Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thoughts on Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln"

I had the chance to see "Lincoln" this afternoon, and I wanted to post some thoughts with my initial reactions.

1. As a movie, "Lincoln" has superb acting and directing, a beautiful score, and wonderful sets that take the viewer to 1865. It is a wonderful film.

2. Like any historical movie, "Lincoln" is not frame for frame, word for word historically accurate. Some scenes have been created, along with dialogue, to explain complex occurences and principles for the viewer. "Lincoln" pulls this off with great tact.

3. This is an extremely powerful movie. I have been fascinated with Lincoln for years, but despite all the books I have read, seeing him portrayed on the big screen with such grace, humor, humanity, and strength was like seeing Lincoln for the first time.

4. From now on, whenever I think of Lincoln, I will hear Daniel Day Lewis's voice.

5. Daniel Day Lewis should win the Oscar for his performance. If he doesn't, they should no longer give out the ward.

6. The same could be said for Tommy Lee Jones, who, while not the title role, was pivotal to the powerful themes of the movie. Portraying abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Jones does a remarkable job of displaying the power and passion that Stevens and others had in their fight to end slavery.

7. I was very pleased to see that Spielberg and others did not portray Lincoln as a white marble figure. He had fits of anger. He used backroom politics. He fought with his wife in one particulary memorable scene when Mary Lincoln (portrayed beautifully by Sally Field) argued with old Abe about Robert joining the army. He even cursed on occasion. But the Lincoln portrayed here was so great because he was human and he still rose to a greatness that few men in history ever achieved.

8. The dynamics of the Lincoln family, especially his interactions with Tad and Robert, were very well done and nice reminders that Lincoln was, after all, a husband and a father as well as a president.

9. "Lincoln" does show that Lincoln was reluctant to embrace full racial equality. But, it also explains why. Spielberg shows the very strong opposition that Lincoln and others faced in simply abolishing slavery. Those opposing the 13th Amendment frequently warned that it would be a slippery slope toward black suffrage and racial equality as a means of threatening the passage of the amendment, and that was a central feature of the film's story line. Lincoln's efforts in combatting this, with the help of Thaddeus Stevens, are textbook examples of how statesmen work within political frameworks to accomplish things for the good of society. Throughout it all, Lincoln never wavered in pursuit of his goals of saving the Union and doing it in a way so as to forever rid the nation of slavery.

10. Because of some problems in the theater (such as the screen going dark and sound cutting in and out), I actually didn't get to see the entire movie. So, I fully intend on seeing it again (and probably again after that too) while it is still in theaters. I strongly recommend that you go to see the movie. And when you go, take a young adult with you. People of my generation spend so much time playing video games, watching trashy television, and following vacuous stars on twitter that they have all but forgotten what a hero is. Lincoln is a powerful, graceful, and bold movie about one of our nation's greatest heroes, and it is a story which all Americans, young and old, but especially young, need to go see.

I will have more on Lincoln to come. If you are interested, I strongly recommend seeing it. It is well worth your time.


  1. I agree with your comments. However, I got the feeling that it will not be too successful as there is too much talking and not enough action. I dobt there will be much repeat business except for die hards like us. the same night twilight in 4 theaters (Lincoln 2) had the lined up it the door and sky fall also in 4 was also packed.

  2. I think the movie will be successful enough. It won't have the big box office impact of a vacuous vampire movie, and that is a sad reflection of the poor education level and poor culture of America in 2012. However, 50 years from now, Twighlight will be long forgotten, and people will still remember Daniel Day Lewis and Steven Spielberg showing us how great Lincoln truly was.