Historical inaccuracies in [b]The Patriot[/b]

I watched the movie The Patriot last night (a good Thanksgiving movie) and wondered how historically accurate it was. I know Mr Gibson is known for “poetic license” when it comes to history.

So how 'bout it history buffs?

One of the complaints that I heard of (from British papers) was that it was the British side (not the American side) which freed the slaves so that they could fight on the side of the british. Having not seen the movie, I don’t know how important this was to the movie.

That was indeed in the movie. The Brits “freed” any slave who fought for them. It’s a nice idea, but only if you’re on the winning side. Besides, it was more a British conscription than a choice (acording to the film).

In the movie, the only slaves that were freed by Americans were the ones that fought for them for a year and managed not to die.

As far as I know, there are no historically accurate reports of British soldiers rounding up an entire village, and burning them down along with their church.

Also, Mel Gibson said that his character (I forget his name in the movie, though the guy did exist) was a combination of a bunch of historical figures. In the DVD version, I think he discusses this in the Director’s Commentary section.

Very few officers in the Revolutionary War were actually Australian. :wink:

Starbury said:

The editor of American Heritage makes the same point in the October 2000 issue. His Letter from the Editor, entitled George Washington and the Wehrmacht, says the movie’s depiction of the British is as accurate as one which would have shown Washington having his troops mow down Hessian prisoners and their female and child camp followers after the Battle of Trenton. Also adds that Gibson melting down toy lead soldiers to make bullets was an anachronism, since lead toy soldiers had not yet been introduced.

“Swamp Fox” Francis Martin was the real person’s name, IIRC.


Yes. Francis Marion sounds a lot like Gibson’s character, at least on the surface. Marion led a rag-tag group of soldiers in South Carolina, and had innovative techniques in guerilla (sp?) warfare. It is easy to find out more about the “Swamp Fox” on the internet. Oh, and Francis Marion had a son named Gabriel. Gabriel had 7 kids - 5 sons (one also named Gabriel), two daughters. Sounds a lot like Gibson’s character (who had a son name Gabriel) and a total of 7 kids. Looks like Gibson borrowed heavily from this historical figure. (By the way, a friend of mine, who was born and raised in South Carolina, said that the Swamp Fox was his childhood hero.)

This was a significant controversy when the film was released, as the only documented case of this happening occurred in WWII, when Germans burned the occupants of a small French village in a church. The circumstances were similar enough that some accused the filmakers of equating the redcoats with Nazis.

I’ve always felt that the biggest inaccuracy was the title. What made Gibson’s character a patriot? The movie was simply a 3-hour revenge fantasy.


Thank you. I sat through the whole movie thinking this. The scene where they go mano-a-mano in the middle of the battlefield almost made me walk out, and I make it a point to never walk out on a movie. (I even sat through Event Horizon.) I let it go in Braveheart, because there seemed to be much more than just revenge there. It seemed to me Patriot was just a half-baked retelling of the same story without much sense of the greater purpose. I was almost expecting Gibson to sail to England and impregnate the English princess.

I thought the battle scene to which you refer mrblue92 was a bit much. But I figured that Gibson had one good fight, he might as well use it again.

While I was watching the movie the women’t clothing seemed off (like 30 years too soon), so I wondered if there were any others that made the American History post-docs groan, like here with Gladiator.

I don’t have a DVD (I’m still in the dark ages) do I didn’t get to see the Director’s comments.

Thanks for the background yosemitebabe and the cool trivia nebuli.

jrepka I agree with you on the title, but The Vengeful, Homicidal, Not-So-Bright but Good Looking, Widower wouldn’t have been such a good title.

Oh and mrblue92…GO GREEN!!

At least in Gladiator the final fight was in a ring, not two commanders finding each other and duking it out in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.

Incidentally, ISTR from the PBS documentary Liberty! that the American soldiers were just as vicious to civilians as the British were–burning homes of suspected traitors, stealing livestock and valuables, and worse.

“The Patriot” had one of the worst lines I have ever heard in a movie. It was so bad that after the movie I had to ask the people I saw it with if it really happened, or if I imagined the whole thing.

Mel Gibson walks up to his widow’s sister and says, “May I sit down?” Sister replies,

“It’s a free country. Or at least, it will be.”

I am amazed that that line was written into the script at all, let alone that it made it past any number of editors and into the final film. “It’s a free country?!” Who talked like that in the 1770’s? I thought that was an expression from the 1970’s!!

I was born and raised in Wyoming, and the Swamp Fox was a childhood hero. The magic of Disney.

Mel Gibson is from Australia, but his family moved from the United States to Australia, after he was born.

The blacks who worked on Gibson’s plantation in the movie told the British that they were free. The implication was that Gibson had freed them.

The movie made the point that a great amount of the motivation for killing is revenge, or self-preservation, or self-aggrandizement, rather than patriotism. I think the title is ironic.

Well, technically, Mel is an American. He was born in New York. His family moved to Australia when he was 12.

It seems RM beat me to the Mel-being-born-in-the-USA thing while I was out looking for a link. That’ll teach me.

I don’t have any cites for this, but I recall reading when the film came out that some of the details about Gibson’s character were purposefully changed in order to not make a hero out of the Swamp Fox, who was apparently a really nasty guy who raped his slaves and hunted Natives for fun. And I also read that the supposed promise by the rebel army to free slaves who spent a year in service was a complete fabrication.


Two other cheezy details not yet mentioned in this thread: (1) The Brit who kills Gabriel (can’t remember his name)'s Friday the 13th move
(2) Mel on his horse grabbing the American flag to use as a weapon - it could only have been sillier if he’d speared the guy with it.

Would you like to know why they moved? According to http://us.imdb.com/Bio?Gibson,+Mel, his father won some money on Jeopardy! and moved them all to Australia because he was afraid hs sons would be drafted into the Vietnam war.

My favorite bits of trivia on that page are that Mel and Geoffrey Rush were college roommates, and that Mel once acted as Juliet in an all male production of Romeo snd Juliet. God I wish someone had that on film!

Are there any citations for this? I wouldn’t be amazed if it were true, but in these days of rampant revisionism, I’m surprised I could find no references to this aspect of his personality.