Birth of a Nation, The

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The Birth of a Nation (1915)

The Birth of a Nation (1915), directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel The Clansman by Thomas F. Dixon, Jr., is considered by most if not all film historians as the first modern, full-length motion picture, in terms of both storytelling and film technique. The movie was Hollywood’s box-office champion for over twenty years, only topped in 1939 by Gone with the Wind . Indisputably a masterpiece, the film and Griffith’s reputations have been diminished among modern audiences because of the movie’s glorification of the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, its depraved depiction of Freedmen, and its use of white actors in blackface. The movie starred Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall (as Henry Walthall), Miriam Cooper, Mary Alden, Ralph Lewis, and George Siegmann (as George Seigmann). After the U.S. Civil War, the Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Austin Stoneman (Lewis), is determined to crush the defeated Southern whites under the jackboot of freed slaves, only to be thwarted by a fearless fraternity of masked, robed vigilantes. (The screenshots below preserve the sepia tints of the original film.)

Like Leni Reifenstahl's Triumph of the Will and Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, filmmakers and historians have struggled for decades to praise the filmmaking aspects of The Birth of a Nation while distancing themselves from its politics. The Director's Guild of America named its Lifetime Achievement Award after Griffith in 1948, but finally bowed to pressure and renamed the award in 1999.


The following firearms were used in the film The Birth of a Nation:

Contents


Double Barreled Percussion Cap Pistol

John Wilkes Booth (Raoul Walsh) uses a Double Barreled Percussion Cap Pistol to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln (Joseph Henabery, as Jos. Henabery). This weapon is different from the type used in the actual murder.

.40 caliber double barreled percussion cap pistol.
Birth23.jpg
Booth lurks outside of the President’s Box.
The assassin strikes.

Single Action Army

Various characters wield the Single Action Army revolver. This is anachronistic, of course, since the revolver was first manufactured in 1873. Still, the weapon was presumably plentiful and readily available to filmmakers in 1915.

Single Action Army w/ 5.5" barrel aka "Artillery" model with wooden grips (this is a Cimarron reproduction - and an actual movie gun) Note lack of 4th screw on revolver frame in front of cylinder. The Colts all have this.
Dr. Cameron (Spottiswoode Aitken) prepares to defend the honor of his daughters, Flora (Mae Marsh) and Margaret (Miriam Cooper), against rampaging Freedmen.
The home of Dr. Cameron is violated by black militiamen.
Col. Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall, as Henry Walthall) effects a rescue of his father, Dr. Cameron, from the hands of a black lynch mob.
A “black” militiaman murders a white man.
Renegade Gus (Walter Long) murders a white man.
Black militiamen fight off the Klan, as Lieut. Governor, Silas Lynch (George Siegmann, as George Seigmann) watches.
Union veterans pledge to defend Dr. Cameron and his daughter from rampaging black militiamen.
Birth52.jpg
Klansmen to the rescue!
The militiamen fend off the Klan.
Klansmen disarm the Freedmen.

Springfield 1861

Union and Confederate soldiers are seen with the Springfield 1861 rifle.

Springfield Model 1864, AKA Model 1863 Type II - .58 caliber Minie ball. Note straight hammer and spring-retained barrel bands.
Southerners flock to join the Confederate Army.
Pickett’s charge.
Trench warfare at Gettysburg.
Tod Cameron (Robert Harron) recognizes the man he is about to bayonet is an old, Northern friend.
A soldier stands guard outside the president’s office.
Elsie Stoneman (Lillian Gish) visits the military convalescent home in Washington, D.C.
The militia intimidates Col. Cameron in front of his family home..
The militia arrives at Dr. Cameron's home.
Black militiamen storm Dr. Cameron’s private office.
The militia grabs Dr. Cameron.
Election day. The black militia turns away white voters.
The militia is ecstatic at the pending battle with the Klan.

M1841 8-inch Siege Mortar

Union forces deploy 8-inch siege mortars against the rebels.

8-inch siege mortar, M.1841, smooth-bore, 44 lb. ball.
The mortar can be seen in the lower right-hand corner of the screenshot.

4.5 inch Parrot Rifle

Union forces deploy 4.5 inch siege rifles against the rebels.

4.5 inch Parrot rifle, rifled bore, 25 pound ball.
Birth14.jpg
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100 Pound Parrot Rifle

Union forces deploy 100 pounder Parrot rifles against the rebels.

The 6.4-inch rifles are on iron, front pintle, barbette carriages and the 4.2-inch rifles are on siege carriages, rifled bore, 100 pound ball.
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