A New Birth of Freedom

"A New Birth of Freedom"

Season Number: 1
Episode Number: 3
Airdate: November 20, 2011
Director: Phil Abraham
Writer: John Shiban
Producer: Tony Gayton
Joe Gayton
Jeremy Gold
John Shiban
David Von Ancken
Episode order
← previous
"Immoral Mathematics"
next →
"Jamais Je Ne T'oublierai"

"A New Birth of Freedom" is the third episode of the first season of the AMC series Hell on Wheels.


Cullen Bohannon resumes his quest of vengeance by learning the name of one of the men responsible for his wife's death. His plans change when he crosses paths with Lily Bell and Joseph Black Moon. She has been wounded from a Cheyenne attack on her camp that also killed her husband. Joseph has been seeking answers from his former tribe, including his own brother, about the savage attack.



Bohannon finds an interesting photo in Johnson's things

While exploring his new canvas home, Cullen Bohannon comes across a photograph of now-deceased foreman Daniel Johnson, a Union captain posing with some of his regiment. Cullen reflects on previously killing three men in the picture, Buckton Prescott in Washington D.C. and Wustner and Tanner in Maryland. His eyes fixate on the last of them: Sergeant Frank Harper. Back at work, Cullen gives his crew their cut assignment, but Thor Gundersen has other plans for them - find Lily Bell and receive $100. Cullen threatens all of them with termination should they take Swede's offer. Elam Ferguson offers that his crew of freedmen can handle the entire assignment, that the white workers can go. Before releasing the men, Cullen inquires about a Frank Harper. He's told that Harper was westward with the logging crew.


Bohannon mistakes Joseph as Lily's attacker

In Nebraska, Cullen finds Joseph Black Moon with an unconscious Lily, her wounds worsening. Once he removes a sliver of arrow from her shoulder and sees that she's stabilizing, he leaves only to later return. He knows Joseph would be killed if he brought Lily back to town. The news of the massacre has circulated and everyone would assume Joseph, an Indian, was accountable. Cullen assumes escort duty of Lily. Three men try to "rescue" Lily, who then learns of her bounty. Cullen shoots all three men and escorts Lily to Hell on Wheels, telling her where to find a doctor there. He leaves her, without collecting the bounty as he has a higher priority in Cheyenne territory.

Durant telegraphs Senator Jordan Crane, appealing for federal troops to help protect his railroad construction. "We must displace the savage," he tells the senator, meaning the native tribes. Senator Crane wires back about the troop request, the pacing of the construction, and Robert Bell's murder. Durant gets drunk and laments the entire project. He attends the McGinnes brothers' magic-lantern show. While viewing the slides of Ireland, Durant asks Sean why he and Mickey left there to work here on the railroad. Mickey tells him of traveling to Dublin by train as a lad. "The railroad gave you freedom," says Durant.


Reverend Cole holds a memorial service

Reverend Nathaniel Cole conducts a funeral for the massacre victims, quoting the Bible and pleading with the townsfolk to not seek revenge. Durant quotes another biblical passage, describing situations that justify war. Durant takes over the sermon, telling the men there to not let "Stone Age primitives" slow things down. Praising Joseph for adopting the white man's ways, Durant says that there may be peace if other Indians also follow. If they don't, he adds, they are the authors of their own destruction.


Bohannon: Indian brings that woman back to town, Indian don't get out alive.
Joseph: But I live there. At the church.
Bohannon: You don't get it do you, boy? They brought them back in yesterday on a buckboard. Everybody seen what they did to them bodies.

Durant: Now, why do you want to shit on my railroad?

Psalms: Explain to me why I work harder than them and they go to bed with three dollars more in their pocket than I do. Don't make a lick of sense.

Bolan: We've been searching over hill and dale for the 'Fair-Haired Maiden of the West'. We come to rescue.
Lily: I'm quite all right.
Bolan: No, you ain't. You barely escaped massacre. You've been held captive. You been sullied by the heathen.
Lily: You are out of order, sir!

Bohannon: You ain't whore nor squaw. You shouldn't be out here.
Lily: You don't know who I am or what I'm capable of.
Bohannon: No, I don't and I sure as hell don't care.




