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June 26, 2012

Life, liberty and the pursuit of vampires

It makes sense that Abraham Lincoln, known for his youthful rail-splitting abilities, would be a top pick to take on vampires, as he does in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," which opened Friday. But go back a generation and you'll find that some of our local Founding Fathers (and one Mother) had the goods to take on an army of bloodsuckers.

The Brawn: George Washington

You need a special abilities set to fight vampires, as even the casual "Buffy" viewer knows. "Washington has all those skills," says Dennis Pogue, vice president for preservation at Mount Vernon, George Washington's historic home in Alexandria, Va. "He's 6 feet tall. He's 200 pounds. He's a good rider, he's outdoorsy, he's got a military background. And he's got lots of swords and pointy objects he can use."

Washington wasn't just a bewigged ball of colonial muscle: His military experience went beyond the battlefield. "One of Washington's real strengths [was] his ability to coordinate activities," Pogue says, most notably an elaborate spy network that was key to his success in the Revolutionary War.

Washington's famed leadership didn't come solely from the fact that he looked good in uniform — should a vampire invasion come, he'd be out there, stakes in hand. "He was not just somebody who liked to be on the parade ground," says Pogue. "He was into the nitty-gritty."

The Brains: Thomas Jefferson

"Jefferson was a pretty cerebral guy," says Will Mackintosh, assistant professor in the Department of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. "I wouldn't think that hand-to-hand combat would be his forte." But TJ could have been an important figure in an anti-vampire campaign. "Vampire fighting is often a collective activity," says Mackintosh. "I think Jefferson would have been good at [joining in]. But being a lone hunter . . . He was uncomfortable with the idea of the exceptional leader. That smacks too much of King George. But I'm not making the case Jefferson was modest. The dude had an ego."

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