WHO | WHAT?
The Hollywood History books are a trilogy of non-fiction U.S. history books about Jefferson Davis, his secret service team, and his family land company. Each book presents a wholly unique “crime history” painstakingly assembled from the true facts. At the same time, the historical evidence in all three books lines up in “Hollywood” fashion to expose the conspiracy behind the Civil War and the confederates behind the birth of modern day Los Angeles.
WHERE | WHEN?
The books are set in and around Washington, Louisville, and Los Angeles during the 74 years between 1850 and 1924.
HOW POSSIBLE | WHY OVERLOOKED?
SHORT ANSWER: The facts are all there, but the conspiracy was covered up.
LONG ANSWER: A Wall Street businessman named John Smith Dye tried to confirm widespread rumors of a “Great Conspiracy” in the closing days of the Civil War, accusing Davis of poisoning his own ex-father-in-law, 12th president Zachary Taylor, together with an unsuccessful attempt on 15th president James Buchanan. Dye’s allegations came a time when Davis sat in a U.S. military prison accused of orchestrating the murder of 16th president Abraham Lincoln.
After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 on Good Friday, the same religious holiday Davis began the Civil War at Fort Sumter, many Americans believed Davis was behind the murder. In fact, of the three judges on the U.S. Military Court convened to prosecute the conspirators believed Davis carried out the crime using his secret service team in Canada to prepare Baltimore actor John Wilkes Booth.
Chief Justice Joseph Holt served alongside two Davis conspirators (John C. Breckinridge and Jacob Thompson) inside the Buchanan White House. That is how Holt knew Davis was capable of the crime. Meanwhile, Holt’s colleague John Bingham, author of the 14th Amendment, was so certain Davis was guilty of murder he wrote down his verdict for all posterity to see: “it is my judgement, made as clear as any transaction can be shown by human testimony, that John Wilkes Booth . . . did combine, confederate, and conspire with Davis to kill Abraham Lincoln.”
Nevertheless, in 1867, Davis was released from prison and deported to Canada. Virtually all the members of his secret service team received pardons. Less than two years later, Davis made his way back into the U.S. as the grey-suited president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company. Meanwhile, the veterans of his secret service team, led by Louisville publisher Walter N. Haldeman and his son William, launched a propaganda campaign to promote the “Lost Confederacy” of Jefferson Davis.
By the time William Haldeman introduced the idea for a national monument to Davis at the Confederate leader’s Kentucky birthplace in 1909, the reputation of Davis had all but been reversed in American history. Burnishing that falsehood in 1915 was Hollywood’s paramount blockbuster, Birth of a Nation, a “fact-sounding” fictional account of the Civil War directed by a Confederate orphan born less than a mile from the home of the Haldemans. Historians credit “Founder of Hollywood” David Llewellyn Ward (D.W.) Griffith for resurrecting the Ku Klux Klan, which had been extinct since Reconstruction.
The (second) Klan seized control of the Indiana state capitol, and by 1925 the KKK was marching unopposed through the streets of the nation’s capital. Three substantive biographies of Davis were written during this turbulent period in U.S. history, and another five were added during the 1930s and 1940s. Virtually all the biographies were written by white southerners willing to take Davis at his word. The same thing goes for the author of the first comprehensive scholarly biography of Davis, which was not completed until the late 1950s. The historian behind that work, which remains the foundation for scholarship on Jefferson Davis even today, was far from a neutral third party. In fact, Hudson Strode was a cousin of Mrs. Jefferson Davis.
Strode designed his trilogy Jefferson Davis: American Patriot, Confederate President & Tragic Hero to be the final word on his kinsman, and it has been for more than a half century. Stode’s exegesis remains the source for the “embattled rebel” myth that is still presented as the truth by Pulitzer Prize-winning historians today. However, overwhelming facts and supporting photographs prove Strode’s portrait of Davis is no more reliable than the largely fictional sketch drawn by the confederate leader himself.
(Top)–Zachary Taylor and his White House cabinet emerge from the shadows of 1850