Benjamin Martin shoots a British soldier who is on a moving horse using a flintlock pistol at a range of approximately 100 yards. Hitting a moving target at that distance would be difficult even with a modern pistol. The effective range of a black powder pistol is about 20 feet as the barrel is too short to allow all the powder to burn before the ball leaves the barrel (too low a muzzle velocity to achieve any sort of range)
In the scene where Tavington is after Martin's children at Charlotte's plantation, Susan is seen looking out a window covered with a venetian blind. Venetian blinds weren't invented till the late 1800's - 100 years after the time period of the movie. The most accepted "invention" of blinds was by a man from Chile named Hernando de Venuto on May 20, 1857. Clearly, in the home used, they forgot to remove one set.
When the militia are about to be hanged, just before Benjamin Martin rides in, you see the British prepare for the hanging by testing tying sandbags to the noose and opening the trap doors. In actuality, hanging with trap doors didn't happen until after the war. (In the DVD commentary, the director acknowledges this and says they did this because "it looked cool".)
The music performed at the party scene was the Gavotte from Bach's Orchestral Suite # 3. This music was unknown until its rediscovery as part of the Bach renaissance started by Felix Mendelssohn in 1850. This piece was first performed in the United States at the Cincinnati May Festival on May 7, 1873.
The movie begins in 1776 and in that same year Benjamin goes to Charleston for the convention on the war. Gabriel enlists as soon as this convention ended and in the beginning of the next scene the British flag hangs over the Charleston state house. In that same scene Gabriel's letter to the family is read in which he mentions the fall of Charleston. After putting down this letter Thomas Martin is seen putting on Gabriel's old uniform and when caught doing so Thomas mentions that the war is already two years old. However, the British did not take control of Charleston until 1780, not 1778.
In the first shot of the film, two of the children are seen playing with alphabet cards. These famous "Hotch Potch, posture master" cards weren't printed until 1782. However the scene takes place in 1776.
Aunt Charlotte Selton and Captain Wilkins have reverse suntans (raccoon eyes), obviously from wearing sunglasses out in the sun. The weight of the glasses left actual imprints on the side of her nose, which are easily seen in several close-ups.
Near the end, when the French fleet is bombarding Cornwallis' army, French ships' hulls are painted black with yellow stripes along the gunports. This scheme was characteristic of the Royal Navy and it only became popular following Admiral Nelson's use of it in 1803; French ships of the time were either black and white or natural wood colour.
In the final scene showing the new home for the Martins, it is going up with balloon framing. This type of construction was not in practice until the early 1800's. The framing should have been of 17th century post and lintel type.
Rocking chairs are not believed to have been common furniture before the early 19th century. While Col. Martin is waiting in Gen. Cornwalis' office, he notices and begins to specifically examine the rocking chair in the corner, finally going so far as to sit in it. (Though apocryphal, [error] is sometimes attributed with inventing the rocking chair.)
When Tavington is searching for the child hiding under the table, we hear the "jing-jing" of spurs as he walks, just as in western movies. He is, however, wearing English/dressage-style spurs, which have no rowels, and thus can make no noise.
When Gabriel is reading the letter he is writing home aloud, the only line in the entire letter that matches what he has said is the line he is currently writing. Nothing in the long letter before the bottom line comes even close to what Gabriel read.
When Occam is speaking at the end of the film, he is seen saying "Gabriel said if we won the war, we could build a whole new world. Just figured we'd start here... ." The shot cuts to over his shoulder and he finishes with, "... .with your home," but his jaw is not moving suggesting it was dubbed in later.
When Tavington is walking through the house we hear the jingle of his spurs. Close-ups of his boots reveal he is wearing English Spurs which are solid and would not jingle. Spurs that jingle, notably Western spurs, have rowels (rotating discs or stars) which make the jingle sound.
At the party when the ship blows up, you can hear the explosion at the same time you see the blast, when it's clear that the ship is far enough away that there would be a delay between seeing and hearing the explosion.
On the wanted poster for "The Ghost," the name of General Cornwallis is misspelled as "Cornwallace." Arguably fair, since literacy was low in those days, though you'd expect the name of a high government official to be spelled consistently in government documents. (This could have been an in-joke reference to Braveheart).
During an ambush, the militia is shown lining up opposite each other and then firing directly towards each other as the British troops ride between them. No competent officer would arrange his troops to fire at each other.
