Watch The Civil War: A Film By Ken Burns

The Civil War: A Film By Ken Burns is an eleven part documentary film that originally came out on PBS and provides a moving myopic of the American Civil War. Detailing the entire war from the first shots at Fort Sumpter to the signing of peace at the Appomattox court house, the film provides a detailed account of the war from many different angles of the conflict. Included in the film are major events and players in the war, as well as some individuals merely caught in the conflict as unwilling participants.

Highlighted in the film are written accounts from a variety of individuals who played a critical role in the war including military generals and politicians, normal soldiers and their loved ones, as well as freed slaves. Historians, including renowned Shelby Foote, provide context for the film. The depth of characters provides a context of humanity to the war and provides for an enjoyable pleasant experience watching it.

Ken Burns' documentary film The Civil War is a documentary classic that is enjoyable by a wide range of people of all ages and education levels and provides a full account of the war in a way that resonates with viewers.

PBS
1 Season, 9 Episodes
September 23, 1990
History, Documentary & Biography
9.1/10
Cast: Sam Waterston, Julie Harris, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman
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The Civil War: A Film By Ken Burns Full Episode Guide

  • In the bittersweet days after the war's end, the Union's triumphs quickly turns to sorrow. Just five days after victory, President Lincoln dies by the hand of John Wilkes Booth, and the nation's story is again changed forever. This final episode surveys the fates of the people who left their indelible marks on this remarkable era. And it leaves us with insights into the meaning of a conflict that helped make us the nation we are today.

  • Sherman's legendary "March to the Sea" portends the war's end, searing the heartland of Georgia and the Carolinas. Key Southern cities fall under General Grant's command, and General Lee's troops have nowhere left to flee. In the stillness of Appomattox Court House, Lee's dramatic surrender to Grant finally unfolds. As the news echoes through Washington, a plan for the South's revenge is hatched in the angry mind of a man named John Wilkes Booth.

  • The presidential campaign of 1864 finds a nation truly divided against itself, and Lincoln seems doomed to defeat. The Union armies have stalled, andpeople have turned against the war. Unexpectedly, eleventh-hour victories sway the votes Lincoln's way, and the flame of Confederate independence flickers out. In a personal blow to General Lee, his Virginia mansion is turned into Arlington National Cemetery, to assure that no one would ever live in the home again.

  • It's a chess game between two masters-- played out on the board of life. The Union's General Grant and the Confederacy's General Lee are a study in contrasts as they vie for victory. In one month's time, their armies suffer more casualties than in three years of war, but the impasse continues. A standoff at Petersburg and General Sherman's campaign through Georgia push the death toll higher, and hospitals are strained beyond belief. Lincoln's prospects for re-election fade, along with hope for the Union's survival.

  • Their names are etched forever in history-- Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg-- some of the Civil War's stormiest battlegrounds. While life in the South becomes more desperate, Northern opposition to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation also grows. The combat spearheaded by Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee brings the war to a fever pitch, and both sides strain with the weariness of so many years under siege.

  • Dark clouds of defeat hover over the Union Army as President Lincoln prepares the landmark Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. While Lincoln waits for a victorious moment for this announcement, Union troops lose repeatedly to the brilliant generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Finally, with a victory at Antietam Creek, the bloodies day of the war gives way to the dawn of emancipation. The definition of freedom in America would never be the same again.

  • The war to preserve the Union becomes a war to free the slaves, and political fights become as fierce as those on the battlefield. The chains of slavery begin to crumble while the Confederacy struggles for recognition, and its resourceful army hands the Union critical defeats. New Weapons and strategies emerge, as ironclad ships do battle and Ulysses S. Grant wins at Shiloh. With unprecedented ferocity, the age of modern warfare takes hold.

  • The stage is set for war as the nation begins to tear apart. Opposition by the North to slavery in the South fuels a bitter debate, and the country wrestles with conflicts between the Union and States' rights. Commanding center stage are twering figures-- Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. From Harper's Ferry to Fort Sumter, the first chapters unfold in a conflict from which there would be no turning back.

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