Santa Fe Trail

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This is a western/civil war genre film that follows the "needless war" interpretation of the causes of the Civil War. It is based on the biography of J.E.B. Stuart who graduated from West Point in 1854. However, Custer was not his classmate, graduating last in his class in 1861, nor was James Longstreet (class of '42) or U.S. Grant (class of '43) or George Pickett (class of '46). Robert E. Lee was superintendent of West Point since 1852 and Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War 1853-57 in the pro-southern Pierce administration. Lt. Stuart was assigned in July 1855 to the 1st Regiment U.S. Cavalry at Ft. Leavenworth where he was stationed under Col. Edwin Sumner from Dec. 1855 to Dec. 1856. He married Flora Cooke, daughter of Lt. Col. Phillip Cooke, Fort Riley in 1855 before going to Leavenworth. Under Sumner's command, he visited John Brown's camp in June 1856. Brown had come to Kansas in Oct. 1855 and "The Five" (Brown with his sons John Jr., 35, Fred, 25, Owen, 22, and Salmon, 20) fought in the Wakarusa War 2 miles south of the free-state Lawrence, built by Eli Thayer and his Mass. Emigrant Aid Society. Lawrence was sacked May 21, 1856, and Brown (with Salmon and Owen) killed 5 free-staters along the Pottawattomie creek May 23 (but Fred and Jason and John Jr. opposed). Pro-slavers captured Jason and John Jr. (Jason was released and John Jr. moved to Ohio) and Fred was later killed in the pro-slavers' attack on Osawatomie June 7. Brown captured 25 men under Henry Pate June 2 at the Battle of Black Jack but Pate's men were liberated by Sumner's cavalry. Brown grew a beard, assumed the alias of "Shubel Morgan" and left Kansas to seek aid from the Secret Six to plan his slave uprising that he would attempt at Harper's Ferry in 1859 with Watson and Oliver and Owen. When Brown attacked Harper's Ferry Oct. 16, 1859, Lt. Stuart was in Washington to patent his sabre hook that allowed a sabre to be removed from the belt and attached to the saddle. He would not be promoted to Captain until 1861, and resigned in April to join the Confederacy before accepting the promotion. He and Robert E. Lee took 90 marines by train to Harper's Ferry in 1859 when learning of Brown's raid. Lt. Israel Green, not Stuart, advanced on Brown's engine house with hammers and sabers, no artillery or horses, and broke through the door with a wood ladder, and tried to kill Brown but his sword broke. Brown was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia and hanged Dec. 2, 1859.



J.E.B. Stuart from Blue & Gray
George Custer from Austin History
John Brown, Jr., from U of Va.

History Department | Filmnotes | revised 1/10/2000 by Schoenherr