When Aunt Charlotte takes in the children after the family's home is destroyed her hair is down. Women only wore their hair down during sickness or bedtime, as long tresses in public were considered to be risqué. During the day, out in the world, and during evening socializing hair was always pinned up or tucked under a bonnet.
When Gabriel returns to the Martin plantation with a sword wound from the Battle of Waxhaws, he states that "Gates ordered us to march straight at the redcoats". Gates was not present or in command at Waxhaws, Buford was, and the American column did not march straight at the redcoats at Waxhaws, they were marching away when the British legion and dragoons attacked.
In the debate at the Charleston Assembly, several orators refer to Charleston as being "three thousand miles" from London. The distance is, in fact, four thousand miles. Any colonist would have known this at the time.
During that time period, Charlotte, a single woman without a male spouse wouldn't be able to own her own property (a home in Charleston and a plantation) because single women didn't have status. It wasn't until the early 1800's that single women could own and maintain their own property without a male spouse.
At the end of the movie, as Benjamin and his family ride towards their homestead, Aunt Charlotte is holding a blanket on her lap. She holds the blanket as though it contains a baby as she descends from the wagon. She continues to hold the bundle as though it contains a baby while the family stands and listens to the speech about what Gabriel said about rebuilding and that the other militia men decided to begin with Benjamin's home. A moment later, the camera focuses on one of Benjamin's sons standing next to Aunt Charlotte and she has no bundle and her arms are by her sides. Next, we see the family from behind as they walk towards the house being erected and it looks like Aunt Charlotte is once again holding a bundle in her left arm. Finally, she picks up Susan with only her right arm.
In the beginning, Benjamin carries a five-stick candelabra upstairs to tuck the two small girls in. The candles are a short three inches, but by the time he gets downstairs to see the older boys, the candles have grown to five inches.
In the battle scene that is watched through the window by Benjamin, we see a soldier get his head taken off by a cannonball. Later on, in the final battle, as Benjamin runs past with the flag, we see a soldier turn his head dramatically to watch, and it is the same beheaded soldier.
When Benjamin springs his ambush to save Gabriel, he first shoots the officer leading the redcoats from his horse. In the next shot, we see the redcoats looking around them to see who fired at them, as well as the officer still on his horse. In the next shot when Benjamin runs for his next gun, we see the dead officer on the ground again.
When Gabriel leaves Charlotte's plantation it is dusk. When Benjamin Martin leaves Charlotte's plantation it is the next morning. When Gabriel is watching the battle from the looted house, his father miraculously catches up to him in a few minutes, even though Gabriel has had a full night head start.
While Benjamin Martin is slaughtering the Red Coats who are taking Gabriel off to be hanged, a Read Coat holds Gabriel with a knife to his throat. Once Benjamin plants a tomahawk in the Red Coat's forehead, the Red Coat collapses and the knife slides over the left side of Gabriel's neck. In the next scene, Gabriel is bleeding from the right side of his neck and holding that side.
During the attempt by the British to capture Benjamin Martin's children, he is seen on a horse firing his pistol. He is holding it in his right hand. The camera then shows a close up of him and he is holding the gun in his left hand, and he fires it again. Aside from switching hands, that gun is a single shot weapon. You can't fire two rounds without re-loading.
On the wanted poster for "The Ghost" the bottom of the flyer bears the seal of "Her Majesty's State Paper Office" which is incorrect. That office did not exist at the time. In fact the original name of the office was "Her Majesty's Stationary Office" and was not established until 5 April 1786 almost 8 years after this poster was supposedly created. Additionally, King George III was still the reigning monarch at the time and the correct title would have been "His Majesty's State Paper Office" had the office actually existed at the time of printing.
When Gabriel Martin confronts the Green Dragoons after they have burned the town church, Colonel Tavington is seen reloading his pistol twice, once before shooting Reverend Oliver and then a few seconds later when he shoots a second time at Gabriel. In both of the reloading sequences he throws away the pistol ramrod before aiming and firing the pistol. This would have made it impossible for him to reload the pistol the second time, especially in the scant seconds between shots.
Colonel Harry Burwell signs a paper, then sprinkles powder from a can onto the wet ink. A split second later, he reaches for another piece of paper and neither the can nor the original piece of paper is visible.
