So Joe Ricketts bankrolls a movie about Mary Surratt. “The Conspirator,” recounted the story of Mary Surratt, the only woman charged in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Directed by Robert Redford, “The Conspirator” was released in 2011. The movie alleges that Mrs. Surratt, the devout Catholic who holds the distinction of being the first woman ever executed by the US government, was really innocent. I believe she remains an embarrassment for the Roman Catholic Church today, so why would Mr. Ricketts bankroll this movie? Could it be that he is a Roman Catholic and he wants to help out his church? He certainly was educated Catholic, getting a degree from Creighton University at Omaha, Nebraska. According to the institution, “Creighton is a Jesuit university, rooted in the Catholic tradition. At Creighton we live this mission are guided by our identity”. Interesting.
What remains amazing about this film is that is the first movie by Rickett’s American Film Company and therefore according to the company’s mission statement, would “accurately portray extraordinary characters and events from American history”. The two DVD set comes with the movie on one DVD and also a feature-length documentary “The Conspirator: The Plot to Kill Lincoln” on the other one. The movie that the vast majority of the viewing public would have seen asserts that Mary Surratt was innocent, yet on the documentary, all the historical experts that were used as consultants for the film said she was guilty.
One of the historians consulted by the filmmakers was distinguished historian Elizabeth D. Leonard, John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History and Chair of the department atColbyCollege. Ms. Leonard is also the co-winner of the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. On the UNC Press Civil War 150 site, she made very interesting comments on the movie.
Professor Leonard stated: “My own experience of having most of my advice be dismissed by the filmmakers indicates to me that they had their own agenda, which overrode all other considerations about historical accuracy.” Fascinating. She also expressed her “concern that the emphasis on Stanton and Holt’s apparent malice and steely manipulation seems to crowd out any real possibility that Mary Surratt, who is depicted, in contrast, as a pious and long-suffering mother, was rightly found guilty!” You can visit here for a full review: http://uncpresscivilwar150.com/2011/05/elizabeth-d-leonard-a-historians-review-of-the-conspirator/
Yes, unfortunately there appears to be an interest in smearing the memory of the great patriot, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, to try to excuse Mary Surratt’s actions and depict her as being innocent but it is, of course, not based on historical fact.