as thus and Bligh soon designated him as Acting Lieutenant, which would’ve gotten him promoted to full Lieutenant, if he just kept it in his pants during the 5 month vacation in Tahiti.)

The first thing Fletcher Christian and the mutineers did after the mutiny was sail to Tahiti. (They actually went to an island called Tabuai, south of Tahiti where the encountered immediate hostility from the natives.)

Fletcher Christian and the mutineers returned to Tahiti welcomed by the natives on the Bounty and told them nothing. (Christian basically told them a lie about Captain Cook needing supplies and Bligh decided to stay with him {despite that Cook had been killed by native Hawaiians in the 1770s}. But the natives were delighted to help the mutineers, gathered some supplies and natives before setting sail to Tabuai where they built a fort. But a fight broke out which resulted in several natives getting killed, including 6 women. So they decided to return to Tahiti again with 16 of the remaining Bounty crew electing to stay {and 14 those who remained in Tahiti would soon get caught, by the way 18 months later by the Pandora. Two would be killed in the meantime} while Christian and 8 other mutineers left the island for good.)

Fletcher Christian decided to burn down the Bounty at Pitcarin Island. (The decision to destroy it was a consensus of the mutineers because there was no to conceal it and they didn’t want passing ships to identify their island. However, it was Christian’s idea and not done without his knowledge.)

Fletcher Christian died on Pitcarin Island’s beach as the Bounty burned. (There are no beaches on Pitcarin and Christian died much later at the hands of the six Tahitian men {he previously kidnapped and enslaved along with twelve Tahitian women} during subsequent conflicts on the island along with 4 other mutineers. This, according to a diary by mutineer Edward Young.)

Captain Bligh was a much older man during the Bounty voyage. (He was in his thirties and would endure a couple more mutinies in his lifetime. He died as vice-admiral and served as governor of New South Wales. He died in 1817. Still, his voyage back to East Timor after the mutiny kind of demonstrates he probably wasn’t such a bad guy since he was accompanied by 18 of his men. Also, Fletcher Christian was 23, which explains a lot and and his physical description was said to be close to Clark Gable.)

Midshipman Roger Byam was a royal officer on the Bounty. (He’s a fictional character in the 1930s film but he’s based on a real person who was Midshipman Peter Heywood. However, despite being condemned to die and getting off on king’s mercy {thanks to being from an influential family that could give him a good lawyer}, he protested his innocence during the court-martial, saying that he was detained against his will. Oh, and by the way, unlike the Franchot Tone character, Heywood was only 15 when he signed on to the Bounty and was a distant relative to Fletcher Christian’s. Still, we’re not sure if he was telling the truth because he’s listed among the officers being treated for venereal disease along with Christian and that ship master John Fryer recalled to his wife that Heywood was one of the men who grabbed Bligh from his bed during the mutiny. Then again, you can also argue that Heywood was a typical horny teenage boy and let’s just say abstinence-only sex education will certainly not work on a 16 year old boy spending 5 months on an island with gorgeous and uninhibited women, especially after spending a year on a ship with a bunch of men {well, for the most part}.)

After Captain Bligh’s departure, only the mutineers remained on the Bounty. (4 were detained against their will for their needed skills and lack of space on the long boat. For instance, under Christian’s watch, the carpenter and the armorer were not allowed to leave under any circumstances.)

The mutiny on the Bounty helped bring about a new discipline, based on mutual respect between others and men, by which Britain’s sea power is maintained as security for all who pass upon the sea. (There was no change in Royal Navy discipline before or after the mutiny.)

Most of the natives who went with the Bounty mutineers left Tahiti willingly. (We’re not sure about that. One native survivor recalled being kidnapped.)

The mutiny on the Bounty was a violent affair which happened during the early evening. (It happened in the early hours in the morning while Bligh and everyone else were asleep. Also, it was totally unexpected and bloodless.)