In the scene where Benjamin is saying goodbye to Susan before to leaves to go back to the war. Aunt Charlotte puts her hand behind Susan's back but in the next shot it is in front and continues to switch.
The scene near the end of the movie where Cornwallis is speaking to Tavington in Cornwallis' mansion, Tavington is starting to pull off his leather gloves, finger-by-finger. A split-second later, his gloves are off and his hands are behind his back.
When the militia arrives at Charlotte's plantation, as the British torch it, Benjamin Martin's horse rears and Martin fires a pistol. In the long shot, the pistol is in Martin's right hand. In the following close-up, the reins are in his right hand and the gun in his left.
When Benjamin Martin is walking out of the fort with his men, Tavington calls to him. After Tavington's comment a close up on Gabriel Martin's face reveals a seated John Billings, but when the camera returns to Martin and Tavington, Billings is still attempting to mount the horse.
As Benjamin is staring at the north star pendant, Villeneuve and a few others walk up behind him. Benjamin turns and walks clumsily toward them with his hands far from his sides, but in the next shot showing his front, he's walking calmly toward them with his hands clasping in front.
Near the beginning of the film, as Martin's younger son opens his chest and tries on his father's military coat, Martin enters. During the scene between them the candle sconce directly behind Martin is first lit, then in subsequent shots is "out", then is lit again.
When Gabriel goes to the church to recruit volunteers for the militia, Anne Howard gets up and makes a speech about patriotism. We see her wearing a necklace (a pendant on some type of cord - possibly a thin strip of leather). As the townspeople are gathered outside a minute or so later to watch the men leave, we see Anne with a completely bare neck.
In the final fight scene between Tavington and Martin, when Col. Tavington slices Martin's back, you can see the bayonet sticking out of Martin's stomach, yet seconds later it miraculously disappears, but the wound remains.
In the battle scene at the courthouse, Martin is clearly seen (from behind) throwing his pistol to the right in order to grasp the flagpole with two hands. He is later shown to have a pistol in the left side of his belt during his final fight with Tavington.
There is a scene where Benjamin and his two younger sons are running through the woods to intercept the British column who captured the older brother. They are seen jumping over and hiding around boulders to get in position. In the South Carolina low country where this presumably occurred, there are no rocks or boulders. The eastern part of South Carolina was never glaciated.
In the Battle scene watched by Benjamin through the farmhouse window we see the Redcoats bayonet charge the Rebels. The order is given and the soldiers run across several hundred yards of open ground in a free-for-all. The Redcoat Army was a disciplined and well trained army. You can't have your troops running in a free-for-all across a battlefield. In that period cohesion of troops was important. Also by the time the soldiers got to their objective they would be too exhausted to be of any effect. In reality they would have "charged Bayonets" (bring their bayonets forward) and march slowly towards the enemy. When about 50 yards away they would have marched at a double quick time step (almost a jog) - enough to cover ground quickly but slow enough to remain in line. This would mean control could still be kept in case a change of direction is needed or a cancellation of the order. Finally, when a few yards away and committed, the troops would charge at full speed and engage the enemy.
George Washington's proclamation regarding the freeing of slaves who give one year of service is incorrectly interpreted. The historical offer applied to slaves who enlisted in the Continental regulars or served in regular state forces which served with Continental armies. It did not apply to units such as Benjamin Martin's local militia, which solely were under state control.
At least twice (at the fight at the river and at the battle near the end) Tavington loads his pistol and discards his ramrod after he's done with it. This would make it impossible to reload the pistol again, and it is unlikely that a highly trained British colonel would do such a thing. At the river, dropping the rod is understandable, given the pressure, but tossing it some distance away isn't.
In the film, Lord Cornwallis is portrayed as a much older man. This is incorrect as in 1780, the year in which the film is supposed to be set, the real General Charles Lord Cornwallis was only in his early forties. He was, in fact, born in 1738, which would make him six years younger than George Washington.
A major error in depicting the battle of Guilford Courthouse is when Cornwallis orders "Sound the retreat." The British controlled the battlefield at the end of the day with Greene's army having escaped intact across the river. Cornwallis delivered both the wounded British and American to a nearby Quaker settlement for treatment.
When the rebels/patriots are returning by boat to their secret base deep in the swamp, one man moves a boat by placing his hand on a lantern, with a burning candle inside. With that style of lantern, he should have burned his hand.
