The Patriot, directed by Roland Emmerich for Centropolis Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, and SONY Pictures Entertainment, is a stirring account of a little-known campaign of a war that has been largely ignored by Hollywood. It tells the story of Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a South Carolina planter and widower with seven children. His horrific experiences in the French and Indian War make him unwilling to take up arms against the British when South Carolina votes for independence in 1776, though his eldest son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger), joins the Continental army. Martin is forced to take sides when the war literally comes into his front yard and British troops harm his family and burn his home. He assumes command of the local militia and…show more content… Dastardly as Tarleton's actual behavior was, it pales in comparison to that of The Patriot's Colonel Tavington. There is no evidence that Tarleton executed wounded Continentals, nor that he killed women and children. The British had a very practical motivation for not killing their Continental captives, as it would invite retaliation against British prisoners. The Waxhaws Massacre occurred in the heat of battle and was exacerbated by the intense animosity between Tories and Whigs. In an interview, Gibson acknowledged, "Some of the worst crimes were committed between the Loyalists and the Rebels, the colonists themselves." However, when Tavington is preparing to incinerate the church with the villagers inside, Captain Wilkins, a Tory, is the only one of his men to express any reservations.
The portrayal of African Americans and slavery in the movie has also been a subject of much controversy. Benjamin Martin is a prominent planter in South Carolina and thus would have owned slaves. In order not to stigmatize the film's hero, Martin does not own slaves but employs free black workers, probably the only such labor arrangement in colonial South Carolina. Later, Martin takes his family to a "maroon" community of fugitive slaves on the coast to hide them from the British. In reality, those slaves were hiding from the Patriots. Thomas Sumter often used slaves seized from Tory owners to pay his