The Patriot - Mel Gibson - Ralph Stewart

by Mike Peters

A while back there was some discussion on this list re Mel Gibson's movie "The Patriot." It was suggested that Mel's character in the movie, Benjamin Martin, was a composite of a few actual Revolutionary War Soldiers.  Among those were Capt. Ralph Stewart. Another part of the composite, some believe, was based on the "Swamp Fox."  I saw the movie again last night, courtesy of the VCR and Blockbuster, and watched closely for any similarities between Mel Gibson's character and Capt. Ralph.  I found a few.

In the movie Benjamin Martin fights most of his battles in the NC country side.  According to "Family History of Henry Andrew and Lauvena Elizabeth Milam McGinnis And Edward and Minerva Ruhama Webb Stewart," a book by David Stewart:

"Ralph Stewart's commission as a Captain was renewed by Governor Patrick Henry in 1778 and his company was ordered to South Carolina to join General Green."

Lord Cornwallis, we know, was an important player on the Redcoat team during the American Revolution.  His character is very prominent in this movie as well.  There is the scene where Lord Cornwallis orders his troops to surrender at Yorktown, the battle that ended the war.  Also from David Stewart's book in reference to Capt. Ralph Stewart:

"He participated in many battles including Guilford Courthouse, Hot Water, Ground Squirrel Ridge, Charlottesville and Yorktown. Ralph was one of the men assigned to guard Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown."

It has also been suggested that Benjamin Martin's nemesis in the movie, a Colonel Taffington, is based on a composite of British soldiers "Butcher" Tarleton and "Bloody" Bill Cunningham.  Also from the previously cited David Stewart book:

"In one battle Ralph received a sabre cut on his right arm from "Butcher" Tarleton.  As a result of the wound he was on the invalid Roll of Virginia in later years."
In the movie Benjamin Martin also receives a sabre wound which was inflicted by the Taffington character.

One final comparison. I believe that Mel Gibson was chosen to play the part because of his resemblance to Ralph Stewart's male descendants.  If you listen closely, you can hear my wife laughing in the background.


Mike Peters

Back to Mike's Meanderings