In the final field battle the militia is shown firing a volley, then the British regulars fire a volley, and then the militia fire a second volley. This is inaccurate. Militia were notoriously slow at reloading in combat, mainly due to a lack of training, practice, and experience. British troops were well trained in this procedure and consistently throughout the War of Independence fired three, four, and even five volleys to every two of militia. Assuming well above average militia, the sequence of volleys should have been militia, British, British, militia.
When the militia is coming over the hill to see the British military lined up and waiting for the final battle scene you see a distant cannon fire and almost immediately impact very close to the American lines. With the range of the shot it would have taken 2-3 seconds for the ball to cover the distance.
The British really were the masters of the sea during that era - their ships themselves actually seem to run contrary to the natural laws, as demonstrated during the party scene where we see the British ship blown up in the nearby harbor. The laws of physics state that, loosely translated, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When the ship is destroyed we see the explosion not only spread outwards from the sides of the ship, but also the gigantic plume of fire going straight up in the air. This ship, however, remains firmly in its same position in the water, neither moving from side to side, or being pushed downwards deeper into the harbor, as an explosion of such magnitude would undoubtedly force it. Unless the ship was aground on a sandbar or rock, it should have had at least some movement away from the direction of the blast
The final battle takes place at Cowpens, and the facts are stretched a bit. For example, only 12 Americans died in the real battle. The real Battle of Cowpens was a mostly cavalry affair and was over in less than an hour.
In the American Revolution field artillery came in two forms; guns and howitzers. Only howitzers fired exploding shells. Guns fired solid shot or canister. However, in each major battle, guns are shown firing, followed by an explosion on the field. This is clear in the final battle. When the main American battle line opens fire, two howitzers fire, followed by some guns, with explosions occurring near the British (correct for the howitzers), but, two British guns fire back, followed by explosions (incorrect).
While the command officers of British Horse (cavalry) troops were from Great Britain, none of those in the (enlisted) ranks for these were all recruited from the Loyalist Colonials and all horses were from the colonies.
During the meeting of the Assembly at the start of the film, it is said that South Carolina is not at war. This is hard to believe as from early 1776 until the Battle of Sullivan's Island ended the (first) Siege of Charleston on June 28, 1776.
The scene where the British cavalrymen burn the church, did not happen in real life. This was completely made up and there is no historical basis to support it. But similar war crimes have been committed by the Nazis in World War II.
(at around 2h 20 mins) An African soldier is marching in the ranks of the British army at the beginning of the last battle, seen directly after the Frenchman yells, "Make ready!" The British did, in fact, recruit slaves to fight in their army during the American Revolution, promising them their freedom. One of the most famous British slave regiments was the Ethiopian Regiment, recruited by Virginia Governor, John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore.
Just after Benjamin received his battlefield commission, he and Gabriel mount their horses, Gabriel is on the left. In the next scene, he is on the right. While this is true, as the shot with Gabriel is on the right opens you can see that his horse is completing a move from Benjamin's left around to his right front.
When the British officer asks who the messenger is, Gabriel says it was him and walks down the stairs towards the officer. The shot cuts to the officer then back to Gabriel, who is now wearing a blue coat, which he didn't have on in the previous shot. However, he's seen picking it up.
When Benjamin Martin kills many redcoats to save his son from a hanging, the driver of the horse carriage is fatally hit. When the scene fades out moments later, the "dead" driver is seen to turn his head noticeably, right before the scene becomes entirely black. However, at that point there was no guarantee that the indicated soldier was actually dead, only wounded. Later it is clear that at least one soldier survived the fight, others could have also.
The orange flag with the coiled snake and the words "Don't Tread on Me" visible in, among other places, the final battle, has been confused with the Navy Jack, which had a red-and-white striped background. In fact, there were a number of "rattlesnake" flags in use around that time with different backgrounds and designs.
When Ann is speaking in the church she has a necklace on. Later on when the men are strapping up, she doesn't have it on, however she and many other women in the crowd have changed dresses. This maybe attributed to time passing between church and the men leaving.
