illuminate history

Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)

A good start

First view-bannerDecember’s been great so far. Last Saturday, Gary & I went to see Lincoln, the movie. I loved the suspense involved in passage of the 13th Amendment, then the intense focus on ending the War. To achieve the most important goal, even Abraham Lincoln had to resort to political shenanigans. Twice, Daniel Day Lewis brought tears to my eyes .

Obviously, I studied this period of the Civil War. I loved seeing Alexander Stephens, VP of the Confederacy, and his two colleagues getting safe conduct between enemy lines “near Petersburg.” The side-wheel steamer River Queen (essentially Lincoln’s presidential yacht) on which they waited, and waited, was first moored at the wharf in this picture, at City Point, Grant’s headquarters.  I also particularly enjoyed the scene of Lincoln & Grant discussing the terms of surrender on the porch of Grant’s cabin. It looked like the same cabin Gary & I saw when we first visited City Point.

We waited through the final credits, expecting to see acknowledgement of assistance from the National Park Service at Petersburg Battlefield, if not specifically from our friend Jimmy Blankenship. But the credits referred only to film crews in both Maryland and Virginia.

We asked our good friends in Baltimore, Pat & Jon Meyer, if the House of Representatives scenes were filmed at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Pat sent us the link to an article in Sunday’s Baltimore Sun: those scenes were shot at the Virginia State House in Richmond.

This article, which originally appeared in the LA Times (, did  quote our friend Jimmy Blankenship, Historian for the Petersburg Battlefield National Park: “‘That’s the breakthrough that causes Petersburg to fall,’ said Jimmy Blankenship, Petersburg National Battlefield historian. ‘The city surrendered April 3, and Lincoln came into town again to confer with Grant.'”

I wrote to ask Jimmy if any of the movie was shot at City Point. “No,” he replied, “The entire movie was filmed
in Petersburg and Richmond. No filming at City Point, we didn’t allow it–too disruptive and the site would have been closed to the public.” He continued, “I spent much time going over an article written on Lincoln by a reporter
with the Richmond Times Dispatch. We went back and forth several times before she got all the facts and details right. I guess it’s hit the news media at last.”

I wasn’t alone in expecting that he and the Park Service would get credit in the film: “I did think I’d be in the credits since I did alot of work for the accuracy of their sets and props, etc.” What a shame that was left out.

This was a great conversation starter on Sunday, when I participated in the Holiday Cheer book sale at the Oregon Historical Society. Nearly everyone at least paused to look at my 36″ banner with this image of the wharf at City Point. If they stopped long enough, I asked, “Have you seen Lincoln, the movie?”

We attended two more festive holiday gatherings on Wednesday. A couple of friends started talking about my book.

Month-to-date sales: 6 at OHS+3 at gatherings+ 2 via Amazon=11.


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This entry was posted on December 7, 2012 by in Civil War, Railroad, US History, Writing and tagged , , .
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