"The Conspirator" Movie — Hollywood Gets One Right!
Much to my pleasant surprise, Hollywood has produced a remarkably accurate movie relating to the Civil War, in the form of Robert Redford’s new movie The Conspirator.
Long story short, The Conspirator tells the story of the horrible miscarriage of justice in the case of Mary Surratt, who was falsely accused, tried, and hung for allegedly conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, William Seward, and Andrew Johnson.
The movie does a shockingly good job of showing just how immoral, lawless, and despotic the Radical Republicans and top Union army brass were.
Surratt’s "trial" gave new meaning to the term "kangaroo court." It was an abject farce.
The movie does take a few liberties, but not many, and on balance it is surprisingly accurate. If anything, the real trial was actually much worse than the movie portrays. So, yes, definitely go see this movie.
For further reading on the travesty of justice to which Mary Surratt was subjected, here are a few articles that are good introductions on the subject:
For a book-length study on the case, see:
The Judicial Murder of Mary Surratt
The outrage generated by the government’s treatment of Mary Surratt was a major factor in the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision, Ex Parte Milligan, to ban military trials of civilians, regardless of whether the alleged crime occurred during war or peace. Of course, the Radical Republicans were furious that they could no longer try civilians in their kangaroo military courts. The Republicans had been doing that for years, during the Civil War, to persecute and silence their opponents.
Civil War website