When Benjamin and Gabriel are watching over the disastrous Battle of Camden, at which Benjamin marks Gates' stupidity at fighting muzzle to muzzle with the Redcoats, the American army are all Continental infantry. Martin and Gabriel meet up with the defeated army in camp, in command now by Colonel Harry Burwell. Later in the movie, before the final battle, still traveling with the same army, it is stated that nearly half the army is militia, yet before they were all Continentals. The Battle of Camden was 16AUG1780 and the battle of Cowpens was fought on 17JAN1781. This is 5 months after Camden. During this time, the army had undergone many changes, among them was the addition of nearly 1300 militia. The TOTAL force at Cowpens was estimated at about 1900 men. This would put the total militia at over 50%. Furthermore, it is not stated that Gates only had regulars at Camden. Infact, of the 3,700 he had at Camden, only about 1500 were regular troops, with the remaining being militia.
In the town hall meeting in the beginning, Col. Burwell said, "We killed 700 of them at Bunker Hill and they just kept coming". Actually they killed 226, but the results were constantly exaggerated in the retelling.
In the scene where the British raid Charlotte's plantation, Tavington looks under the tablecloth to see if anyone is hiding under the table. At this time, Nathan is hiding on the outside of the table on the right side. The tablecloth hangs several inches from the floor, so Tavington should have easily seen Nathan hiding on the other side the tablecloth through the gap between the tablecloth and the floor.
Many of the soldiers turn their heads when firing their muskets. Although the musket was an inaccurate weapon and this would have made little difference, by 1776 the practice of turning away when firing had more or less died out. In fact, the reason the soldiers here were turning away was because the director didn't think black powder made enough smoke, and decided to use a mix of black powder and magnesium (evident by a blue color to the smoke). This created more of a flash in the pan and made turning away rather a shrewd move.
When Tavington is on the bridge watching Martin and the retreating Militamen ride down the river, he shoots at them with a smoothbore flintlock pistol, and hits one. The effective range on one of these pistols is about 30 feet and this shot was much longer, too far to hit the rider.
At the Battle of Camden, we see the cannon firing round shot (Ball) into the Colonial line. When the shot hits, we see it knock a hole in the line of battle several feet wide as about three across are knocked down. Round shot does not work that way. One or two soldiers wide might be knocked down by round shot but not four or five. You'd expect to see that with canister shot or grape shot.
The goof items below may give away important plot points.
At the burning of the church, the shutters are closed, and when tested by the people in the church moments later hold against their pushing. Such shutters were designed to be secured from the inside. There were no fittings on the exterior for this (which would make no sense, since they were intended to keep attackers out). It would have taken a notable amount of time for the shutters to be secured (possibly with metal nails, which were rare) soundly enough to keep people inside.
In the final fight with Benjamin Martin, Tavington is about to strike a final blow with his sword. Tavington starts to say "Kill me before the war is over will you? It appears that you are not the better man". In the middle of this line the camera angle changes and we can see that Tavington is no longer moving his lips but we still hear him talking.
The time required for Colonel Tavington to reload his pistol between shooting Reverend Oliver and starting to shoot Gabriel Martin is far too short. An expert at reloading a muzzle loading pistol, which Tavington would be, would require from 15 to 25 seconds to reload the weapon. That amount of time does not pass even with the slow motion in which the scene is shown.
In the final fight scene between Tavington and Martin, when Col. Tavington slices Martin's back, you can see the bayonet sticking out of Martin's stomach. Seconds later it disappears, but the wound remains.
In the final fight between Tavington and Martin, Martin first impales Tavington with a bayonet on the end of a musket. He then drives a second bayonet into Tavington's throat. We see the killing bayonet supposedly dropping to the ground, but in the next shot we see Tavington still standing, impaled on the musket with the bayonet still in his throat.
In the fight where Gabriel is killed, the preacher loads his gun, uses it to defend himself, and then is hit; after which he tosses the gun to Gabriel. Gabriel cocks the gun and shoots Tavington. At no time during this, does the preacher or Gabriel prime the weapon. Without priming, the gun could not be fired.
In the final battle the British advance the full battalion. The officer giving the orders would be a Major or a Colonel. So why is the CO standing in the front line of the attack? Officers above Captains were meant to be mounted and definitely not in the front line of battle.
After Martin parlays with Cornwallis and tricks him into what would eventually be revealed as a bogus prisoner exchange - Martin's men for what turns out to be 20+ hay-stuffed Redcoat uniforms - we see the freed militia prisoners all departing the British fort on horseback, even though a large portion of those captured were not on horses to begin with. We see however, that as Benjamin Martin is leaving, Gabriel Martin and another man bringing horses up for the freed prisoners.