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Feb 22, 2010 at 4:32pm | Filed Under “Hollywood History Showdown: Films

Laura Hillenbrand probably never anticipated her non-fiction horseracing book would become a Best Picture nominee, grossing more than $120 million at the box office. Gary Ross set out to make a period film that would hopefully capture the hearts of movie audiences, just as his equine subject did sixty-five years earlier.


  • AStudentofHistory
    06/27/2011 at 2:03pm



    I disagree that no attorney could have managed a defense for Mary Surratt. I think her lawyer was competent considering the weightiness of the charges. Sure others could have take the case. Obviously her views aside the evidence was strong-I concur. My angle on the defense would have been one of "ethos"-you play the hand you are dealt. "Why does a woman stand here today-alone-is this what we have become? Where is Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee-should not a conspiracy involve these men. You say but the there is no evidence that Rob. E. Lee and Jeff. Davis were complicit? Yet, we heap implication and insinuation from free speech-protected in the U.S. Constitution-to link Mary Surratt with the Assasination of a beloved President. Her view on Negroes is not on trial, but vicariously they are. Her seeming seditious actions to bring harm to man who is believed to be a promoter of Negro Equality is viewed by some as conspiratory. I say this is the woman from the bible who caught in the act of adultery-but where is that man she was caught with-why does he escape and she risk the hazzard of being stoned with the hemp of rope? I argue her views on slavery and negroe equality is not much different than many of us if we are honest. But should she be guilty of conspiring to assasinate a U.S. President or is she but a bruised lamb sheltering ravenous wolves!" Where are the real conspirators!!

    from Frederick Aiken: A Rookie Defender
  • fred_borch
    05/13/2011 at 9:37am


    Hi Elizabeth:

    I guess we just haven't seen the same film -- and I guess we have been studying different history as well. "The Conspirator" is not apology for the Confederacy and the movie I saw doesn't have a "Lost Cause-ish" message. But we can certainly disagree about that. However, I've studied Holt just as long as you have and the fact is that both he and Stanton were determined to get quick and harsh results in the trial. Stanton wanted the conspirators tried and hanged before Lincoln was buried (and he said so). Stanton and Holt knew that a civilian trial would be a disaster becasue they couldn't control the results; there is no question that they lobbied Attorney General Speed to arrive at a legal opinion that required trial by military commission. Holt wanted a secret trial (and only grudgingly decided to open it to the public). Holt hand-picked the jury. Holt presented perjured testimony at trial (and he knew it was perjured or else he was reckless). Holt participated in the commissoners' deliberations to guarantee that they made the correct decisions. He wanted Mary hanged -- and he got his way. But he didn't do this because he was a vengeful or evil man -- rather, both he and Stanton genuinely believed that the assassination was part of a diabolical plot that included Jeff Davis and other Confederate leaders. And the only way to deter future similar attacks was to come down hard on the conspirators.

    from Brig. Gen. Joseph Holt - His Role as Chief Prosecutor in the Military Tribunal
  • fred_borch
    03/23/2011 at 9:25am


    I'd like to stick with talking about Aiken's defense of Mary --- but -- in light of your many comments on the conspiracy ---

    It is true that the government (esp. Stanton and Holt) believed that the conspiracy was much larger than the eight defendants who were tried. I don't think you can say that they were "low level" conspirators, however. What we really have here is a trial of "trigger-pullers" or "doers" rather than "planners." The government thought that Booth and the eight defendants were part of a larger conspiracy that included Jeff Davis. But the proof adduced at trial for this larger conspiracy was quite weak. However, it is a good question as to why "only" seven men and one woman were put on trial? Why not 10 or 12? There were other conspirators out there.

    from Frederick Aiken: A Proper Defense
  • kirby
    02/09/2011 at 12:18pm


    Has anyone ever explored the possibility that either Jeff Davis or Judah Benjamin actually ordered Booth to assassinate Lincoln? I know there's evidence that they wanted Lincoln kidnapped, but the assassination plot of killing Lincoln, Johnson AND Seward reveals an attempt to behead the federal government so they couldn't prosecute the war. I've also heard that the attempt on Johnson's life was conceived in the prosecutor's office, and that Seward's attempted "assassin" was really a deranged relative. What's the skinny on that?

    from Motives for the Assassination
  • twitch
    12/18/2010 at 7:33am


    I can think of a couple of historical movies I have always liked.

    "Song of Bernadette" with Jennifer Jones.
    "Tucker, the Man and His Dream" w/Jeff Bridges

    And "Lonesome Dove" although I don't know how accurate the characters are but I have always felt it held the true spirit of the times it depicted.

    from 10 Best American History Movies
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  • Favorite figure in American History:

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    I am a adult male. I like to write poetry and prose. I love music, my fav genre is the blues. Some of my fav artists: Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Jeff Healy, Leadbelly,etc. I am an avid reader of contemporary and classic books, love Homer, but have the same love for J.R.R. Tolkien. I also love the movies, Dorthy to Frodo, Bogart to Eastwood,i.e. old to new, as long as they are good.

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