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These words are my diary screaming out loud

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Movies!

I'm pretty sure the last movie I saw in the theaters before this weekend was Alice in Wonderland sometime last spring. But this weekend my Dad and I went to see The Conspirator, the new Civil War era movie directed by Robert Redford.

It was outstanding. It took a very well known situation (the conspiracy and resulting assassination of Abraham Lincoln) and picked some of the more obscure parts to further research and present, and that is my favorite kind of historical fiction. Everyone knows John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln at the Ford's Theater. Many people know that it was a group effort against not only Lincoln but also Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward. Some people know that Mary Surratt, the owner of the boardinghouse where the conspirators met to plan their actions and whose son was allegedly part of the group, was arrested as part of the conspiracy. And even fewer people realize the conditions behind her trial, or that she was the first woman ever executed by the Federal Government.

The movie picks not only the more obscure story of Mary Surratt, but the even more obscure story of one of her attorneys, Frederick Aiken.  It tells the story of Aiken's transformation from a doubter who doesn't want to defend Mary to her staunchest supporter. It tells of his attempts to have her military trial delegitmized, and his fight for her right to a trial by a jury of her peers.

Obviously, he didn't succeed in that attempt, and she was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by a miltiary court. He managed to get a writ of habeus corpus signed by a judge at the last minute, which would have prevented her execution and allowed her to be tried in a civilian court, but President Johnson cancelled the writ less than an hour before her scheduled execution time.

Anyways, if you're at all a history person or like the kind of historical fiction that leaves you wondering, go see The Conspirator. Its well worth your time.

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