UNT Film Tells Gainesville Story of Largest Mass Execution in U.S. History

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DENTON -- One of the darkest days in American history is one most of us never learned about in school.

During the Civil War, it was brother against brother and in Gainesville, Texas, neighbor against neighbor.

That's the focus of UNT graduate student Johnathan Paul's documentary The Great Hanging, which exposes the largest mass execution in this country's history.

"In October of 1862," Paul said, "They were condemning and killing their own neighbors.  There were 42 that were executed, because they were suspected to be Union sympathizers."

Somehow, what happened there has been all but forgotten, which is why Paul set his sights on this moment in his hometown's history.

"The one thing that we try to talk about with this film is that you can't ignore your history or your past," Paul told NewsFix. "You have to learn from it."

To recreate that dramatic period, Paul recruited the talents of actor Aaron N. Martin and cinematographer Michael B. Mullins.

"There's 70 actors recreating in Civil War garb," Mullins recalled. "You have a cannon, and you have muskets that are firing blanks."

"And then they put the rope on my neck, and tightened it up," said Martin. "It's like, 'Oh, wow, this is kind of scary.'"

You can keep up with the cast and crew on Facebook, and catch a screening of the film at UNT Friday May 6, or in Gainesville on the 21st, just a few blocks from where The Great Hanging actually took place.

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