May 19, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

“The Lincoln Movie”

4 min read

I call it “The Lincoln Movie” because some might confuse the title of this article if I just call it by its real name, “Lincoln.” I mean, it is very possible that my blog changed from one of history to automobiles, overnight, right? 🙂 Yes, you are at–not–and this post is about the new Steven Spielberg movie.

While I am sure that there are those that went to the Lincoln movie with hopes of claiming that the movie was conjured up by Hollywood executives, bastardizing the real events of Abraham Lincoln, I was not one of those. First off, I am no self-proclaimed expert on President Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War. Second, I understand that the cinema is intended for entertainment and may not be completely accurate. Lastly, I am sure that there are plenty of others attending with the sole purpose of nitpicking, or as historian Harold Holzer, one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln, classified them:

…scholars, nitpickers, trivial pursuit pursuers, and history buffs have all been crowding their local movie theaters this week, many armed with legal pads, in a massive competition to unearth and report every factual error that has crept into the film.

I am not one of those people, and I am sure that there were enough in attendance…they needed no support from me. Unfortunately, if you were hoping that I would call “Lincoln” a travesty, this is not the post you’re looking for.

This is not the post you're looking for...
This is not the post you’re looking for…

As far as entertainment goes, I thought the Lincoln movie was an excellent film. Kicking curiosity to the curb, I attempted to abstain from reading reviews of the movie. I wanted to go into the movie knowing as little as possible. I didn’t want to go in with the mindset that Hollywood had ‘botched history.’

Now I did have some of the annoying aforementioned “nitpickers, trivial pursuit pursuers, and history buffs” sitting behind me. I intentionally left them out of the scholars classification, because they were idiots. Let me give you an example of one of their issues.

Lincoln Movie There is a scene where Abraham Lincoln is riding through a battlefield. You cannot see it in this picture (right), but in shots before and after this picture, there are bodies–everywhere. Hundreds of dead bodies that laid waste to previous day’s battle.

And what was the problem with this scene?

There is no way that they could have stood the stench of the dead bodies. There faces would have been covered with masks.

I kid you not, THAT was the issue that the woman behind me had with the scene. Now, there were some real historical discrepancies that she commented on, but most of them were ridiculous.

I have to say that having such a large interest in history not only made the experience more enjoyable, but I was able to fill in gaps on my own, and recall little tidbits during the movie. In the movie, it was January, 1865, and Robert Todd, son of Abraham Lincoln, was coming home to visit. Because of personal knowledge, I knew that Robert Todd Lincoln almost wasn’t in this part of the movie. It is true. Right before this time, the life of Robert Todd was almost lost. If you aren’t aware of this story, it is worth reading about how the brother of John Wilkes Booth saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln and Robert Todd Lincoln

As I was watching this scene, where father and son are reunited (because Robert Todd has been at Harvard), I sit and think. I ponder, “I wonder how the death of another son would have affected Lincoln? Would he have had the strength to carry on and push through the 13th Amendment?” Of course, if you read my blog…you might have thought the same way I was.

Was the movie worth seeing?…yes! The plot of the Lincoln movie flowed well, had an excellent cast, and everyone applauded at the end.

Was it historically accurate?…I am not qualified to make that assessment; however, I can point you in the right direction. Here are some sites that give reviews on the historical accuracy of the movie.

Mount Virtus – Despite Minor Flaws, Spielberg’s Lincoln Worthwhile Viewing for History Geeks

The Daily Beast – What’s True and False in “Lincoln” Movie

The Abraham Lincoln Blog – Film Review: Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

9 thoughts on ““The Lincoln Movie”

  1. I became a lincoln fan following a visit to Antietam, where in the visitor’s center you can see the letters Lincoln wrote already reaching out in reconciliation and healing at the same time he accused McClellan of using the army as a personal bodyguard when he didn’t pursue the retreating foe.

    He was truly a great man.

  2. You travel too much! I am envious of everywhere you have been, and you can add Antietam to that list.

    I am no expert on the subject, but it seems like McClellan didn’t have much of a spine…

  3. From what I understand, the movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”. Goodwin is amazing, and is an expert on Lincoln among others. I haven’t read the book nor seen the movie (disclaimer) but I figured the movie had to be good. Goodwin and Spielberg–how could it be better? I’m also with you about the nitpickers. It’s a MOVIE. By its very nature, things are condensed and some things are omitted in the interest of telling a story. A movie will never be the definitive source for anything. Even if it’s a documentary. It tells a piece of a story. So people should get over themselves and enjoy the movie and the lessons it may or not provide.

  4. Just to belabor my point (ha!), last night I caught the end of the animated movie “Ice Age”. (For some reason, I love animated movies.) There were mastodons and saber-toothed tigers and prehistoric humans (who may have been Neandertals judging by the brow ridges), and it occurred to me to wonder if they all lived in the same era and in the same places. And then I said, Who cares?

    1. Haha ya. Ice Age, huh? Aren’t they on the 17th movie of that series? Especially if it is something for children, facts don’t matter: 1) they don’t know 2) they don’t care!

      You need to see Lincoln, it is really good. Of course, there are a lot of really good movies out right now… I saw Twilight with my wife; it wasn’t awful. I REALLY want to see the new Bond movie.

  5. Saw the movie twice..enjoyed it thoroughly! Looking for any info on the reason for the French flag draping an empty Senate seat in two scenes in the movie (the second being “the day of the vote” when Stevens arrives early. A Page is draping a chair in the background as we focus on Stevens sitting in his seat). I know there was a French regiment that fought for the Union, therein a possible connection. Anyone??

    1. I wish I had an answer for you. I spent about 30-45 minutes trying to find something–anything–but was unsuccessful. You have peeked my interest though, so I am going to put out some feelers and see if I can find something out.

      If you do find out the purpose of the French flag, please come back and let us know.

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