Almost all the tried Bounty mutineers but one were executed. (Only six out of the ten mutineers were sentenced to death and only three of them were hanged. Two received king’s mercy and a third got off on a legality. Four of the tried mutineers were acquitted. Four of the mutineers who were captured at Tahiti drowned on the way to England on the Pandora {a ship said to be worse than the Bounty}, which struck a feef and sank. Christian and eight of the mutineers kidnapped several Tahitians and went to Pitcarin. All but one would die before their fate would become known to the outside world.)

Captain Bligh returned to Tahiti specifically to find the men who mutinied against him. (Actually he returned to Tahiti on another breadfruit mission. The guy in charge to find the mutineers was a man named Captain Edward Edwards, who made Bligh look like a Boy Scout. Also, Bligh was there after the mutineers on Tahiti were found. Bligh wasn’t at the mutineers’ court-martial because of his Tahitian mission.)

Fletcher Christian was a decent man. (His credentials are rather questionable and his actions could be traced as the root cause of the problems on Pitcarin and all that entails. Still, as an officer, he was a skilled navigator.)

Admiral Hood presided at William Bligh’s court-martial. (He did preside over the court-martial of the alleged mutineers who returned to England.)

Australia was referred to its present name in the 1790s. (It would be referred as Australia only more than a decade later. At that time people called it “New Holland.” It didn’t become Australia officially until 1824.)

The Bounty mutiny was triggered by Bligh’s decision to make a second attempt around Cape Horn and hence circumnavigate the globe. (He was ordered to take his cargo of breadfruit to Jamaica via the Endeavor Strait, the Sunda Strait, and the Cape of Good Hope as well as embark additional plants en route. Another attempt to sail around Cape Horn would’ve endangered the tropical plant cargo due to the near Antarctic temperatures they would’ve encountered.)

The British Army confrontation of the 1854 gold miners’ rebellion at the Eureka Stockade in Victoria, Australia killed hundreds of people. (The official death count reads 27 names consisting of 22 miners and 5 soldiers. Yet, there have been wounded miners who escaped and died of their injuries later but their deaths are never attributed to the stockade involvement.)

Captain James Cook discovered Australia in 1770. (He led the first British expedition to Australia but other European explorers had been there. Also, you can say it was discovered by the Australian Aborigines themselves.)

Other:

The English brought “civilization” to the countries they occupied when they had an empire.

Foreigners from Africa, Asia, or the Oceania usually spoke in Pidgin English or Engrish. (Most of them spoke in their native tongues. If they knew English, they certainly didn’t speak like that.)

The Union Jack flag has been used by the British since the ascension of King James I. (It wasn’t used until 1801, yet you see it in almost every film featuring Great Britain before that.)

The British were the most benign imperial overlords. (Well, they were the most successful imperial overlords and weren’t as bad like King Leopold II’s Belgian Congo {well, any colonial empire can be seen benign in comparison}. However, this didn’t stop some areas of the world wanting independence from them.)

British soldiers wore white helmets with their regimental crest during active duty. (They wore plain cork helmets and basic uniforms. They didn’t wear the parade dress uniforms like you see on Zulu during the armed battle. That would be like wearing a tuxedo at a construction site.)

British grenadiers wore bearskin miter caps during the early 18th century. (These weren’t issued until 1768.)

The French and Indian War:

The 60th Regiment (the Royal Americans) were massacred during the French and Indian War because of their use of British military tactics. (They were raised in America and were trained to fight wars under conditions suited for such environment and used their training to their advantage.)

Major Robert Rogers’ Rangers portaged their whaleboats over a ridge during the Saint Francis raid. (They actually did this two years prior from Lake George to Wood Creek so they could avoid the French outposts along Fort Ticonderoga.)

