Greater Chattanooga area ties dot the battlefields in Spielberg's biopic 'Lincoln'

Greater Chattanooga area ties dot the battlefields in Spielberg's biopic 'Lincoln'

December 3rd, 2012 by Todd South in Life Entertainment

Daniel Day-Lewis, center, as President Abraham Lincoln, looks across a battlefield in this scene from "Lincoln."

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.


While the events portrayed in "Lincoln" have historical ties to the Chattanooga area, the film also boasts a modern-day connection.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Joey Jones, a native of Dawnville, Ga., is cast as an extra in the film.

Jones, who lost both legs in a bomb blast while serving in Afghanistan in August 2010, has a non-speaking role as amputee soldier in a Union hospital. In the film, Lincoln, played by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, visits the hospital and talks with the wounded soldiers.

Jones is now stationed in Washington, D.C.

Most of the events in Steven Spielberg's new film "Lincoln" take place well north of the Chattanooga area, but the people portrayed in the film have blood-and-bone connections to the region.

Jim Ogden, historian at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, says several had relatives die at the Battle of Chickamauga, which took place Sept. 19-20, 1863.

Confederate Gen. Benjamin Hardin Helm, husband of the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln's wife, was killed at the battle, Ogden says.

A strident abolitionist, Pennsylvania Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (played by actor Tommy Lee Jones in the film), lost a nephew, Union Capt. Alanson Stevens, at the same battle.

William N. Bilbo (played by actor James Spader) is a former Nashville newspaperman and pro-Southern rights advocate and, in the movie, is one of Lincoln's primary lobbyists, convincing congressmen to get behind the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

Documents show that Bilbo sold land in Cleveland, Tenn., a few months before major battles happened in Chattanooga, Ogden said.

A group of 175 local high school students recently came in direct contact with those historical connections.

The Heritage High School students spent time last week at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, hearing lectures from park staff, then taking in a special viewing of "Lincoln."

The school's social studies department head, Darlene Lane, organized the outing. All the students were juniors enrolled in her American history class.

"For once we got them out of school and let them experience history hands-on," the teacher said.

Lane said the film dramatically illustrates the behind-the-scenes history of how the 13th Amendment was passed, which can often be a dry topic in textbooks.

Ogden has spoken several times to Lane's history classes and usually brings a map of local battles then discusses the details of those confrontations, she says.

But with the film's release, Lane saw an opportunity to have students visit the park and relate the local history with national events. She says few of the students had ever visited the park.

"I does really put a human face on what happened here," she says.

Ogden says "Lincoln" is historically accurate and could serve as a good primer for anyone interested in the process and history involved in amending the constitution.

"We live in a complex society, we have a pretty complex government and this can be a reminder of that," Ogden says.