  1. Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannon
  2. Colm Meaney as Thomas Durant
  3. Common as Elam Ferguson
  4. Dominique McElligott as Lily Bell
  5. Tom Noonan as Reverend Nathaniel Cole
  6. Eddie Spears as Joseph Black Moon
  7. Ben Esler as Sean McGinnes
  8. Phil Burke as Mickey McGinnes

Guest starring

  1. Duncan Ollerenshaw as Gregory Toole
  2. Christopher Heyerdahl as Thor Gundersen
  3. Ian Tracey as Bolan
  4. Diego Diablo Del Mar as Dix
  5. Dohn Norwood as Psalms
  6. Robin McLeavy as Eva

Also Starring

  1. Tom Carey as the Buckton Prescott
  2. Andrew Moodie as Henri
  3. David Lereaney as the Telegraph Operator
  4. Chris Ippolito as the Young Engineer
  5. Michael Shephers as Wustner


  1. James D. Hopkin as Senator Jordan Crane
  2. Kassia Warshawski as Mary Bohannon
  3. Unknown as Tanner


Opening credits

  1. Joe Gayton &
  2. Tony Gayton - Creators
  3. Gustavo Santaolalla - Theme
  4. Kevin Kiner - Score
  5. Bridget Durnford - Editor
  6. John Blackie - Production Designer
  7. Marvin V. Rush - Director of Photography
  8. Mark Richard - Consulting Producer
  9. Paul Kurta - Co-Executive Producer
  10. David Von Ancken - Executive Producer
  11. Jeremy Gold - Executive Producer
  12. John Shiban - Executive Producer
  13. Joe Gayton - Executive Producer
  14. Tony Gayton - Executive Producer
  15. Chad Oakes - Episodic Producer
  16. Michael Frislev - Episodic Producer
  17. John Shiban - Writer
  18. Phil Abraham - Director

Closing credits

  1. Scott Schofield - Associate Producer
  2. Jami O'Brien - Executive Story Editor
  3. Bruce Marshall Romans - Staff Writer
  4. Linda Rogers Ambury - Unit Production Manager
  5. Mark Ambury - First Assistant Director (AD)
  6. Lorie Gibson - Second AD
  7. Cathy Sandrich Gelfond &
  8. Amanda Mackey - Casting
  9. Cami Patton - Additional US Casting
  10. Jennifer Lare - Additional US Casting
  11. Jackie Lind, CSA - Canadian Casting
  12. Alyson Lockwood - Extras Casting


  • The quote "a new birth of freedom" comes from U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which he delivered during the American Civil War, on Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He used the term to describe the war's effort to unify the nation and each state's rights.

Featured MusicEdit

  • "Rattlin' Bones" by Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson.


Critical ReceptionEdit

"A New Birth of Freedom" garnered mostly favorable reviews. Sean McKenna at TV Fanatic approved, saying "Hell On Wheels continues to chug along and unfold its grand scale filled with revenge, new beginnings, loyalty, and the perfect melting pot of men searching for purpose. The journey is still worth the ride."[1] New York Magazine's Adam Raymond thought the episode was the best of the series so far: "We're three episodes into Hell on Wheels and things are finally starting to move. Characters are developing, motives are becoming clear, and, for me at least, expectations are lowering, making "A Birth of Freedoms" easier to enjoy than the last two episodes."[2] IGN, though, rated the show 4.5 out of 10 on their website. Seth Amitin commented: "Dull...Who knows where Hell on Wheels goes from here. By episode three, we, the viewers, should see some major plot arc forming. Hell seems more dystopic than structured and the storylines are meandering."[3]


The third episode was watched by 3.52 million viewers, and had a 1.2 rating with the 18-49 age range.[4]



  1. McKenna, Sean (November 22, 2011). Hell on Wheels Review: Pride and Prejudice.
  2. Raymond, Adam (November 22, 2011). Hell on Wheels Recap: Super Cowboy. New York Magazine.
  3. Amitin, Seth (November 22, 2011). Hell on Wheels: "A New Birth of Freedom" Review.
  4. Gorman, Bill (November 22, 2011). Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead' Stays On Top + NASCAR Championship, 'Housewives ATL,' 'Hell On Wheels,' 'Boardwalk Empire,' 'Homeland,' 'Dexter' & More. TV by the Numbers.

External linksEdit

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