Colonel Edward Munro was killed during the journey to Fort Edward and had his heart cut out and munched on by an Indian ally of the French. (Actually the guy was Lieutenant Colonel George Monro and he actually survived the massacre at Fort William Henry which left only 184 dead or captive {but he died three months later of a stroke}. Sorry, James Fenimore Cooper.)

Lieutenant Colonel George Monro was a widower with two grown daughters at the time of the Fort William Henry massacre. (There’s no record he ever married. However, Cora Munro was based on a real person named Jane McRae who actually did have a fiancée who fought for the British. Yet, this was in the American Revolution and she was killed. Oh, and in the book The Last of the Mohicans, she’s black {which means her and Alice didn’t have the same mom}.)

The Mohegans and Mahicans have been extinct Indian tribes since the French and Indian War. (Both are still around today and are federally recognized to boot.)

French-allied Indians attacked the British led garrison from Fort William Henry in revenge against Monro destroying a native village. (There’s no evidence of them attacking Fort William Henry for anything other than booty and prisoners, which they felt they had been denied by the French and were enraged that the British forces were allowed to depart after suffering a few casualties. Besides, the massacre only lasted only three hours with 184 dead or taken prisoner {though they did exaggerate back then with as many as 1500}.)

Mohawk Joseph Brandt was a chief during the French and Indian War. (He was 15 years old in 1757 and wouldn’t become one until towards the end. Also, he’d be a relatively unknown at the time working for Sir William Johnson.)

The Marquis de Montcalm condoned the Indian ambush massacre near Fort William Henry. (The Indians attacked the retreating British retinue against this guy’s orders and he was disgusted by their actions. Also, when he ensured that the British Forces at Fort William Henry be guaranteed safe passage, he meant it. Unfortunately, the Indians wanted some possessions and prisoners, which didn’t settle with him. Nevertheless, the Massacre at Fort William Henry was caused more by a conflict between European military etiquette and the customs of the French Indian allies. Montcalm was never going to make anyone happy no matter what he did.)

The Marquis de Montcalm was a terrible man. (Well, as far as The Last of the Mohicans is concerned because he was a French aristocrat, general, diplomat, and scholar as well as won a lot of battles against the British. Still, he wasn’t a bad guy since he did give generous terms of surrender to the British even if that pissed off his Indian allies.)

The British Forces were nicer to their Indian allies than the French. (They were just as notoriously bad to their Indian allies and were using them as pawns just like the French were {the British weren’t that nice to American militia units either as shown by Braddock’s defeat}. However, in The Last of the Mohicans it seems that Indians and settlers seem to coexist peacefully, but American history has shown us otherwise at times.)

The massacre at Fort William Henry began with an Indian ambush and slaughter at some distance from the fort. (It was more of a one-sided brawl beginning when the British left their entrenchments. The French-allied Indians {many who’ve been drinking} fell upon the provincial wounded {killing 17 of them}, seized British-allied Indians, black slaves, and female camp followers. They also killed and robbed paroled soldiers. Nevertheless, it was more of an attack on the militia at the rear column who weren’t protected by a small French guard. It lasted for a short time that most provincials panicked and ran.)

Around the time of the French and Indian War, the Huron Indians lived in a native village led by a great chief who could decide all. (They were Catholics who lived in mission towns adjacent to the French. They were also assimilated and pacifist and were nearly wiped out by the British as a result. Also, there’s no way in hell that they’d be allied with the French and not know anything about the fur trade which was probably the main reason any side had Indian allies in the first place.)

New York frontiersmen and Mohawk Indians were present during the siege of Fort William Henry. (The Mohawks had refused to scout for the British during 1756 and 1757. Yet, the British did have scouts consisting of Stockbridge Indians {including Mohicans} and New Hampshire frontiersmen who were certainly at the fort. Also, the fort was largely garrisoned by British regulars and American militia.)

The British and the Mohawks were enemies during the French and Indian War. (They were allies.)

