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 on Good Friday 1865 (the same religious holiday Davis began the Civil War at Fort Sumter), most Americans, North and South, believed Davis was behind the murder. Two 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 inside the Buchanan White House (John C. Breckinridge and Jacob Thompson). 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 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 while 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 (the irony). Meanwhile, the veterans of his secret service team, most of them Kentuckians led by Louisville publisher Walter N. Haldeman (chief propagandist for the Davis “White House”) and his son William, launched a propaganda campaign to promote their “Lost Confederacy” and largely succeeded in rewriting the history of the Civil War.
By the time William came up with 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 was Hollywood’s paramount blockbuster movie, Birth of a Nation (1915), a “fact-sounding” fictional account of the Confederacy directed by a Confederate orphan born less than a mile from the home of Haldeman. Historians today still credit “Founder of Hollywood” David Llewellyn Ward (D.W.) Griffith for resurrecting the Ku Klux Klan, which had been extinct since the 1870s.
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 the 1920s, and another five were added during the 1930s and 1940s. Virtually all these books were written by misled white southerners more than willing to take Davis at his word. The same thing goes for the author of the first comprehensive scholarly biography of Davis, which was completed in the late 1950s. The historian behind that monstrous work, which remains the foundation for scholarship on 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 (efferson Davis: American Patriot, Confederate President, and Tragic Hero) to be the final word on his (in)famous kinsman, and it has been for more than a half century. Stode’s exegesis remains the source for the “embattled rebel” myth that still presented as the truth by Pulitzer Prize-winning historians today. However, overwhelming facts (and damning photographs) prove once and for all that Strode’s portrait of Davis is no more reliable than the fictional sketch that was drawn by the confederate leader in the 1880s, or the figure from U.S. history that has appeared in all the books that have relied on Strode’s footnotes since the 1950s.
(Top)–Zachary Taylor and his White House cabinet emerge from the shadows of 1850