President Lincoln: Saving America from Sparkling Vampires

The Era of Sparkling Vampires is Over. And we owe this glorious day of jubilee to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Sure, the movie plays liberally with the historical record, but at the end of the day, it is worth it: There have been too many movies with teenage girls (and some women in their 40s) squealing over sparkling vampires who feed on the living.

Finally having a film depicting undead-day-walkers as evil beings, who use people for food, fought by an ax-wielding Abraham Lincoln, is the first step in the long healing process caused by years of damage from Twilight. Once again, President Lincoln has saved the United States of America.

The film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the [fictional] story of President Lincoln’s vampire hunting past and the secret war within the Civil War. The story begins with Abraham Lincoln as a boy, whose mother is killed by a vampire. Being a good son, he swears revenge on vampires.

A Short History of The Slave Power

Historians and antebellum statesmen called the political forces that dominated the Presidency and Congress before the Civil War, “The Slave Power.” Until the election of Abraham Lincoln, the only non-slave owning Presidents were John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren. All were from the North; all lost re-election.

This “Slave Power” fought for slavery and the expansion into Western Territories as they became states. From the Compromise of 1820, to the Gag Rule, to the Fugitive Slave Act, to the election of James K. Polk and the Mexican-American War, to the Compromise of 1850, to the Dred Scott case, are all evidence of political forces driving the expansion of slavery leading up to the Civil War.

The Slave Power took the election of Abraham Lincoln as a direct threat to their existence, because the North was able to elect Lincoln entirely on their own, despite three other candidates running for President (including the sitting Vice President of the United States). Seeing they could no longer rule the Federal Government, they decided to ruin it with secession in an attempt to nullify the Presidential Election. The eleven Southern states seceded in exact inverse proportion to the number of slaves versus free whites, with South Carolina first in December 1860.

The Civil War followed more than a month after Abraham Lincoln’s Inauguration.

The Vampire Threat

In our fictional story, there was the hidden “Vampire Power” [my term] which operated in the South, using slaves as a steady supply of “food” that was free of any legal ramifications of people going missing.

While not directly stated, the unholy supply system included vampires in Border States leveraging the Fugitive Slave Act as a means to capture “runaway slaves” and send the victims to the hellish fate of being a meal for a vampire in New Orleans [at least, historically, that is the context I saw in the meeting along the river between Adam and Jack Barts]. This had the effect of “containing” the majority of vampires in The South.

Historical Comparisons

The film touched on various historical figures. Here are a few observations:

Steven Douglass, played by Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame, missed the fire of the Senator captured by historians such as Stephen Oates. Douglass was nicknamed the Little Giant. He drank. He swore. And he was supremely confident of himself. One would have to be confident to be the champion of  “Popular Sovereignty” in letting territories vote if they would be free or permit slavery, something completely incompatible with the Declaration of Independence. After he lost the election of 1860, Senator Douglass was determined to win the Civil War with President Lincoln (until his death early in the Civil War).

Mary Todd Lincoln was delightfully played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. History remembers Mary Todd being high maintenance, but God knows the stress she endured. Three of her sons died. Her husband was murdered next to her. Her eldest son tried putting her in an insane asylum. The trial ended Robert Lincoln’s political chances of becoming President, relegating him to serve as Secretary of War under President Garfield and then Arthur. 

Winstead portrayed Mary Todd as confident, cute, loving to her husband and not afraid to take the kill shot.

Joshua Speed lived until 1882. Really do not need to go into more detail.

Jefferson Davis had an eye disease. One history book I read in college described it as looking dead.

The Civil War Battles & History

The Civil War parts of the film focused on September 17, 1862 with the Battle of Antietam. The film lightly addressed the importance of this battle.

Antietam was the bloodiest day in American History with over 23,000 casualties.

For Lincoln, it was enough of a victory to sign the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which would free the slaves in the states in rebellion on January 1, 1863.

This was a brilliant geopolitical move, because it turned the Civil War into a war of liberation to end slavery, forcing England to NOT officially recognize the South as a separate country. If England had officially sided with the South and provided military support, Lincoln would have had a two front war, with British soldiers invading from Canada and the British Navy blockading the East Coast. Further illustrating the danger, England (specifically English companies) had provided different forms of assistance to the South, including the construction of warships CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah (the last Confederate warship), which were built in England and then armed at sea.

However, Great Britain did not recognize the South and officially stayed neutral throughout the Civil War.

Back to the film: By the time of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, Confederate President Davis recruited the vampires to fight for the Confederacy. This causes significant losses on the first day of the battle.

Without giving too much away, the battle is saved by arming the Union soldiers with silver bullets, cannon balls and bayonets (it is implied that the final battle is Pickett’s charge) .

However, what the battle did not show was how weapons inflicted damage at the time. Round bullets would rip off limbs, unlike projectiles of today.

As my old Civil War History professor at UC Davis stated, “The defining feature of the later half of the 19th Century were men with empty sleeves and lifeless eyes.”

War is always Hell, but Gettysburg had to be a new level of nightmares for anyone at Little Round Top, Pickett’s Charge, or any other part of that battle.

That Government of the People, by the People, for the People, Shall not Perish from the Earth…

In closing, I enjoyed Benjamin Walker’s performance as Abraham Lincoln. He masterfully delivered the Gettysburg Address with confidence and strength. It is easy to imagine it being stated very solemnly. His tone as the resolute leader was well done.

Is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter going to win any Oscars? Extremely unlikely, other than perhaps sound or special effects. But, the production team was profoundly classy in having the premier of the movie on the USS Abraham Lincoln for our sailors serving overseas.

Speaking of sailors, I look forward to James Madison: Werewolf Hunter, the untold story of how the War of 1812 was more than just the impressment of sailors.