The Saint Francis raid was a heroic act in which no Abenaki women and children were taken prisoner. (General Jeffrey Amherst may have ordered to spare women and children {though he’s known for giving Indians small pox blankets} but the history books are less clear whether Major Rogers’ men had followed it through {which is highly unlikely}. Also, the raid on Saint Francis was at 3 am and is not seen a heroic action {more like genocide} unlike what the film Northwest Passage depicts which is about Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers heroically wiping out an Indian village out of revenge {which is kind of true}. Northwest Passage‘s depiction of the British during the Saint Francis genocide would be an equivalent of casting American soldiers during the My Lai massacre in a positive light. Seriously, what the hell, Hollywood?)

Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers wore uniforms similar to what Peter Pan wore. (They just wore a simple green jacket. However, I don’t know if I’d want to see Spencer Tracy in a Peter Pan outfit.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 24 – Early Colonization

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Of course, Disney’s 1995 Pocahontas is probably the only movie from the early colonization era most people have seen. However, for those who were kids when this movie came out, a lot of what this movie says about the founding of Jamestown is bullshit. For instance, John Smith looked much more like his voice talent Mel Gibson in real life than as a blond stud. He also had a talent for bullshit so some of the accuracy in his writings is sketchy. Also, Pocahontas was only a pre-teen in 1607 and never had any romantic encounter with John Smith at all. Talk about all that ruining your childhood.

Sure I may go back and forth from European history with the rest of the world. Yet, in many ways, history relating to Colonialism and Imperialism runs very much from the 1400s until after the Second World War, which means we’re covering a very large length of time. It is also a time of early globalization but not as we know it since many peoples are subjugated by European powers who may soon use white supremacy to justify it. Also, this era marks the beginning of slavery in the western world with the slave trade which was just unspeakably horrible with terrible implications we’re dealing with today. Many Hollywood movies usually take place at this time since there’s a lot of famous literature from this period in history sometimes told as adventures {like Kipling’s from British India}, pirates, exotic locations, and great white heroes. In fact, many filmmakers like doing movies set during this era because not only can they do an action packed adventure set in exotic locations, but also have a white male protagonist the audience can relate to (well, white audiences in the US or UK at least). Nevertheless, expect the White Man’s Burden to come up a lot in these movies whether intentionally or not, especially in literary adaptations in which the source material can be rather racist.

We begin this era with the Age of Exploration, in which traders tried to find a quicker route to Asia in order to bypass the Muslim middlemen. Though Columbus didn’t really discovered America, he opened the Americas up for business with the Columbian Exchange and the world would never be the same again. The Age of Colonization and international trade had begun. At first it was Spain and Portugal amassing colonial and trading empires but later powers like France, Britain, and the Netherlands would join in and be fabulously wealthy from it. Of course, you have the Spanish Conquistadors colonizing much of Latin America through guns, germs, and steel (as well as native allies who were fed up with their overlords). Areas of the Spanish Empire would include some islands in the Caribbean, most of Central America, much of South America except Brazil, the Guianas, and Suriname, the American Southwest, and Florida. The French would soon amass a colonial empire reaching from Canada all the way down to the Mississippi founding cities like New Orleans, Detroit, Montreal, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Quebec City, Mobile, and Biloxi. Then you have the British who settled in Roanoke in the 1580s (which failed) and Jamestown around 1607 which would be the first permanent settlement of the Americas. Nevertheless, movies sometimes get a lot of facts wrong during the early colonization, which I should list accordingly.

Columbus:

Christopher Columbus sailed to the West Indies to prove that the world was round. (Actually he wanted to prove that sailing west would lead to a shorter route to the East Indies since most people in his day didn’t believe that there would be two mass continents on the way. He was wrong. Also, most Europeans haven’t believed in a flat earth since antiquity anyway {maybe even before Jesus}. The notion that Europeans believed the world was flat around the time of Columbus was just some bullshit made up by Washington Irving, which is rather insulting if you think about it.)

