VHS, 62-109 min., 1989, Study guide, maps, and index available CC
This nine part series from PBS, is the first full scale film history of the most terrible war in American history. Three million Americans fought in it and over 600,000 men, two percent of the population, died in it. What began as a bitter conflict over Union and States' rights ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.
Episode One: The Cause: 1861 Confederate prisoners captured at the Battle of Gettysburg
This first episode evokes the causes of war, beginning with a dramatic indictment of slavery. Union and State's Rights, the story of John Brown at Harper's Ferry, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the firing on Fort Sumter, and the jubilant rush to arms on both sides are covered. The episode climaxes with the disastrous Union defeat at Manassas. (99 min.)
Episode Two: A Very Bloody Affair: 1862
The year 1862 saw the transformation of Lincoln's war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate slaves. Here begins the political infighting that threatened to swamp Lincoln's administration and then follows Union General George McClellan's ill-fated campaign on the Virginia Peninsula. Viewers meet Ulysses S. Grant, whose exploits come to a bloody climax at the Battle of Shiloh. (69 min.)
Episode Three: Forever Free: 1862
This episode charts the dramatic events that led to Lincoln's decision to set the slaves free. Convinced that emancipation was now morally and militarily crucial to the future of the Union, Lincoln must wait for a victory to issue his proclamation. The episode climaxes in September 1862 with Lee's invasion of Maryland. (76 min.)
Episode Four: Simply Murder: 1863
The episode begins with the nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg and comes to two climaxes that spring: at Chancellorsville in May, where Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Grant's attempts to take the city by siege are stopped. (62 min.)
Episode Five: The Universe of Battle: 1863
This episode opens with a dramatic account of the turning point of the war: the Battle of Gettysburg. This extended episode chronicles the fall of Vicksburg, the New York draft riots, the first use of black troops, and the western battle of Chickamauga and Chattanooga; and closes with the dedication of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg. (95 min.)
Episode Six: Valley of the Shadow of Death: 1864
Episode six begins with a biographical comparison of Grant and Lee and then chronicles the extraordinary series of battles that pitted the two generals against one another. In 30 days, the two armies lose more men than both sides have lost in three years. (70 min.)
Episode Seven: Most Hallowed Ground: 1864
This episode begins with the presidential campaign of 1864 that set Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of the Union itself. Eleventh hour Union victories at Mobile Bay, Atlanta, and the Shenandoah Valley tilt the election to Lincoln, and the Confederacy's last hope for independence dies.
Episode Eight: War Is All Hell: 1865
With Sherman's brilliant March to the Sea, this episode brings war to the heart of Georgia and the Carolinas and spells the end of the Confederacy. In March, following Lincoln's second inauguration, first Petersburg and then Richmond finally fall to Grant's army. At Appomattox Lee surrenders to Grant. (69 min.)
Episode Nine: The Better Angels of Our Nature: 1865
The final episode begins in the bittersweet aftermath of Lee's surrender and then goes on to narrate the horrendous events of five days later when, on April 14th, Lincoln is assassinated. After chronicling Lincoln's funeral, the series recounts the final days of the war, the capture of John Wilkes Booth, and the fates of the series' major characters. The episode considers the consequences and meaning of a war that transformed the country from a collection of states to the nation we are today.
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 November 1999 00:00