The battle of Jenkins Ferry near Little Rock, Arkansas in late April, 1864, is pronounced a victory for Northern forces by Wikipedia despite Gen. Kirby Smith holding the field of battle afterward and preventing the juncture of two enemy armies. The infamous Red River campaign of Northern commander Nathaniel Banks, of which Jenkins Ferry was part, was as noted below, a cotton-stealing campaign, as officers had their men confiscate cotton bales and send them to New Orleans for their personal enrichment.
Hollywood’s Fake History
“The [Steven Spielberg] film [Lincoln] begins with a false portrayal of the battle of Jenkins Ferry, a victory by outnumbered (as usual) Confederates that put an end to a major Union cotton-stealing campaign. There was no massacre of black troops at Poison Springs, nor any massacre of Confederate prisoners by blacks in retaliation at Jenkins Ferry, as is claimed.
Most Northern soldiers would have slaughtered their black “comrades” before allowing them to slaughter Confederate prisoners. I suppose this invention makes a gratifying vicarious revenge fantasy for the leftist homosexual screenwriter.
The 1st and 2nd Kansas Regiments (Colored) are described inaccurately as cavalry. There were no black cavalry units in active service in the war. Northern soldiers would have balked at blacks riding while they walked.
During the war blacks soldiers were mostly labor and garrison troops, and occasionally, as at Ft. Wagner and the Crater, sacrificed in forlorn hopes of sparing the lives of white Northerners. Ambrose Bierce, a frontline Union soldier for the entire war, said he never saw any black people except the servants and concubines of Union officers.
The film shows Lincoln in friendly conversation with black soldiers who were veterans of Jenkins Ferry, though how they got to Washington from Arkansas is not explained. Such a scene is unlikely. Lincoln throughout his life had relatively little contact with black people. Some were run out of Springfield in Lincoln’s time, and at least one lynching occurred there after the war.
Lincoln did receive a delegation or two at the White House, to whom he hinted that the best thing their people could do was to emigrate to some friendlier clime . . . [and] used the N-word routinely. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was emphatically “the white man’s president.”
Obviously, these filmmakers wanted the film to be all about slavery, requiring a basic perversion of accuracy. But like so much of the treatment of the war, charity for black people actually takes second place to the whitewashing of Northern behavior, to safeguarding what Robert Penn Warren called “the treasury of virtue.”
Southerners and Confederates fared much better in Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century than they do now, although the picture is mixed, and an occasional sympathetic treatment sneaks through. A recent film, The Conspirator, about the execution of Mary Surratt for the Lincoln assassination, was fairly even-handed and accurate. Even so, it could not escape a certain amount of whitewash, almost as much as Tom Sawyer’s fence.
Inevitably, the degree to which Lincoln was beloved by his own side is exaggerated. Lincoln worship was a posthumous thing. And the film implies that Mrs. Surratt would not have been executed if her son had not escaped, thus shifting the blame of her murder from her killers to John Surratt. Think about it: It is suggested that these people were right to execute a mother since they could not lay hands on the son.
Indeed, the film entirely fails to convey the atmosphere of haste and secrecy that surrounded the whole of the proceedings after Lincoln’s assassination. Here again is something that has been broached by an occasional maverick historian but which Americans have never faced.
You would think in a matter so important there would be an exhaustive investigation. Instead, the supposed guilty parties were bound, hooded, gagged, and swiftly executed, and Booth when cornered and badly injured was killed rather than captured.
Why the haste? Cui bono? In fact, [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton’s secret and summary dealings guaranteed that the full truth would never be known.”
(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 45-46 www.chroniclesmagazine.org)