Columbus was the first European to make landfall in the Americas. (The Vikings were about five hundred years earlier, but they didn’t stay long. However, what is significant about Columbus’ landfall in the Americas is that it marks the start of a permanent European presence that changed the world. Thus, even though Columbus wasn’t the first European in the Americas, his voyages made more of an impact on history than the Vikings did.)

Columbus met his friend Diego Arana while on a trading voyage from Lisbon. (He didn’t meet the guy until several years later.)

One of Columbus’ men was eaten by sharks on his first voyage to the New World. (Nobody died during that voyage, at least at sea anyway. The thirty-nine men he left behind were killed by the time he returned to Hispanola.)

Columbus realized he didn’t land in India. (He never realized he actually landed in the Bahamas instead.)

Christopher was nearly executed during a near mutiny on his voyage. (He wasn’t, but he almost had his crew mutiny twice.)

Alonso Pinzon was a supportive sidekick to Columbus. (He was a case-hardened mariner whose support made Columbus’ voyage possible.)

Columbus was a forward-thinking idealist with his good intentions subverted by greedy and evil Spaniards. (He was a failure as a colonial founder and administrator that all his official responsibilities and duties were stripped by 1500 when the crown took charge and sent Columbus and his brothers home in chains. He also blamed everyone but himself for his spectacular fall from grace. Oh, and he systematically enslaved the Taino Indians, introduced Old World diseases to the New World {like smallpox}, and syphilis to bring back to Europe {but unknowingly and on accident}.)

The Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria all made it back to Spain. (The Santa Maria wrecked so only the Nina and Pinta made it back.)

Columbus took three voyages in which he fell out of favor on his second. (He took four voyages with the second tarnishing his reputation and the third leading to his downfall.)

Columbus’ achievements were forgotten until his son Hernando’s biography of him recounted them. (He was named and praised by all 16th century chroniclers.)

Explorations:

Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in 1523. (He sailed to Florida in 1513 and died in 1521.)

Conquistadores:

The Spanish were among some of the cruelest conquerors in history who exploited the Indians for gold via slave labor, destroyed their culture, and forced them to convert to Christianity. (Yes, they did all of that and yes, they were cruel but they were better overlords than, well, the English. At least the Spanish married native women and lived in a society that accepted their mixed race children. Not to mention, they also tried to make Christianity more accessible to the Indians and there were priests who argued that they be treated better {and many Indians converted willingly}. Besides, the Spanish conquistadors wouldn’t have overthrown the Aztec Empire without their Indian allies {who were already sick of the Aztecs by then}. Not only that, but their defeat of the Aztec Empire showed that the Aztec gods have failed them. And though the Spanish had wiped out about 95% of the Indian population in the Americas, they mostly did it by accident usually through the spread of their germs and probably never set foot in most of the areas where Indians died by their diseases. The English gave Indians smallpox blankets and ostracized people for marrying Indians, with the exception of John Rolfe, of course.)

The Spanish conquistadors brought the collapse of Mayan civilization. (Actually Mayan civilization had been nonexistent for centuries before the Spanish set foot and they mostly brought the collapse onto themselves perhaps through environmental destruction. Also, the people the Spanish conquistadors met were Aztecs, not Maya.)

In 1560, the large El Dorado expedition was under Gonzalo Pizarro set off from Peruvian Sierras. The only document surviving from this lost expedition is the diary of monk Gaspar de Carvajal. (Gonzalo Pizarro {half-brother of Francisco, by the way} died twelve years before the Ursua El Dorado expedition. As a matter of fact, he was executed as a famous traitor to the king of Spain. Pizarro’s El Dorado expedition took place in 1541 and came down from Ecuador led by Francisco de Orellana, which Carvajal did accompany him as well as chronicle it but the main body was forced to turn back due to hardships like disease and hunger. Yet, a small detachment {including Carvajal} did press on and managed to follow the Amazon River all the way down to the Atlantic as well as landed on the coast of Venezuela in 1542. Dominican Friar Gaspar de Carvajal wasn’t on the El Dorado expedition but rather living safely at his Lima monastery because he didn’t want to go on another expedition to the Amazon ever again since he had lost an eye from an Indian attack. However, he’s in Herzog’s Aguirre Wrath of God to serve as the voice of reason and narrator.)

Lope de Aguirre went mad and was marooned in the Amazon. (He brought his men down to the Atlantic following the same route that Carvajal had taken nearly twenty years before, reaching the mouth of the Amazon on July 4, 1561 and sailed from there to the Venezuelan island of Margarita where he instituted another reign of terror that matched his ferocity in his behavior in the Amazon. At the end of August, Margarita was devastated, while Aguirre had left for the Venezuelan mainland. He met his death at the hands of royalist forces in Barquisimento on October 27, 1561 since he had killed expedition leader Pedro de Ursua, Don Fernando, and at least forty members as well as launched a reign of terror in the Amazon and incited a rebellion against Philip II and schemed to overthrow Spanish rule in Peru. His body was quartered and thrown into the street and a solemn proclamation was issued requiring any house belonging to Aguirre be leveled and strewn with salt so “no trace or memory….should remain.” Many of Aguirre’s men were offered pardons.)

Lope de Aguirre was a common criminal and a pathological killer who went insane. (He was a middle-aged mercenary soldier who came to the New World in search of riches like many conquistadors and went there at a young age. However, while he did kill a lot of people and instigate reigns of terror as well as may have been crazy, he was also an astute politician and leader of men. He also found on the Amazon theater on what he believed equal to the scale of his vast ambitions, a place he could be in his own words “Prince of Freedom” and “Wrath of God.” He also was a guy who incited a rebellion against Philip II as well as gave a speech calling his men to relinquish their Spanish nationality. He even wrote a letter to the king shortly before his death.)

The Spanish Church sided with the strong during the 16th century. (Spanish missionaries in the New World were among the first people to denounce the conquistadors’ treatment of Indians {dating as early as 1511}, most famously Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas. Many Spanish clergymen were also among some of the most renowned intellectuals of their day bringing old ideas about justice and responsibilities of kingship as well as a new culture of Renaissance driven thinkers like Erasmus and Saint Sir Thomas More. However, don’t get the impression that Spanish missionaries were totally wonderful people, because even the nicest ones had their limits in kindness and had played roles in wiping out Indians and their culture. Like the conquistadores, they also exploited Indians by having them work as slave labor and other abuses. Yet, though we do tend to somewhat blame Spanish missionaries for Indian cultural destruction, we also have to account that more Indian cultures were wiped out through European diseases, many of which never had contact with white people at all.)

Dominican Friar Gaspar de Carvajal died in a native ambush on the Amazon River. (He died of old age in his monastery in Lima in 1584.)

Dominican Friar Gaspar de Carvajal was a cowardly priest as well as corrupt religious fanatic who always sided with the strongest. (He was actually a born survivor who lost an eye during an Indian attack and had dedicated his life to the conversion of Indians {in other words, a missionary badass}. He had a benevolent attitude toward the Indians which was consistent with his fellow Dominican brother Bartolome de Las Casas.)

Spanish conquistadores believed in the lost city of El Dorado. (Actually this may have been based on a myth by the Chibcha Indians of South America. However, sometimes the Spanish authorities used this story to set up expeditions in search of this city of gold in hopes of getting troublemakers out of Peru, never to return.)

The El Dorado expedition of 1560 was lost. (Actually there’s more documentation of the last ten months of Lope de Aguirre’s life than his first fifty years because of this since it’s well documented. Also, people in South America very well knew what happened on this expedition.)

Francisco Orellana was buried in Nazca tomb in a Nazca fashion. (The Nazca culture was already extinct by 800 A.D. before the Spanish Conquistadors ever got to Peru in 1532. However, Orellana is said to have vanished while looking for a lost Nazca city. However, he’s unlikely to have met any Nazca.)

Hernando Cortes sailed to the New World for gold and glory. (True, but he was sent there to trade with the natives. But he overruled his orders and even defeated the Spanish army sent to arrest him.

Hernando Cortes often enslaved Spanish prisoners. (Yes, he took fellow Spaniards as prisoners. But the idea of enslaving a fellow Christian or Spaniard would’ve horrified him.)

Hernando Cortes was a humorless hardass who’d use natives as tools and betray allies at the drop of a hat if he doesn’t get his way. (He was a charming diplomat who forged real alliances with some native groups. For he wouldn’t have taken down the Aztec Empire without them.)

Jamestown:

Pocahontas saved John Smith’s life and carried on a romance with him. (Yes, she might have saved his life but no, she didn’t have a romantic relationship with him unlike what Disney says. Also, she was about ten or eleven at the time and she really wasn’t called Pocahontas but Matoaka. However, they did meet. By the way, when she saw him again, she slapped him in the face. Oh, and he also claimed about being “saved” by powerful women on more than one occasion. Not to mention, he didn’t write about Pocahontas saving his life in his 1608 account and that story first appeared in 1622, possibly to take advantage of her prominence in England. So it’s best to look at it with suspicion.)

Coastal Virginia was filled with mountains and thick pine trees. (Coastal Virginia is actually flat and swampy. Virginia’s mountains are hundreds of miles away from it.)

Governor John Ratcliffe was a villainous man. (He was actually more foolishly trusting than anything. Interestingly, he was flayed and later burned alive by Powhatan Indians in 1609 but of course, you wouldn’t see that in a Disney movie. Oh, and he wasn’t the first governor of Jamestown and wasn’t in charge during the voyage {though he was captain of the ship Discovery}. Nor was he sent back to England in chains after being removed. This was not over Indian treatment, but over enlisting colonists to build a governor’s house, trade with Indians, and handling food shortages. Not to mention, he and John Smith were allies and he didn’t think the Indians were barbaric because he’d been trading with them. Oh, and he died because Indians tricked him with a lure for food which resulted in his family unfriendly death in 1609. However, considering the circumstances Jamestown was facing, you couldn’t blame the guy.)

John Smith was a clean shaven handsome blond guy. (He was actually a short, portly, brown-haired, and bearded man as well as pushing thirty.)

John Smith was a decent guy when it came to the Indians. (John Smith was much more of jerk in real life and actually kidnapped an Indian leader so the guy’s tribe would provide him with plentiful resources. He had a tendency to exaggerate {or just plain make up} things in his accounts. He was also a mercenary and fantasist who could be ambitious, abrasive, self-promoting, and feisty. Still, he was competent even though he was unpopular among the colonists {well, the first wave who saw themselves as his social superiors}.)

The Indians and white Jamestown settlers all managed to make friends. (American history pertaining to Native Americans tells a very different story, very different. Besides, unlike what the Disney movie suggests, after John Smith had to seek medical attention for a “gunpowder accident,” relations between the Indians and settlers at Jamestown would shortly go to hell. Also, while John Smith would see Pocahontas again, he wouldn’t return to Jamestown.)

John Smith went scouting around after landfall in Virginia. (He was arrested and clapped in irons during the voyage {for concealing a mutiny} and wasn’t released until a month after landing at Jamestown. He did most of his exploring and trading after that.)

John Rolfe and Pocahontas had a serenely happy marriage and was easily accepted among the English. (She was probably not as happy or as accepted as depicted in The New World. One letter from an acquaintance said that Rolfe dragged her around as a “sore against her will.” Yet, the marriage did help stabilize native and settler relations. Oh, and Rolfe wasn’t above using his wife’s image to sell tobacco.)

John Smith was nearly executed on top of a bluff at dawn in front of angry colonists who had come to rescue him. (He was going to be executed in Powhatan’s longhouse in front of his warriors and counselors. The colonists didn’t know where he was. Of course, this is coming from the real John Smith.)

Chief Powhatan had a loving relationship with Pocahontas’s mother. (Maybe, but the guy had at least 50 wives each of whom gave him at least one child before being sent back to where they came from. Assuming she didn’t die in childbirth, we can say that Pocahontas’s mother would’ve suffered a similar fate though she’d be supported by Powhatan until she found another husband. So let’s just say that Powahatan and Pocahontas’s mother didn’t have a typical marital relationship.

Chief Powhatan was actually a good father to Pocahontas who was his only daughter. (Pocahontas was his favorite daughter but she was also one of his innumerable children by an estimated 50 wives. And of his kids, Smith also had contact with one of his sons. Also, he didn’t try to save her when she was kidnapped by the English, which led to her berating him and choosing to stay with the British as well as convert to Christianity. Of course, Powhatan had his reasons for not attacking the British camp. His people were also political savvy and very fierce in battle. Oh, and he may have ruled over as many as 34 tribes.)

Kocoum was an Indian who was betrothed to Pocahontas. (Mattaponi tradition holds that Kocoum was Pocahontas’ first husband who was killed after her capture in 1613 or may have not been murdered at all. Yet, there’s another theory that this guy could possibly be an Indian nickname of John Rolfe himself.)

Pocahontas was an Indian princess. (She was a chief’s daughter but she was presented at King James I’s court as one. Thus, she was viewed as a princess in her lifetime, just not among her own people.)

Edward Wingfield was shot and killed by settlers at Jamestown. (He died in 1630 in his eighties and wrote several books about Jamestown.)

Pocahontas was accompanied by her uncle Opechancanough while traveling in England who was to mark a notch on a stick every time he encountered an Englishman. (While the notches story is accurate, she was actually accompanied by her half-brother-in-law Tomocomo who was also sent to search for John Smith. He returned to Virginia with Samuel Argall and John Rolfe in 1617 but he didn’t have nice things to say about the English and was disgraced. Oh, and Opechancanough actually staged a massacre at the Virginia colony years later which killed 350 people in one hour.)

John Smith had tattoos. (The European practice of tattooing was dead for centuries and wouldn’t be readopted until a century later {unless if they were French Canadian soldiers}. However, it’s possible that John Smith might’ve had native tattoos though.)

King James I ordered John Smith to leave Jamestown. (He left for England in 1609 due to a gunpowder accident which resulted in severe burns, yet he recovered.)

Pocahontas was kidnapped by English settlers while John Smith was still in Jamestown. (Pocahontas was kidnapped in 1613. John left for England in 1609.)

Captain Christopher Newport had two fully functioning arms at Jamestown. (He had part of his arm severed before he landed at Jamestown.)

The first Jamestown colonists sailed on the Susan Constant. (They sailed on the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.)

New France:

Jesuit priests proselytized Indians and were accompanied by lay domestics on their missions back in 1634. (At this time, French Jesuit priests were sent in pairs partly to avoid sexual temptation. They only had lay domestics later in which they had to sign a civil contract and take a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience to accompany the Jesuit priests on missions. And no, they didn’t embark on long journeys so close to winter freeze-ups.)

French 17th century Jesuit priests baptized with saliva. (Saliva has never been a valid matter for baptism and no 17th century Jesuit {let alone any priest} would never have baptized anyone with their own spit.)

Algonquin Indians killed priests during disease outbreaks within their walls. (They never did this even though they knew that missionary priests may have spread the diseases that killed many of them.)

French colonists took Indian wives out of love. (They took Indian wives in order to help bring peace to the tribes and the French. Taking Indian wives also helped French Canadian fur traders do business with their indigenous in-laws, which benefited both parties.)